Thursday, November 02, 2006


Fish Cookery Soups and Hors d'Oeuvres

These Penguin paperbacks published in 1975 (Grigson, Fish Cookery) and 1969 (Hanbury-Tenison, Soups and Hors d'Oeuvres) might at first glance seem simply understated, eschewing the the lush, evocative scene-setting--the fireplaces aglow, porcelain tureens brimming, tables spread with outlandish bounty--of so many food photos of yesteryear. But their restraint is deceiving. These covers have in common with many non-food Penguin editions of the same era the signature sans serif type, a fondness for bold colors (though not the Grigson so much), and a playful sort of geometrical abstraction. Compare with this, this, or this. A whole photoset of Penguin covers is here (thx IW). I don't know if the same person who designed other Penguins did these too, but they certainly share an aesthetic. I would call it sophisticated rather than simple. I like the way the subject matter warms up the modernism of the abstract form.

I can't imagine a book about fish cookery today having so many fish heads on its cover, so many dead eyes staring down the prospective buyer. I was thinking something similar the other day while watching the Bouillabaisse episode of The French Chef. Julia starts with fish heads to make her stock and proceeds as well to cook and serve some of the fish for the stew with their heads on. I can't think of a contemporary cooking show that would spend so much time on fish heads except perhaps for Iron Chef. And thinking about fish heads reminded me of that Dr. Demento chestnut: "Fish heads, fish heads/Roly-poly fish heads/Fish heads, fish heads/Eat them up, yum!"

-An article in the Guardian about Germano Facetti, who was art director at Penguin from 1962-1971.
-Penguin by Design, a book of Penguin covers from 1935-2005 by Phil Baines.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too adore Penguin covers from this era. They are kinda like MIT Press designs of the era, but with abundance and whimsy at their heart, rather than a deep-rooted (MIT, duhhh) sense of universality through abstraction and balance. Gotta love that Helvetica!

A while back I wrote about a particularly handsome Penguin cookbook from the era--if I get a chance I'll scan it in for the world's enjoyment:

Here's to more food photography of yesteryear!

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just thinking how lucky you are to have a book like that by Jane Grigson, surely one of the world's best cookbook authors, and also putting that book together with a headline I saw in this morning's paper, something about all seafood being extinct by the year 2048 or thereabouts. Of course I, too, will be extinct by then but my children certainly won't be and it certainly gives one pause.

1:55 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

Yes I am lucky to have Grigson, which is a hand-me-down from my mom. You can get one too if you want: alibris has copies for sale, though the American edition might not have the same cover.

6:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home