Christopher Menz

The Essence of French Cooking by Michel Roux & The Best of Gretta Anna with Martin Teplitzky by Gretta Anna Teplitzky and Martin Teplitzky

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November 2015, no. 376

Why is it that some recipe books fill you with enthusiasm to fire up the stove the instant you open them while others remain on the shelf, consulted rather than cooked from? Is it the text, the photographs, the design, or because they come from the pen of a trusted cook? In the case of The Essence of French Cooking and The Best of Gretta Anna with Marti ...

Simone Young’s return to Melbourne saw her presenting a mostly Romantic program with soprano Emma Matthews and the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) Orchestra. The first half, heralded by Paul Stanhope’s Fantasia on a Theme of Vaughan Williams (2003), was devoted to Duparc songs and an orchestral nocturne. After ...

Visitors to Siena are told about two major historical catastrophes that determined the future of the city: the Black Death in 1348 and the final capitulation to Florence in 1555. Such events manifest themselves respectively in the spectacularly incomplete Duomo and in the marked reduction of buildings and art creat ...

The reconstruction of the built environment that followed World War II was central to the development of international design in the third quarter of the twentieth century. This is the background and context for Mid-Century Modern Complete, a large volume which covers design and architecture (mostly European and North American) from the 1940s to the early 197 ...

Nowadays, with relentless advertising and a seemingly endless number of choices to confuse our every purchase, often only a click away from gratification, it might be tempting to imagine a time when things were simplerand retailing less pressured and more genteel. However, one would have to go a long way back in time to find an Australia without shops; indeed, to before 1790, when Sydney’s first recorded shop appeared. Indigenous Australians had traded commodities for thousands of years, but the European settlers brought thenotion of a cash transaction to the continent, even if, in the early days of settlement, a lack of liquidity led to bartering goods.

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The English and Australian Cookery Book by Edward Abbott & The English and Australian Cookery Book Companion: 1864–2014 Sesquicentenary Edition edited by Edward Abbott

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January-February 2015, no. 368

Given the deluge of cookery books and unrelenting television programs, it is hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t a single Australian cookery book. This year marks the sesquicentenary of the first: The English and Australian Cookery Book, a volume published anonymously in London, and compiled by ‘An Australian Aristologist’, Edward Abbott. Abbott (1801–69) was born in Sydney and by 1818 was working in Hobart. He became a newspaper proprietor, establishing the Hobart Town Advertiser in 1839, and a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly (1864–65) and the Legislative Council (1864–86). It was during his political career that he prepared and published this volume.

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The Bard Graduate Center, long known for its ground-breaking studies in the decorative arts, has taken the ambitious leap of presenting a comprehensive history of decorative arts and design from 1400 to 2000, covering Asia, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. (Coverage of Australia and Oceania is planned for future editions.) At over 700 pages, this is a most impressive achievement. For once, instead of being relegated to occasional paragraphs in major survey texts of art history, the decorative arts are presented centre stage. I wish it had been around when I was a student. Weber has assembled a team of scholars to cover this vast territory and it is not surprising to read that the book was almost ten years in the making. This volume does for the decorative arts what those standard university textbooks, Gardner’s Art through the Ages and Janson’s History of Art, did for the fine arts.

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Not many substantial private collections of art and decorative arts in Australia have remained intact from the nineteenth century. John Twycross (1819–89) was one of Melbourne’s early art collectors, and his collection has proved to be an exception. Twycross, lured there by the gold rush, made his money as a merchant in Melbourne in the middle of the nineteenth century. He began collecting art during the 1860s and became a major lender to the National Gallery of Victoria’s historic 1869 loan exhibition. He also spent heavily at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880 and even made a few purchases from the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition of 1888, the year before he died. He was also a lender to the 1888 exhibition. Some 200 of the works that Twycross purchased at these exhibitions have remained together. In 2009 a descendant donated them to Museum Victoria, which is custodian of the Royal Exhibition Building.

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The Australian sweet tooth and ongoing love of cakes and desserts is evident in two recent publications. Both cover the basics as well as offering more ambitious fare; they are good places to start if this is your thing.

Phillippa Grogan’s eponymous pâtisserie in Melbourne, established in 1994, offers the type of baked goods presented in this publication: breads, cakes and biscuits, quiches and tarts, superbly made and flavoured and stylishly presented. Novel at the time, the business rapidly became a success and has since expanded considerably. As is de rigueur nowadays for cooks, the book of the shop has followed: Phillippa’s Home Baking (Lantern, $49.95 hb, 313 pp, 9781921383311), co-written with Richard Cornish. Baking, more than any other type of cookery except confectionery, requires precision and accuracy, and this is reflected in the succinct, no-nonsense style of the clearly set out recipes and introductions.

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The last time the National Gallery of Victoria devoted an exhibition to furniture was in 1988 (Featherston Chairs), and only the most dedicated design aficionados will remember the gallery’s most recent group show of furniture design: One Hundred Chairs, back in 1974. Mid-Century Modern, broad in its ambition, covers Australian furniture design in the thirty-year immediate postwar period. It forms an interesting comparison to the recent touring exhibition from the Los Angeles County Museum, California Design, 1930–65, shown at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane last summer and reviewed here in December 2013–January 2014.

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