The St Michael Cookery Library

Why were Marks and Spencer publishing cookbooks?

You know what you go to Marks and Spencer for. You go for sandwiches, socks and underwear. You don’t expect to pop into Marks to buy a TV (although they did briefly sell them).

St Michael was the Marks and Spencer brand name for everything in the store, a label that fell out of use in the company-wide re-branding campaign of the early 2000s.

The St Michael cookery library was a range of books that showed you how to cook everyday classics from a roast dinner to flapjacks, with exciting excursions into offal and seafood.

Liver and… orange?

The idea undoubtedly was that if we saw these mouth-watering recipes, we might actually buy the ingredients in the food department. Makes sense.

By modern standards, where every book is style-directed, and every recipe promises the food of angels, the photography looks dated. Back in the 1970s, however, it was an innovation to have a colour photograph of every dish so that you knew what the finished product was meant to look like.

The 1970s in a single dish

Now, cookbooks arrive online or via an app. Marks and Spencer still has collections of recipes, though, so if you want to wow your kids with cherry-tomato ladybirds sitting on leaves, the power is yours.

Last century, we thought ham with pineapple rings was the last word.

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