Bringing a Taste of Abroad to Australian Readers: Australian Wines & Food Quarterly 1956–1960

Donna Lee Brien

Abstract


Introduction

Food Studies is a relatively recent area of research enquiry in Australia and Magazine Studies is even newer (Le Masurier and Johinke), with the consequence that Australian culinary magazines are only just beginning to be investigated. Moreover, although many major libraries have not thought such popular magazines worthy of sustained collection (Fox and Sornil), considering these publications is important. As de Certeau argues, it can be of considerable consequence to identify and analyse everyday practices (such as producing and reading popular magazines) that seem so minor and insignificant as to be unworthy of notice, as these practices have the ability to affect our lives. It is important in this case as these publications were part of the post-war gastronomic environment in Australia in which national tastes in domestic cookery became radically internationalised (Santich). To further investigate Australian magazines, as well as suggesting how these cosmopolitan eating habits became more widely embraced, this article will survey the various ways in which the idea of “abroad” is expressed in one Australian culinary serial from the post-war period, Australian Wines & Food Quarterly magazine, which was published from 1956 to 1960. The methodological approach taken is an historically-informed content analysis (Krippendorff) of relevant material from these magazines combined with germane media data (Hodder). All issues in the serial’s print run have been considered.

Australian Post-War Culinary Publishing

To date, studies of 1950s writing in Australia have largely focused on literary and popular fiction (Johnson-Wood; Webby) and literary criticism (Bird; Dixon; Lee). There have been far fewer studies of non-fiction writing of any kind, although some serial publications from this time have attracted some attention (Bell; Lindesay; Ross; Sheridan; Warner-Smith; White; White). In line with studies internationally, groundbreaking work in Australian food history has focused on cookbooks, and includes work by Supski, who notes that despite the fact that buying cookbooks was “regarded as a luxury in the 1950s” (87), such publications were an important information source in terms of “developing, consolidating and extending foodmaking knowledge” at that time (85).

It is widely believed that changes to Australian foodways were brought about by significant post-war immigration and the recipes and dishes these immigrants shared with neighbours, friends, and work colleagues and more widely afield when they opened cafes and restaurants (Newton; Newton; Manfredi). Although these immigrants did bring new culinary flavours and habits with them, the overarching rhetoric guiding population policy at this time was assimilation, with migrants expected to abandon their culture, language, and habits in favour of the dominant British-influenced ways of living (Postiglione). While migrants often did retain their foodways (Risson), the relationship between such food habits and the increasingly cosmopolitan Australian food culture is much more complex than the dominant cultural narrative would have us believe. It has been pointed out, for example, that while the haute cuisine of countries such as France, Italy, and Germany was much admired in Australia and emulated in expensive dining (Brien and Vincent), migrants’ own preference for their own dishes instead of Anglo-Australian choices, was not understood (Postiglione). Duruz has added how individual diets are eclectic, “multi-layered and hybrid” (377), incorporating foods from both that person’s own background with others available for a range of reasons including availability, cost, taste, and fashion. In such an environment, popular culinary publishing, in terms of cookbooks, specialist magazines, and recipe and other food-related columns in general magazines and newspapers, can be posited to be another element contributing to this change.

Australian Wines & Food Quarterly

Australian Wines & Food Quarterly (AWFQ) is, as yet, a completely unexamined publication, and there appears to be only three complete sets of this magazine held in public collections. It is important to note that, at the time it was launched in the mid-1950s, food writing played a much less significant part in Australian popular publishing than it does today, with far fewer cookbooks released than today, and women’s magazines and the women’s pages of newspapers containing only small recipe sections. In this environment, a new specialist culinary magazine could be seen to be timely, an audacious gamble, or both.

All issues of this magazine were produced and printed in, and distributed from, Melbourne, Australia. Although no sales or distribution figures are available, production was obviously a struggle, with only 15 issues published before the magazine folded at the end of 1960. The title of the magazine changed over this time, and issue release dates are erratic, as is the method in which volumes and issues are numbered. Although the number of pages varied from 32 up to 52, and then less once again, across the magazine’s life, the price was steadily reduced, ending up at less than half the original cover price. All issues were produced and edited by Donald Wallace, who also wrote much of the content, with contributions from family members, including his wife, Mollie Wallace, to write, illustrate, and produce photographs for the magazine.

