Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Epicurean Graphics by Les Mason

A special extra box arrived with the wines from Crittenden Estate today It was a box of Epicurean magazines from 1968 to 1988. Twenty years of how fine food and wine was developing in Australia. Garry knows I collect food and wine ephemera and kindly sent them along with the Crittenden Estate Arneis, Moscato and Savignin, varieties that are not found on this side of the bay.
The first thing that jumped out at me while unpacking the magazines was how extraordinary the early graphics were. . The title pages reveal the early art director as Les Mason, “who was considered by his peers to be the seminal force in the establishment of graphic design in Melbourne in the 1960s and '70s....”
Link to The Age obit here
You can see the resonances of Les mason's style in many contemporary artworks from Deborah Halpern to Reg Mombassa
Then as I started to get into the content of the magazines I was drawn along a journey guided by many of the best, most articulate and passionate people that shaped the way the food and wine industry is right now in Australia.
 Penny Smith, Marian Halligan. Len Evans, Diane Holouigue, Mietta, Dan Murphy, Ian Hickinbotham, and Oscar Mendelssohn, the list of contributors is extraordinary and long. We see the first review for Jacques Reymond and Tansy Goode. Mietta talks to a very disillusioned Alain Chapel who is all gloom and doom about the loss of tradition in French cooking.The first run of the sous-vide revolution kicks off. Tony Bilson is reviewed by Len Evans at Tony’s Bon Gout then later at Kinsellas. A very young Terry Durack writes with a wry Australian  humour and passion on 3 star dining in France.
The early years 1968--1975 give perspective to a time before I started on this journey, then in the later volumes I am confronted by the very events that dragged my generation very willingly into a life of hospitality. Many of the recipes recorded have stood the test of time but those that copied the “flavour of the month” Nouvelle Cuisine from European sources look just as silly as the aspic and chaud froid disasters of a previous generation copying the last gasps of la Grande Cuisine. I wonder how young cooks now starting out will look back at the current micro-molecular smears and splodges in 40 years? Probably in 5 dimensions on media that not even Apple has dreamed about.....


steve said...

Yes George the longer one is in this game comes the realization that many many people have trod the path before.
I too often ponder the question of how the next generations will view the current trends in cookery & if these trends today will still be relevent in years to come.
Wouldn't it be hilarious if Ferran Adria returned after his two year hiatus having ditched his tecnomocional cuisine to re open his restaurant as a back to basics rustic tavera of sorts?
As a result I reckon a lot of second hand lab equipment would be available worldwide suddenly as kitchens jettison the 'old trends'.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Yes Steve like a reverse of Dylan going electric.

Thermomixer said...

Hope you are getting some nice rain.

Thanks for enlightening me on the cover art. Have to go and check out the ones I have at home. I know that when MrsT and I were looking through some of these and the old Gourmets we were amazed at how many of the dishes would still be very respectable on the table today, and hadn't dated - maybe a few tweaks needed.

Possibly a sign that I am getting too old and even more conservative.

Gail Devine said...

I am the wife of Les Mason, the designer who designed Epicurean. I could not believe to see all the gorgeous covers that he did all those years ago, by chance. It is so, so sad without him. He was an inspirational person in all ways. A great cook before it all become cook blitz by wannabes, he taught me the first Ceaser salad (without bacon or chicken gracias mio Dios) a potatoe souffle and beans southern style instead of all this 'draped' over look. Would you belive this lovely man did not keep any of his Epicureans, bar a few. Can you please get in touch with me, so I may take photos - the person who now has this collection? Best regards Gail Mason

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hello Gail
Thank you for your note, its comments like this that make the whole business of blogging worthwhile. I would be pleased to make the set available for you or I could take the shots and send them to you.
Give me a ring after 6 pm I am in the phone book under George Biron Birregurra Western Victoria or an email details under my profile and we can discuss this further.
All the best.

George Biron

Anonymous said...

Yes I would love to have pictures, of Les's Epicurean covers you have. He was always thinking of the future, always a new idea, no time for what was done. That is why we do not have any. I shall call you to discuss. Thank you so much. Tomorrow his friends, partners, our dog Frank and I will release some of his ashes on his favourite spots in Guildford. Calm now, hope so tomorrow his 86th birthday, a man who never grew old, always a new thought. In heaven I guess he will be having a steamed glove artichoke with fresh mayonnaise using his fingers with a Hensche white. Man he knew how to live, I miss him so, boring now. Kind regards Gail Mason

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hello Gail,

Our thoughts were with you Pictures done sending on Monday.

Hello Gail
The more I look at his work the more interesting they are, each edition seems to have a theme the line drawings and naive cartoon like paintings have a charm and grace as well as a humour so lacking in food graphics today. They were truly groundbreaking.
And stand alone as very good art. And we can still enjoy them today. He has left a remarkable legacy.

Images done will send on Monday.

Mel said...

I didn't think ANYONE remembered Epicure anymore. The early days, especially, of that wonderful magazine evoke huge nostalgic longing in me. That was when I was just learning about the world of fine food and wine, and it seemed so infinite. In the 60s, some of the Epicure articles were written by members of the great iconic wine dynasties - Dr Lindemann, Rada Penfold-Russell - and it was if the gods had come down to earth to talk to us. In my opinion, in those days we in Australia knew so little of fine food and wine. Nowadays, we're all experts in it, through our indulgence in TV culinary pornography. Back then, you had to work hard to find consistently and predictably good wine, and ignorance was so prevalent that a good search of pub bottle shops could unearth wine treasures that the publican had just chucked out because they were "old". That was when the REAL Dan Murphy, not the Woolworths cardboard cutout, stood on a wine case at his emporium in Chapel St Prahran and lectured to the adoring wine aspirants. From memory, every one of his tastings turned into a party. We all used to buy his cleanskins, which were incredible value, always called Bin No soandso. I still have one or two of his actual bottles dating back from around 1970!! I think one is a Reynell's vintage port, an iconic historic name in itself. Oh, memories...

Zoe said...

I have a few old Epicures, but none so old or with such amazing art.

Would love to see you post a few more, George

Susan said...

These magazines are so incredibly hard to find now- I'd love to see and hold a copy, but I can't find them anywhere. Does anyone know where I could find them?

Thermomixer said...

Did you see the article in today's Melb Mag ? or whatever it is called in The Age?

Haven't read it yet, but recognise some of those covers from my stocks.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hi Jeff
Yes should be a good show, a bit Les momentum happening. We have had an event based on the graphics of Les for the Melb Food and Wine Festival [food from the magazines, souvenir colour menus plus a lot more]locked into the program but I am not supposed to make public till the brochure is finished. You saw it here first. Also in Melb Mag Grossi and not Parmesan ads? Que?