This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Mirka & Georges: 'A Culinary Affair'

In Print

There are no two figures more influential in the development of art and food in Melbourne that Mirka and Georges Mora. Arriving in Australia in 1951 from Paris, the boisterous and bohemian couple opened lively restaurants and hosted debaucherous  parties populated by a revolving door of eccentric, rich, famous and creative crowds. Mirka, of course, went on to become one of the most influential artists in Australian history.

Launched in the year of Mirka’s 90th birthday, Mirka & Georges: A Culinary Affair arrived at our office about a month ago, rather symbolically, the day before Mirka passed away. Co-authored by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan, seniors curators at Heide Museum of Modern Art, the publication is part cookbook, part scrapbook, part family album, weaving the history of Mirka and Georges with the couple’s French recipes, alongside relics from their fabulous lives, Mirka’s artwork and images of her studio by photographer Robyn Lea.

Mirka & Georges: A Culinary Affair is a truly spectacular illustration of lives well lived by the Moras. Today, we’re sharing an edited extract from the forward written by their sons Philippe, William and Tiriel Mora.

29th September, 2018

Mirka at Mirka Café, circa 1954. Photo – Unknown photographer, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Photo – Robyn Lea, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Mirka and Georges at Tolarno French Bistro with artist Murray Walker, circa 1967. Photo – photographer unknown, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Mirka’s beautiful kitchen. Photo – courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Photo – Robyn Lea, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Photo – Robyn Lea, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Mirka Mora, Little Girl Dreaming of Red Birds, 2014, oil on canvas,95x180cm, private collection, Melbourne. Photo –  courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Portrait of Mirka with sons Tiriel, William and Phillipe. Photo – photographer unknown, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Photo – Robyn Lea, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Mirka at the Balzac with one of her drawings, circa 1958. Photo – Robyn Lea, courtesy of The Miegunyah Press.

Philippe Mora with William Mora and Tiriel Mora
Saturday 29th September 2018

‘Children  are  normally  embarrassed  by  their  parents  anyway,  but  Mirka  added  a  new  level  of  sometimes  risqué  farce.’

My steak tartare isn’t cooked and where is the sauce?

Our  parents’  extraordinary  life  stories  continue  to  surprise  my  brothers  William  and  Tiriel,  and  me  …  Reality  keeps  surpassing  all  the  legends,  gossip,  tall  tales  and  press  stories.  One  thing  that  continually  irritated  us  was  the  press  and  people’s  reactions  to  our  mother’s  public  high  jinks.  Children  are  normally  embarrassed  by  their  parents  anyway,  but  Mirka  added  a  new  level  of  sometimes  risqué  farce.  In  retrospect  it  was  her  comment  on  and  send-up  of  1950s  Melbourne.  It  was  as  if  an  R.  Crumb  cartoon  had  been  inserted  into  John  Brack’s  Collins  St.,  5p.m.  (1955)  painting.  The  paint  would  melt,  the  canvas  bend!

My brothers and I grew up in what turned out to be an incredible Australian petri dish of artists, actors, musicians, political figures, writers, celebrities and nobodies. Our parents’ intimate friends became Australian cultural icons —Charles Blackman, John Perceval, Arthur and David Boyd, Joy Hester, John and Sunday Reed, Fred Williams, and the list goes on. As kids we knew some of them as fantastically entertaining clowns who would have made Chaucer blush. Some lit their farts, to our total astonishment, or did spectacular fire-eating by blowing a mouthful of turpentine on a match.

Back to Mirka and Georges: the central thing to understand is that the Holocaust was the formative experience of their lives. They never burdened us with it, rarely if ever mentioning it for years. Their way of dealing with it was an exemplary joie de vivre celebrating their survival by emphasising art, food and love. It was the joy of survival expressed in extolling the best the mind and senses have to offer. It was a fantastic middle finger to Nazi ideology, but we didn’t know this subtext. When I asked my father when I was twelve if we were Jewish, he only did a subtle double take. ‘Yes,’ he said, and I said, ‘OK, then I want a bar mitzvah.’ A week after my bar mitzvah at the East Melbourne Synagogue with an audience of our mostly Christian, atheist or pagan friends, the rabbi won the lottery. Georges, an atheist, said, ‘Maybe there is something to this Jewish thing.’