When considering the content of the magazine, most is quite familiar in culinary serials today, although AWFQ’s approach was radically innovative in Australia at this time when cookbooks, women’s magazines, and newspaper cookery sections focused on recipes, many of which were of cakes, biscuits, and other sweet baking (Bannerman). AWFQ not only featured many discursive essays and savory meals, it also featured much wine writing and review-style content as well as information about restaurant dining in each issue.

Wine-Related Content

Wine is certainly the most prominent of the content areas, with most issues of the magazine containing more wine-related content than any other. Moreover, in the early issues, most of the food content is about preparing dishes and/or meals that could be consumed alongside wines, although the proportion of food content increases as the magazine is published. This wine-related content takes a clearly international perspective on this topic. While many articles and advertisements, for example, narrate the long history of Australian wine growing—which goes back to early 19th century—these articles argue that Australia's vineyards and wineries measure up to international, and especially French, examples. In one such example, the author states that: “from the earliest times Australia’s wines have matched up to world standard” (“Wine” 25). This contest can be situated in Australia, where a leading restaurant (Caprice in Sydney) could be seen to not only “match up to” but also, indeed to, “challenge world standards” by serving Australian wines instead of imports (“Sydney” 33). So good, indeed, are Australian wines that when foreigners are surprised by their quality, this becomes newsworthy. This is evidenced in the following excerpt: “Nearly every English businessman who has come out to Australia in the last ten years … has diverted from his main discussion to comment on the high quality of Australian wine” (Seppelt, 3). In a similar nationalist vein, many articles feature overseas experts’ praise of Australian wines. Thus, visiting Italian violinist Giaconda de Vita shows a “keen appreciation of Australian wines” (“Violinist” 30), British actor Robert Speaight finds Grange Hermitage “an ideal wine” (“High Praise” 13), and the Swedish ambassador becomes their advocate (Ludbrook, “Advocate”).

This competition could also be located overseas including when Australian wines are served at prestigious overseas events such as a dinner for members of the Overseas Press Club in New York (Australian Wines); sold from Seppelt’s new London cellars (Melbourne), or the equally new Australian Wine Centre in Soho (Australia Will); or, featured in exhibitions and promotions such as the Lausanne Trade Fair (Australia is Guest;“Wines at Lausanne), or the International Wine Fair in Yugoslavia (Australia Wins).

Australia’s first Wine Festival was held in Melbourne in 1959 (Seppelt, “Wine Week”), the joint focus of which was the entertainment and instruction of the some 15,000 to 20,000 attendees who were expected. At its centre was a series of free wine tastings aiming to promote Australian wines to the “professional people of the community, as well as the general public and the housewife” (“Melbourne” 8), although admission had to be recommended by a wine retailer. These tastings were intended to build up the prestige of Australian wine when compared to international examples: “It is the high quality of our wines that we are proud of. That is the story to pass on—that Australian wine, at its best, is at least as good as any in the world and better than most” (“Melbourne” 8).

There is also a focus on promoting wine drinking as a quotidian habit enjoyed abroad: “We have come a long way in less than twenty years […] An enormous number of husbands and wives look forward to a glass of sherry when the husband arrives home from work and before dinner, and a surprising number of ordinary people drink table wine quite un-selfconsciously” (Seppelt, “Advance” 3). However, despite an acknowledged increase in wine appreciation and drinking, there is also acknowledgement that this there was still some way to go in this aim as, for example, in the statement: “There is no reason why the enjoyment of table wines should not become an Australian custom” (Seppelt, “Advance” 4).

The authority of European experts and European habits is drawn upon throughout the publication whether in philosophically-inflected treatises on wine drinking as a core part of civilised behaviour, or practically-focused articles about wine handling and serving (Keown; Seabrook; “Your Own”). Interestingly, a number of Australian experts are also quoted as stressing that these are guidelines, not strict rules: Crosby, for instance, states: “There is no ‘right wine.’ The wine to drink is the one you like, when and how you like it” (19), while the then-manager of Lindemans Wines is similarly reassuring in his guide to entertaining, stating that “strict adherence to the rules is not invariably wise” (Mackay 3). Tingey openly acknowledges that while the international-style of regularly drinking wine had “given more dignity and sophistication to the Australian way of life” (35), it should not be shrouded in snobbery.

