Yep! Fruitcake! Welcome to my first post on vintage recipe cards. It’s December, so there couldn’t be a better time to show the dry, brick-like dessert know as Fruitcake. This image is from the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library from 1971. That’s right, the one we all grew up with in the US, having our mom’s cook from.
Many of the Betty Crocker recipes are actually very good, basic recipes (not including the one mentioned above) – with no consideration to any diet issues what so ever. They had high fat content, high sugar content, high calorie content, you get the idea – it was the 70’s after all.
Now, to be fair, with my bad food photography recipe collecting, I have learned about two different kinds of recipes:
- Some recipes are just god awful, disgusting, and should never have been created, AND the photos of those recipes are just horrible.
- Some recipes are actually good, and, unfortunately, their photos are also just horrible.
Ok, so don’t worry, my blog didn’t turn into a blog about bad food photography (though you are going to see a lot here today). I have always loved the history of food and what it took for us to be where we are today in our food photography world. Photography has evolved so much over the last 50 years, It’s really amazing.
Food photography, luckily, has changed immensely. I’m not sure what was happening in the 70’s, but the photography was anything but beautiful.
They massively over lit the food. They always had multiple light sources causing double shadows and specular highlights all over the food. The prop styling was just thrown together with very distracting, if not disturbing props (you’ll see that below). Many backgrounds had very bright, busy patterns that took your eyes away from the food, which might have been their intention, as the food styling made the food so unappealing. Almost every shot had every item in focus – no creativity with selected focus or shallow depth of field, no depth in the shots. Everything was photographed with a very wide angle lens it seems.
Basically food photography now is completely the opposite of what it used to be.
Meet Fred. He is our mascot in the Food Photography Club Facebook group for a photo contest I’m running right now. I think so far, this is the most shocking food recipe card I have to date. It involves jello, mayonnaise, fish, a cup of cream, and some seasoning, uhhgrghf! I don’t know how to spell that sound I just made, so I guessed at that.
The Seafood Mouse recipe is from Curtin Publications Inc. I have searched all over the web and cannot find any info about this company. They claim all their recipes are “kitchen tested”. Ok, now, today a tested recipe means that it’s been tested several times and actually works and is a good recipe. Back in the 70’s, I’m not sure what that means. Maybe it means, they did actually make this recipe for the photo shoot??
It seems that with my collection of vintage recipe cards, the Curtin Publications has, shall we say, the most unusual of recipes I’ve ever seen.
This week I just started receiving some of my awesome vintage recipe finds from ebay. I found a recipe collection from Paul Hamlyn Ltd 1967 (pictured above). I had no idea who Paul Hamlyn was, so I googled him. Turns out, he was a pretty awesome guy.
Paul Hamlyn was originally named Paul Bertrand Wolfgang Hamburger, born in Berlin in 1926. He and his family emigrated from Germany to England in 1933. He changed his name to Paul Hamlyn. Then in 1961 he basically created one of the first, if not THE first full color cookbooks called, the “Everyday Cook Book in Colour” with recipes from Marguerite Patten. They sold over 1 million copies of this book by 1969 and he was the first person to put a cookbook into a retail outlet such as grocery stores and hardware stores.
Marguerite Patten’s cookery programs were first broadcasted on the BBC in 1947! Julia Child’s first tv show was in 1963. I had no idea that the tv was happening in the 40’s until I did researched for this post. Marguerite was offended when called a celebrity chef and insisted that till the day she died, she was a home economist.
Moving on! The image above, Christmas Pudding, is very English. I just had to share this because, well, I’m British and I grew up with my English grandma sending us Christmas cake every year. Our cakes were actually encased is marzipan and royal icing, which I loved as it was very moist and full of flavor. Non of this candied citrus peel stuff with dry cake that you find today in fruit cakes.
Ok, so as I mentioned earlier, there are MANY recipes that are just downright disgusting. So I’ve made a little gallery of a few of those. I don’t know what’s happening in the image above with the Liver in Sour Cream. That’s all I can say about that.
The images below are of some scary recipes. The food does not look appealing and the color of the the props is not helping any of these dishes at all. Yes, the Tangy Tomato Aspic is jello with tomato paste in it!
So the gallery of images below are not of bad recipes. These images have horrible lighting, or really bad or creepy props (like the clown!), ugly food styling, or all three! Also, when doing a pour shot of something creamy, don’t do what they did in that second shot.
The card for frozen desserts with whistles on the end of sticks in the dessert – this card came from the recipes that children can make. I’m sorry, if any child showed up at my house with those whistle desserts, I would have turned that child right around and sent them home. Can you imagine the ruckus that would have made with all that noise. Clearly, this is why I never had children.
When I was searching for vintage recipes on the interwebs, I found a few sites that were very fun and have been doing this important research for quite some time, and need some recognition:
McCallum Vintage Recipe Divas: https://mccallumvintagerecipedivas.wordpress.com/
Vintage Recipe Cards: https://vintagerecipecards.com/
Click Americana: http://clickamericana.com/category/recipes
So, the little contest I mentioned above – In the Facebook group, I’m running a contest using these vintage recipe cards as inspiration. Take an old recipe and redo it in your style. You don’t have to take one of these scary recipes that have no business being recreated ever – take a normal recipe with an outdated photo and redo that recipe and image for the recipe in your style for 2017.
The winner will get a 15 minute phone consultation with me, or a 15 minute portfolio critique, or a blog/website critique. It’s your choice. The contest will go through January and the winner will be picked at the end of January.
The goal is to take an outdated recipe, it can be very simple, and just make it a beautiful image. You don’t need a lot of props, just make the image about your food.
Go to the club for more details – Food Photography Club.
Have a great holiday everyone and a happy new year!
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