We kids never thought of ourselves as immigrants. In fact, we were more Aussie than most kids who would come to us—as we were worldly authorities in primary school—with questions like: ‘What is a lesbian?’ Mirka had of course thoroughly briefed us. Precociousness can be dangerous, and when I called my principal a lesbian she broke a ruler over my head. Still, she moved me up a class. William and Tiriel had similar scrapes. We were the kids who knew too much about food, art and sex.

We are biased, but we feel Mirka and Georges have had an incalculable but enormous effect on Australian culture. We are not alone. Baillieu Myer famously said our father ‘made Melbourne a city’. Max Harris praised Georges as a key cultural catalyst. In an absurdly misogynist society Mirka cut a swathe for all women—artists and writers in particular. Her humour, ghastly to us at the time, was a sword that cut hypocrisy deep.

Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan have done the impossible. They have distilled a huge, unwieldy saga into a clear narrative. They have, in an ode to their subject, turned a vineyard into a cognac.

This is an edited extract from ‘Mirka & Georges: A Culinary Affair’ published by Melbourne University imprint, The Miegunyah Press.  ‘Mirka & Georges: A Culinary Affair’ is now available to purchase at all good bookstores.

This Week

Architecture

The Ultimate Heritage Restoration Project, On Remote Bruny Island

John Wardle Architects masterfully restore Captain James Kelly's 175-year-old cottage off Tasmania's South Coast.

Interiors

Stand-Out Kitchens To Inspire

Kitchen ideas and inspiration from our interiors columnist, Lauren Li.
Lauren Li

Architecture

A Sustainable Home, Designed To Connect To Community

The sunny and generous renovation of a California Bungalow in Northcote, by Gardiner Architects.
Miriam McGarry

In Print

A New Monograph Celebrating One Of Australia's Most Captivating Female Artists

As the new book series Mini Monographs hits shelves, we offer a look inside the first volume, honouring bold painter Del Kathryn Barton.
Sarah Darmody

News

A Unique New Line Of Meticulously Handwoven Bags

Introducing George – a limited collection of bags exploring the relationship between object, material, and human interaction.
Sally Tabart
  13 hours ago

News

Have You Ever Secretly Wondered…What IS Mid-Century Modern?

A visual guide to a celebrated era of design ‘From A To Eames’ by Lauren Whybrow and illustrations by Tom Jay.
Miriam McGarry

News

A Month-Long Third Drawer Down x David Shrigley Pop-Up

This decade-long collaboration between Melbourne’s kookiest gift store and the renowned artist is open for business!
Sally Tabart

Studio Visit

Exquisite Portraits And Still Life Paintings From Fiona O'Byrne

The landscape architect and painter shares her meticulously detailed portraits and still life works.
Miriam McGarry

Studio Visit

New Work From A Favourite Local Artist, Super-Charged With Colour + Pattern

Melbourne-based artist Gavin Brown opens a new exhibition of works today, inspired by the sights, flavours, and moods of travels through Asi...
Elle Murrell
  24 hours ago

Homes

From Caterpillar To Butterfly - A Truly Transformed Home!

Take a tour through the incredible Sydney home Terri Winter of top3 by design shares with her family.
Lucy Feagins
  Less than an hour ago
45:53

Podcast

TDF Talks With Award-Winning Magazine Editor Justine Cullen

The mum-of-four reflects on her career, the state of the Australian fashion industry, and the future of magazine publishing.

On The Market

One Of Fitzroy’s Most Iconic Homes Is On The Market

Your chance to see inside (and maybe own!) the most intriguing house on the street!

