The French Menu Cookbook – Richard Olney



The French Menu Cookbook Richard Olney

Published by Collins, 2010 (Hardback)
Originally published by Ten Speed Press (1970)
Designed by uncredited
Drawings by Gösta Viertel

Richard Olney is American and moved to France in the 1950s; The French Menu Cookbook was originally published in 1970, however the cover and the interior of this reprint feel like a book out of time: its cover with its Art Deco typeface, signifies an idea of both French chic and 1930s New York. Although this a subtle linking of the American Olney to France, I would argue that this cover is somewhat confusing in its signs and does not offer the reader an easilly-understood message of Richard Olney’s relationship to the cooking and culture of France. The use of the pink ink on the inside spreads and the sometimes overly-fussy typography feels like an old-fashioned French restaurant: the book has a veneer of sophistication that reflects the perceived idea of French sophistication in cooking.

There are no photographs in the book and only a few pages of illustrations of cooking equipment; two colour printing and typographic elements such as decorative borders, fleurons and the use of a hierarchy of typographic details help create a richness and variety to the text but do not necessarily help the reader navigate the text or, more importantly, help the reader understand the context of Richard Olney’s writings. The ‘sticker’ on the cover perhaps reflects the publisher’s anxieties about this.

Front Cover
The cover shows an illustration of a steaming stockpot. The stockpot is seen in silhouette with no shadows or attempt to represent perspective and is printed in one colour, a burgundy red against a creamy yellow background with abstracted swirls of steam rising above the lid. The stockpot is the dominant element of the cover; it sits on a petrol blue block that occupies the lower eighth of the cover and is separated from the stockpot and the background by three reversed out fine rules; the blue block contains a quotation that is reversed out in white type, centred and set in a sans-serif. The title of the book, set in a decorative Art Deco display font is reversed out in white on the stockpot and ranged left in a mixture of uppercase and titlecase. The author’s name and a strapline crediting the person who wrote the introduction appears at the top of the cover, centred and set in a condensed sans-serif and printed in the same petrol blue as the block of colour at the foot. A further element is a white circle, that on first glance looks like a sticker, over the top right-hand of the stockpot, containing another strapline “Number 1 Observer Food Monthly’s Best Cookbooks Ever”.


Inside Pages
The book is 15 cm by 23 cm and is printed black and light pink on white uncoated paper and is set in a sans-serif, possibly Ehrhardt or similar. The book is divided into seasonal menus, each section opens on a double-page spread with a decorative border printed in pink, the menu is centred on each page and is set in a variety of styles: italic, small caps and uppercase, printed in two colours. A fleuron is used to separate each course of the meal. A hierarchy is created with the different typographical elements: Large pink italic for the grouping of the menu; black uppercase for the title of the menu; black small caps for the food; black italic for the wines.

The book is laid out on a one-column grid with symmetrical facing pages; there are fairly narrow equal margins on the outside, inside and top with a deeper margin at the bottom. Body text is justified throughout with recipe ingredients inset slightly and ranged left. Running heads are set in italic and centred on the central column. Pagination, set in non-aligning numerals, appears at the foot of the page. A hierarchy of titles and sub-titles is established: titles set in uppercase, centred and printed in black precede the introductions to the recipes; the title of the recipe, in French, is set in larger italic text, centred and printed in pink; a translation from the French appears below in centred black titlecase, set smaller than the title above but larger than the body text; sections within the menu are preceded by black small caps.

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