Thursday, August 27, 2009


Why does food from the past seem so downright hilarious?

All those illustrations from 1950s cookbooks seem so kitsch, so innocent, so naïve, so lurid: people have packaged them into gift books.

Now, I don’t want to seem holier than thou about this. I giggle along with everyone else at tripe and onions, or the idea that avocado was once a sexy, exotic food, but I’m not sure I have any right to.

The idea that, as eaters, we’re becoming ever more knowing and sophisticated is clearly absurd. People are destined to keep shoving the same old stuff in their faces. All too often when it comes to "new" food habits we’re just following fashion. And the one thing we know about fashion is that sooner or later (usually sooner) it becomes unfashionable.

I was in England a couple of weeks back (more blogging about this soon) and I couldn’t get over the pretentious “modernity” of the food: rather ordinary sandwich bars that served a beef sandwich with rocket and shaved parmesan; pubs (I’m sure they thought of themselves as gastropubs) that served charbroiled hamburgers. Fact is, few people in England know what broiling is, and I’ll bet good money that the pub didn't have any charcoal. As for home-cured gravlax: whose home?

Anyway, I’ve been looking at old science mags; and it strikes me that when food and science, and notions of the modern, or even, God help us, the future come together, it becomes completely impossible to keep a straight face.

New ways of serving food are always a source of amusement: the food pill, the feeding tube, the Mongolian barbecue, sushi on a conveyor belt,: though I admit I was always taken by Warhol's idea of the AndyMat, a restaurant where people sat alone in booths and ate while watching television.

And here's an idea from Popular Science, April 1940, for food that emerges magically out of a table top. I'm really intrigued by the woman's hat. Was she hiding from a bad boyfriend?

And what could be sexier and more futuristic than this ketchup pump, seen in Modern Mechanix, December 1951.

Why thump it when you can pump it? Words to live by.

No comments:

Post a Comment