Sustainability

These Australian-Made Blankets Close The Loop On Textile Industry Waste

Sustainable start-up Seljak turns textile offcuts bound for landfill into high-quality merino blankets, at the country’s last remaining wo...
Elle Murrell

Shopping

Doubling Down On Bedding With Milou Milou

Eco-luxe bedding created from re-purposed 'dead stock', in every colour you could dream of.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A House Revived From The 1990s

CO-AP Architects boldly re-imagine a 1990s semi-detached home in Balmain, Sydney.
Miriam McGarry
  16 hours ago

View Comments

Similar Stories

News

'Mirka Mora: Reflections On Love'

An exhibition of pastels and charcoals from 1966 – 1983 by the prolific artist.
Elle Murrell

Fashion

Mirka Mora x Gorman

The collaboration to end all collaborations!

Studio Visit

The Inimitable Mirka Mora

In celebrating the life of this astounding artist upon her recent passing, we revisit one of Lucy's most cherished interviews.

This Week

Sustainability

These Australian-Made Blankets Close The Loop On Textile Industry Waste

Sustainable start-up Seljak turns textile offcuts bound for landfill into high-quality merino blankets, at the country’s last remaining wo...
Elle Murrell

Shopping

Doubling Down On Bedding With Milou Milou

Eco-luxe bedding created from re-purposed 'dead stock', in every colour you could dream of.
Miriam McGarry

On The Market

One Of Fitzroy’s Most Iconic Homes Is On The Market

Your chance to see inside (and maybe own!) the most intriguing house on the street!

News

A Month-Long Third Drawer Down x David Shrigley Pop-Up

This decade-long collaboration between Melbourne’s kookiest gift store and the renowned artist is open for business!
Sally Tabart

Architecture

The Ultimate Heritage Restoration Project, On Remote Bruny Island

John Wardle Architects masterfully restore Captain James Kelly's 175-year-old cottage off Tasmania's South Coast.

Architecture

A House Revived From The 1990s

CO-AP Architects boldly re-imagine a 1990s semi-detached home in Balmain, Sydney.
Miriam McGarry
  16 hours ago

Studio Visit

Exquisite Portraits And Still Life Paintings From Fiona O'Byrne

The landscape architect and painter shares her meticulously detailed portraits and still life works.
Miriam McGarry
45:53

Podcast

TDF Talks With Award-Winning Magazine Editor Justine Cullen

The mum-of-four reflects on her career, the state of the Australian fashion industry, and the future of magazine publishing.

In Print

A New Monograph Celebrating One Of Australia's Most Captivating Female Artists

As the new book series Mini Monographs hits shelves, we offer a look inside the first volume, honouring bold painter Del Kathryn Barton.
Sarah Darmody

News

A Unique New Line Of Meticulously Handwoven Bags

Introducing George – a limited collection of bags exploring the relationship between object, material, and human interaction.
Sally Tabart
  13 hours ago

Interiors

Stand-Out Kitchens To Inspire

Kitchen ideas and inspiration from our interiors columnist, Lauren Li.
Lauren Li

News

Have You Ever Secretly Wondered…What IS Mid-Century Modern?

A visual guide to a celebrated era of design ‘From A To Eames’ by Lauren Whybrow and illustrations by Tom Jay.
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Sustainable Home, Designed To Connect To Community

The sunny and generous renovation of a California Bungalow in Northcote, by Gardiner Architects.
Miriam McGarry

Studio Visit

New Work From A Favourite Local Artist, Super-Charged With Colour + Pattern

Melbourne-based artist Gavin Brown opens a new exhibition of works today, inspired by the sights, flavours, and moods of travels through Asi...
Elle Murrell
  24 hours ago

Homes

From Caterpillar To Butterfly - A Truly Transformed Home!

Take a tour through the incredible Sydney home Terri Winter of top3 by design shares with her family.
Lucy Feagins
  Less than an hour ago

Similar Stories

News

'Mirka Mora: Reflections On Love'

An exhibition of pastels and charcoals from 1966 – 1983 by the prolific artist.
Elle Murrell

Fashion

Mirka Mora x Gorman

The collaboration to end all collaborations!

Studio Visit

The Inimitable Mirka Mora

In celebrating the life of this astounding artist upon her recent passing, we revisit one of Lucy's most cherished interviews.