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Session 1
Food media

9 July 2020

What is the role of food writing, or writing about food,  in creating taste and reflecting or changing culture ?

Session 1 Food Media: Speakers

Samuelsson, Lauren

Food, Fantasy and Glamour: the aesthetics of everyday food in the Australian Women’s Weekly, 1930s-1980s

From its earliest issues, the Australian Women’s Weekly (the Weekly) has provided its multitudes of readers with beautifully illustrated food editorials. Recipes are accompanied by glossy, coloured images of the end product: neat rows of tempting savouries, luscious roast meats, glistening jellies, bulgingly cream-filled cakes. 

This paper is an exploration of the aesthetics of everyday food in the Weekly throughout its first fifty years of publication. Through this exploration, I will uncover the shifting imaginings of Australian domestic food culture and the ways in which these imaginings were communicated to the Australian public through the images of food on the pages of the Weekly and its related cookbooks.

The Weekly’s food pages were sometimes a site of fantasy, where the mouth-watering images of exciting, expensive or foreign cuisine acted as a substitute for actually being able to eat the dish due to economic or other restraints. At other times, though, the Weekly presented attainable meals - tinned soup, anyone? - imbuing them with glamour and sophistication through their presentation. These were ‘realistic’ dreams presented on a plate, and ones which the readers of the Weekly were excited to emulate.

Lauren Samuelsson is a final year PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong. Her PhD thesis focuses on the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine and cookbooks and its role in the development of Australian food culture during its first fifty years of publication. Her research interests lay in cultural history, the history of popular culture and the history of food and drink. 

Paul Van Reyk 2.webp

Paul van Reyk

Queer Eye for the Moloney Guy

When I first read Oh, for a French Wife! my gaydar twitched. When I read the Sydney Morning Herald obituary notice of his death, it went into overdrive: no mention of a wife or children, the kind of obituary of that time, April, 1982, whose coding could be read by other homosexuals, like me, but not by the general public. This paper uses the framework of gay male culture and camp developed by gay academic David Halperin to read three cookbooks authored or co-authored by Moloney as gay culture/camp texts.: Oh, for a French Wife! (1953), Cooking for Bachelors (1959 later republished as The Young Gourmet’s Cookbook 1968) and Cooking for Brides (1965). The paper places the books in the gay male books are placed in the context of the gay culture in Australia of the 1940s – 1970s.

Paul van Reyk is a food writer and food activist. Paul has published articles in Gastronomica, Artlink, Petit Propos Culinaire and Divine. He has presented papers at Symposiums of Australian Gastronomy. Paul manages, a website for new Australian writing on food. Paul has also published an annotated ebook facsimile copy of the Cookbook of Ada dela Harpe. Paul is currently writing a history of food in Australia for Reaktion Books. He is also a long time LGBTIQ activist and historian and has presented papers to annual conferences of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.


Alison Vincent

Food media and the shaping of taste: authenticity, exoticism, and categories of recommendation.

In their study of gourmet food writing, Johnston and Baumann (2007) argue that for foodies, food is legitimised when it can be framed as authentic or exotic. They cite four attributes used to construct authenticity–geographic specificity, simplicity, personal connection and historicism (tradition)–and categorise as exotic foods which in some way fall outside the mainstream, challenge accepted norms or are difficult to obtain. 

This paper argues that underlying these frames of authenticity and exoticism are more fundamental values which food writers draw on to validate their choices and underpin their concept of legitimate taste. These are the eight ‘principles of recommendation’ which Warde (1997) identified from his study of the way recipes were promoted in women’s magazines and which he grouped into four pairs of antinomies–novelty/tradition, health/indulgence, economy/extravagance, and, care/convenience. Warde claims that these are the eight categories of judgement regularly used to guide practical conduct and aesthetic appreciation and demonstrated how the relative importance of these principles of recommendation varied over time. Authenticity and exoticism then can be read as the manifestation of the current tension between these opposites.

Alison Vincent has qualifications in science (BSc, Food Technology, UNSW) and history (BA, MLitt, UNE) and a PhD from Central Queensland University. She is a student of Australia’s food culture, with research interests including restaurant criticism and the role of restaurant criticism in establishing standards of good taste, the social history of dining out and the history of writing about food in Australia. Some of the results of her research have been published in Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, Proceedings of the Dublin Gastronomy Symposium, TEXT (Journal of the Australian Association of Writing Programs), Lilith: A Feminist History Journal and The Journal of Australian Studies.

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