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A Timeline of Australian Food: From Mutton to Masterchef

The author is not a foodie, but came up with the idea of how food had changed over a period of time. Even in our own lifetimes we are aware of how food and food trends have changed. Where is that delicious prawn cocktail that used to grace each dinner table? More likely to be replaced by a tapas, or nibble food. Jan has chosen to look at interesting foods and trivia surrounding our tables over the last one hundred and fifty years. This rounds out our understanding of the early days in Australia and is fascinating in its details. The book consists of segments labelled by ten year periods.

 Aboriginal People survived very well on the supply of food that was present in their area. They moved from place to place following the food supplies, but they also were shown to grind seeds and trap and store fish. The First Fleet didn’t flourish and they began to trade with the local people for kangaroo and other native animals. Eventually farmlands opened up and the Blue Mountains were crossed. Explorers pushed inland followed by squatters with their sheep. Mutton chops were the order of the day and with the gold rush, sheep were driven over to the goldfields to sustain the diggers.

 Once the colonies were settled, some nostalgic people wanted to import European birds and plants and animals. Many of these such as rabbits and blackberries had disastrous effects. There are many interesting little facts and stories to support each decade. In the 1880’s as Australian identity was emerging, a pair of brothers from America settled here and began to brew Fosters Beer. This is a name that is familiar today. In 1895 Rosella preserving Company was founded, Packham pears were developed, and later Mrs Beeton’s first recipe book was published. In 1902 the first New Idea came out.

 With the war breaking out, various religious groups saw their opportunity to insist on pubs closing early, to respect the spirit of our fighting men. Food for the men in the trenches was mainly bully beef and a hard tack biscuit. War time recipes and books are looked at and a humorous piece is written about the meat that could be bought. The author moves through the 1920’s a time of cocktails and Anzac biscuits. South Australia’s famous frog cakes were introduced by Balfours, and have since been named a S.A. icon.

 Each decade that is covered describes a time in history, such as a political period and what was happening at that time. Kitchen conveniences such as the Breville sandwich toaster, and the kitchen whizz fitted into our lives just at the time that colour TV made food preparation appealing.

 The conclusion looks at the society of people who enjoy their food, but not necessarily in a healthy way. Although we may not be eating crispy lichen soon, we need to move towards a healthier way of eating. This is a fantastic book to have. You can open it at any page and have your memory jogged, or laugh at the story which is a wonderful way to combine history and food.


AuthorJan O'Connell
PublisherNew South Publications
DistributorNew South Books
ReleasedDecember 2017