In search of something to savor, our senses come into play: smell and taste, of course, but at the very start is sight. Cookbooks are judged by their covers. Mounds of delectable produce inspire shoppers to plan bountiful meals. Kitchenware and appliances promise culinary delights, and design is almost as important as function. It’s simple: food is more delicious if it is pleasing to the eye.
Building on this common knowledge, gorgeous full-color paintings graced Minnesota cookbooks, food packaging, and promotional mailings beginning in the late nineteenth century. These lavish illustrations were made by talented artists, including the acclaimed N. C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell. Minnesota’s food companies, with their national and even international reach, hired fine artists to paint finished dishes, illustrate the era’s kitchens, and design lush gardens that would entice consumers to purchase products and the cookbooks that celebrated them.
In this collection of vintage recipes, evocative illustrations, and vivid ads, Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky take readers on a tour of Minnesota’s foodie ephemera of the 1880s through the 1980s: charming cartoon cooks, alluring seed catalog covers, and imaginative and decorative drawings celebrating cuisines from around the world. As the artwork and stories show, styles and approaches may change through the decades, but the goal remains the same: tempt your customers’ appetite by elevating food and cooking to fine art.