Morbid Curiosity

Cookbook Cover Art: Co-op Food Fun

One of my favourite things about older cookbooks (besides the bizarre recipes) is the artwork. And by “one of my favourite things,” I mean “one of my favourite things to make fun of.” Same difference. And what better target for this week’s good-natured mockery and speculation than my very first cookbook?

Actually, the Co-op Food Fun cookbook was my mom’s very first cookbook, too. She was given this book when she was just a young little snippet of a prairie girl living in a very, very small town called Moosehorn, Manitoba (population composed almost entirely of my maternal extended family). When I was little, I thought that Laura Ingalls Wilder was a contemporary of my mother because of my mom’s stories about growing up on the prairies. (Seriously: Moosehorn had a one room school house and my mom’s childhood home didn’t have indoor plumbing. It was a natural mistake for a kid like me to make!) The cookbook is meant for kids between the ages of five and 18, so I try to cut it a little slack when it comes to the recipes, but the cover artwork is fair game.

Cover of the Co-op Food Fun cookbook.
"An apron for me? You shouldn't have!"

In the cover illustration (click on picture to embiggen), there is a young man with a receding hairline, high-waisted pleated slacks, and a grandfatherly cardigan. (Hipster trend alert for Spring 2012!) He’s intruding into the personal space of a young woman who is wearing a light blue dress and a quizzical expression. And who can blame her? The young man in front of her and the small girl behind her seem to have surprised her with an “ambush aproning”. She points to herself as if to say, “You expect this Moi to cook? You must be mistaken!” The girl child behind her sports a sunny yellow dress and a soulless thousand-yard stare. She speaks in soft, menacing tones, “You have been chosen to wear The Apron. It was foretold.” The young woman glances about nervously. “It was foretold,” the young man echoes, “by the Elders of the Co-op Council: you must don The Apron of Responsibility. It is a great honour.” It is then that the young woman notices the book he holds. She sees herself on its cover, engaged in this very scene. A book within a book within a book, repeated in an infinite and hopeless tableau. She struggles briefly, but the trance of predestination is already taking hold. All this has happened before and will happen again. In her last fleeting moment of free will, the young woman spots a boy standing in front of an open refrigerator. She tries to attract his attention, but he is oblivious to her plight, too caught up in his own quest for a jug of Sunny Delight. Very soon, her eyes glaze over and her racing heart slows. There is only The Apron.


The image used in this post is from Co-op Food Fun: The step by step cook book for boys and girls, published by Federated Co-operatives Limited in 1963.

By Jen R. L. Disarray

Jen was once described as a "culinary anthropologist". She liked that. When she is not making questionable foods, Jen enjoys reading, sassing, and lurking all over the internet. Jen has a blog called Maybe We Shouldn't Be Eating This, and she is a contributor to the Geekquality podcast and blog.

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