Food-Related Content

The magazine’s cookery articles all feature international dishes, and certain foreign foods, recipes, and ways of eating and dining are clearly identified as “gourmet”. Cheese is certainly the most frequently mentioned “gourmet” food in the magazine, and is featured in every issue. These articles can be grouped into the following categories: understanding cheese (how it is made and the different varieties enjoyed internationally), how to consume cheese (in relation to other food and specific wines, and in which particular parts of a meal, again drawing on international practices), and cooking with cheese (mostly in what can be identified as “foreign” recipes).

Some of this content is produced by Kraft Foods, a major advertiser in the magazine, and these articles and recipes generally focus on urging people to eat more, and varied international kinds of cheese, beyond the ubiquitous Australian cheddar. In terms of advertorials, both Kraft cheeses (as well as other advertisers) are mentioned by brand in recipes, while the companies are also profiled in adjacent articles. In the fourth issue, for instance, a full-page, infomercial-style advertisement, noting the different varieties of Kraft cheese and how to serve them, is published in the midst of a feature on cooking with various cheeses (“Cooking with Cheese”). This includes recipes for Swiss Cheese fondue and two pasta recipes: spaghetti and spicy tomato sauce, and a so-called Italian spaghetti with anchovies.

Kraft’s company history states that in 1950, it was the first business in Australia to manufacture and market rindless cheese. Through these AWFQ advertisements and recipes, Kraft aggressively marketed this innovation, as well as its other new products as they were launched: mayonnaise, cheddar cheese portions, and Cracker Barrel Cheese in 1954; Philadelphia Cream Cheese, the first cream cheese to be produced commercially in Australia, in 1956; and, Coon Cheese in 1957. Not all Kraft products were seen, however, as “gourmet” enough for such a magazine. Kraft’s release of sliced Swiss Cheese in 1957, and processed cheese slices in 1959, for instance, both passed unremarked in either the magazine’s advertorial or recipes.

An article by the Australian Dairy Produce Board urging consumers to “Be adventurous with Cheese” presented general consumer information including the “origin, characteristics and mode of serving” cheese accompanied by a recipe for a rich and exotic-sounding “Wine French Dressing with Blue Cheese” (Kennedy 18). This was followed in the next issue by an article discussing both now familiar and not-so familiar European cheese varieties: “Monterey, Tambo, Feta, Carraway, Samsoe, Taffel, Swiss, Edam, Mozzarella, Pecorino-Romano, Red Malling, Cacio Cavallo, Blue-Vein, Roman, Parmigiano, Kasseri, Ricotta and Pepato” (“Australia’s Natural” 23). Recipes for cheese fondues recur through the magazine, sometimes even multiple times in the same issue (see, for instance, “Cooking With Cheese”; “Cooking With Wine”; Pain). In comparison, butter, although used in many AWFQ’s recipes, was such a common local ingredient at this time that it was only granted one article over the entire run of the magazine, and this was largely about the much more unusual European-style unsalted butter (“An Expert”).

Other international recipes that were repeated often include those for pasta (always spaghetti) as well as mayonnaise made with olive oil. Recurring sweets and desserts include sorbets and zabaglione from Italy, and flambéd crepes suzettes from France. While tabletop cooking is the epitome of sophistication and described as an international technique, baked Alaska (ice cream nestled on liquor-soaked cake, and baked in a meringue shell), hailing from America, is the most featured recipe in the magazine. Asian-inspired cuisine was rarely represented and even curry—long an Anglo-Australian staple—was mentioned only once in the magazine, in an article reprinted from the South African The National Hotelier, and which included a recipe alongside discussion of blending spices (“Curry”).

Coffee was regularly featured in both articles and advertisements as a staple of the international gourmet kitchen (see, for example, Bancroft)Articles on the history, growing, marketing, blending, roasting, purchase, percolating and brewing, and serving of coffee were common during the magazine’s run, and are accompanied with advertisements for Bushell’s, Robert Timms’s and Masterfoods’s coffee ranges. AWFQ believed Australia’s growing coffee consumption was the result of increased participation in quality internationally-influenced dining experiences, whether in restaurants, the “scores of colourful coffee shops opening their doors to a new generation” (“Coffee” 39), or at home (Adams). Tea, traditionally the Australian hot drink of choice, is not mentioned once in the magazine (Brien).

