Café ware seduction
Enjoy The Paper
Imagine that you’re snared within a phantasmagorical wonderland of dazzling, flashing, coloured lights, bouncing off a multitude of graphically stylised mirrors and highly-polished chrome, glass and faux marble surfaces. An intoxicating fusion of aromas – syrupy sweet mingled with pungent zests – activates your taste buds. ‘Rock Around the Clock’ erupts from the jukebox, challenging the soda fountain’s rhythmic whoosh and gurgle of liquid under pressure. The clinking and scraping of metal against glass is repetitive, but dim. Discordant singing, laughter, and the chatter of gossip emanates from around tabled wooden booths. Self-indulgent gratification intensifies: another round of American-style soda drinks, milkshakes and ice cream sundaes is ordered.
Served in sparkling, sensually stylised metal containers or see-through soda drink glass goblets and ice cream sundae dishes designed to caress both sight and touch, these grails were the most fundamental, tangible, baseline-elements of the overall carnival of illusion, provocatively drawing attention to their contents – a seduction of contrasting colours, textures and fluid forms. This paper will discuss the aesthetics of café, milk bar and soda/sundae parlour ware and its stimulus to food and drink consumption within the context of the overall fantasy of these food-catering businesses.
Documentary photographer, Effy Alexakis, and historian, Leonard Janiszewski, have been researching the Greek-Australian historical and contemporary presence in both Australia and Greece since 1982. Their project and archives, In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians, encompasses visual, oral and literary material and is based at Macquarie University, Sydney. Their archive is recognised as one of the most significant collections in the country on Greek-Australians.
Various national and international touring exhibitions, three major books, well over 250 book chapters, articles, conference papers, and three film documentaries have been produced. Of their exhibitions, the most pronounced have been ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ and ‘Selling and American Dream: Australia’s Greek Café’. The former was created in partnership with the State Library of NSW and toured throughout Australia as well as Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece. The latter opened at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, in 2008, and is still touring.
Alexakis’ photographs are held in both public and private collections in Australia – most significantly in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, and the State Library of NSW, Sydney. She has been ranked as one of Australia’s leading portrait photographers. In 2001 Janiszewski was awarded the New South Wales History Fellowship to research a history of the ‘Greek café’. Both are Research Fellows with the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University.
Hi Thank you again for the most wonderful book and history.
the descriptions are so vivid that I was transported back in time. I enjoyed reading this paper.
You don’t have to have lived through an era to feel nostalgic for its mediated references. I wrote a paper once on remembering the 1950s among people born since then.
A wonderfully evocative paper that offers a glimpse into a culture that I'm not quite old enough to have experienced. I do recall the shiny, vibrantly coloured aluminium milkshake holders - and now feel vaguely nostalgic for them.
Beautiful, evocative writing that took me right into the cafe. Thank you!
The writing was as wonderful and colourfully lyrical as the subject and oh, how I enjoyed both! This is precisely what I'm pushing for in the public communication of Nutrition Science...the theatre, the immersion, the emotional connection to food & place, the pleasure!
Yes indeed Alison! Spot on!!
Wonderful as always, thank you! The Greek milk bar was an immersive experience before immersive experiences became a thing!
Look forward to it!
Thank you to all for your insightful personal responses. Effy and I are following a variety of other food-related themes instigated by our ongoing research and exhibitions investigating Australia's Greek cafes and milk bars (inclusive of their international influences). Ideas resist boundaries and a diasporic people such has the Hellenes carried their ideas and experiences across multiple boarders – a process of transference, transformation/hybridisation and then further knock-on transference. These, we'll continue to reveal through publication and/or exhibition.
Effy and Leonard, I remember hearing one of your earliest presentations on Greek milk bars (was it 2000 when I was at UTS?) so it's great to see how this important work has flourished. This is a lush, evocative paper - I can almost hear the music, let alone other sounds, and relish the smells and dazzle of the Acropole in Bathurst where I was a college student in the early 60s. We were in residential accommodation and the food was appalling. So when our allowance arrived (4 pounds) once a month we would splurge at our beloved Acropole [we pronounced it "Acra- pole" ... to rhyme with "hole"], probably unaware of its Americanised Greekness but loving the food and ambiance. Then it was back to poverty and dishes like "train smash" (a sort of shepherd's pie) in the college dining room for the rest of the month. Anyway, thank you for persisting with this project in such new and imaginative ways.
Such a far cry from the earlier elegance of cafe dining, epitomised in Melbourne's Walter Burleigh and Marion Mahony Griffins' neo-classical Greek fantasies in Cafe Australia, a little too ahead of its time in 1915 for some. It's little wonder that the more accessible American Diner style establishment attracted the young and groovy types post-War. But I'd not considered the link between uniforms and the 'bus boys' of more refined dining and hotel establishments in America. Great paper, thank you.
Wonderfully evocative. By the time I was growing up in Singleton the milk bar had lost much of the glamour and fine dining aesthetic, hence it was always a pleasure to drop in to the Paragon in Goulburn - now sadly garishly refurbished, and the Niagara at Gundagai, now up for sale, on family trips to and from Melbourne.