Guy Mirabella, author of Eat Ate -a feast of fresh, beautifully balanced flavours and texturesI first heard of Guy Mirabella in 1993. I was a later starter. Ironically, given the very Italian-ness of the man that is at the heart of his current-day pursuits - writing, designing and cooking – it was Asian food that brought me and this Mornington Peninsula-raised man together. It was an unusual and far-from-bitter love triangle. Me, Guy and an older sub-continental woman, Charmaine Solomon. I was in the first-blush phase of a total love affair with food, particularly Asian food. Charmaine Solomon was the doyenne of Asian food book authors in Australia, the Sri Lankan Stephanie. And Guy Mirabella was the designer given the task   by a publisher to repackage Charmaine and her oeuvre; to sex up the satay, turbo charge the tempeh and add a little design Viagra to her vindaloo. The result was two marvellous books that took wisdom and proven recipes and gave them an entire new public image: The Hot and Spicy Book and The Rice and Noodle Book. Large format, soft card covers, bold typography and even bolder use of photography… these were landmark Australian food publications and, while it took a bold publisher to repackage the dowdy-but-worthy Charmaine, it took an inspired graphic designer to see what the project could be and follow it through. I still have the books today. They still inspire me.  But they weren’t Guy’s books in anything but a design sense. In 1995, Mirabella took his innate – Italian – passion for food one step further by doing his own landmark book, pasta e basta. It was another zeitgeist piece of design work, only this time with his own recipes: photographs (by Simon Griffiths) were used in an exciting, very tightly-cropped manner; the food styling showed early signs of anti-styling, the colours and typography broke the rules and, again, the format was highly unusual – A3 card cover. It was a document that said a lot about the author. I liked what it said. For one thing, it said: “I know and love Italian food and I want to share a bit of that with you.”

That same year, another landmark Australian book, Paramount Cooking by Christine Manfield, hit the shelves, and again, with its radical elliptical shape, it again had lay book consumers talking about book design. Guess who? And then Guy Mirabella quietly slipped off my radar.  No doubt this energetic Somerville-raised lad did a lot of things in those years. One was to go back to the Peninsula to open Shop Ate, in Mount Eliza, a café and produce store that gave him an outlet for all that Italian passione for food. The other was to write and design more books, including his most ambitious yet, Eat Ate (Hardie Grant). He’ll probably win more design awards for this title too. But Eat Ate is much more than a design exercise. It’s a memoir, a bowerbird collection of images and souvenirs, thoughts and vignettes from an interesting Italian/Australian life. A life lived with food at its source. “This book celebrates my Italian spirit and always pays homage to the importance of family,” writes Mirabella. “Unlike traditional cookbooks, there are no entrée, main meal and dessert chapters in this book. Rather, the recipes are organised according to the themes that give me the comfort and freedom to express the way I cook, eat, design and paint. "Extravagance, generosity, love, tradition, like, food – it’s all about truth, beauty and perseverance.” To anyone in love with Italy, Italianess, food and the enrichment of the Australian soul that has come from a generation of Italian migrants, Eat Ate is a treasure, a uniquely Australian book. Guy Mirabella, I’m very glad you’re “back.”

By John Lethlean (The Australian Food Stuff)

 

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