International Gourmet Innovations

Also featured in the magazine are innovations in the Australian food world: new places to eat; new ways to cook, including a series of sometimes quite unusual appliances; and new ways to shop, with a profile of the first American-style supermarkets to open in Australia in this period. These are all seen as overseas innovations, but highly suited to Australia. The laws then controlling the service of alcohol are also much discussed, with many calls to relax the licensing laws which were seen as inhibiting civilised dining and drinking practices. The terms this was often couched in—most commonly in relation to the Olympic Games (held in Melbourne in 1956), but also in relation to tourism in general—are that these restrictive regulations were an embarrassment for Melbourne when considered in relation to international practices (see, for example, Ludbrook, “Present”). This was at a time when the nightly hotel closing time of 6.00 pm (and the performance of the notorious “six o’clock swill” in terms of drinking behaviour) was only repealed in Victoria in 1966 (Luckins).

Embracing scientific approaches in the kitchen was largely seen to be an American habit. The promotion of the use of electricity in the kitchen, and the adoption of new electric appliances (Gas and Fuel; Gilbert “Striving”), was described not only as a “revolution that is being wrought in our homes”, but one that allowed increased levels of personal expression and fulfillment, in “increas[ing] the time and resources available to the housewife for the expression of her own personality in the management of her home” (Gilbert, “The Woman’s”). This mirrors the marketing of these modes of cooking and appliances in other media at this time, including in newspapers, radio, and other magazines. This included features on freezing food, however AWFQ introduced an international angle, by suggesting that recipe bases could be pre-prepared, frozen, and then defrosted to use in a range of international cookery (“Fresh”; “How to”; Kelvinator Australia). The then-new marvel of television—another American innovation—is also mentioned in the magazine ("Changing concepts"), although other nationalities are also invoked. The history of the French guild the Confrerie de la Chaine des Roitisseurs in 1248 is, for instance, used to promote an electric spit roaster that was part of a state-of-the-art gas stove (“Always”), and there are also advertisements for such appliances as the Gaggia expresso machine (“Lets”) which draw on both Italian historical antecedence and modern science.

Supermarket and other forms of self-service shopping are identified as American-modern, with Australia’s first shopping mall lauded as the epitome of utopian progressiveness in terms of consumer practice. Judged to mark “a new era in Australian retailing” (“Regional” 12), the opening of Chadstone Regional Shopping Centre in suburban Melbourne on 4 October 1960, with its 83 tenants including “giant” supermarket Dickens, and free parking for 2,500 cars, was not only “one of the most up to date in the world” but “big even by American standards” (“Regional” 12, italics added), and was hailed as a step in Australia “catching up” with the United States in terms of mall shopping (“Regional” 12). This  shopping centre featured international-styled dining options including Bistro Shiraz, an outdoor terrace restaurant that planned to operate as a bistro-snack bar by day and full-scale restaurant at night, and which was said to offer diners a “Persian flavor” (“Bistro”).

Conclusion

Australian Wines & Food Quarterly was the first of a small number of culinary-focused Australian publications in the 1950s and 1960s which assisted in introducing a generation of readers to information about what were then seen as foreign foods and beverages only to be accessed and consumed abroad as well as a range of innovative international ideas regarding cookery and dining. For this reason, it can be posited that the magazine, although modest in the claims it made, marked a revolutionary moment in Australian culinary publishing. As yet, only slight traces can be found of its editor and publisher, Donald Wallace. The influence of AWFQ is, however, clearly evident in the two longer-lived magazines that were launched in the decade after AWFQ folded: Australian Gourmet Magazine and The Epicurean. Although these serials had a wider reach, an analysis of the 15 issues of AWFQ adds to an understanding of how ideas of foods, beverages, and culinary ideas and trends, imported from abroad were presented to an Australian readership in the 1950s, and contributed to how national foodways were beginning to change during that decade.

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Keywords


creative writing; food writing; food studies; Australian Wines & Food Quarterly



Copyright (c) 2016 Donna Lee Brien

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