Words, images and…action: Len Deighton’s Action Cookbook (1965) as a device for learning and the changing attitude toward gender roles within the home.
09 Nov 2017, 17:30 to 09 Nov 2017, 19:30
Food History Seminar
IHR North American History Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Lorna Sheppard, Falmouth
This paper will focus on Len Deighton’s Action Cookbook (1965) and will argue that this cookbook was partly instrumental in challenging traditional roles by empowering and educating its readers toward a new attitude and heralded a turning point toward the ‘impressive cookbook’.
Nicola Humble attributes Elizabeth David's early success to 'food writing that appealed to men’. Deighton's cookbook was directed at a male readership and like David's texts, technique and authenticity are key components. The significance of Deighton's work is found in his 'cookstrips' - energetic and enthusiastic illustrations developed from recipes copied from his own collection of classic French cookbooks 'as an aide memoire just for me to have in the kitchen while I worked’. (Deighton 2015). Deighton relays this concept to a time when 'non-professional cooks were willing to spend time and skill in the desire to make something delicious'. (Deighton 2015). The study of Deighton’s ‘cookstrips’ has been largely unexplored and my paper will also discuss Deighton’s unique position as both writer and illustrator.
Deighton’s bold diagrammatic illustrative approach is also indicative of a new philosophy toward gender roles within the home. For Deighton as writer and illustrator, the dialogue between word and image is embedded in his own unique and simple visual language, developed to satisfy his own requirements in the kitchen and for those with a similar visual learning style. The cookbook in this context is a device for educating – for those traditionally unaccustomed to all things culinary and wanting to acquire new skills.
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