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Eat Your History

Just the title alone makes you want to pick-up this book and investigate further. Eat your history indeed! But the subject matter turns out to be as fascinating, interesting and informative as the title and along the way places the culinary delights you take for granted appear in a totally different perspective.

From the first settlers to arrive on the shores of Australia to the latest wave of immigrants, the food culture of Australia commenced and is today a still evolving journey which is placing Australia up there amongst some of the better known “foodie’ countries of the world.

As the evolution of Australian foods has continued from such as Wallaby Tail Stew to Peking Duck and beyond, we can trace the countries migratory population and the changes that have come, into what was a traditionally English culture, to one that is creative and far more casual, while using a many or most of the traditional items of fare, now presented in a fusion-style of flavours to temp the modern palate.

Each section comes with several pages devoted to the early Australian history in relation to the foods available, much of which was from the oceans with stingray (Skate) a popular dish, kangaroo, wallaby were right up there on the dining table, and then as settlements became more established, the range of foods increased.

Take tea as an example: Tea is a drink which has for many years been considered an everyday part of Australian households. Back in the early days of settlement Tea was served as somewhat of a ritual, dependant of the class of society you represented, coming with its own accoutrements and etiquette. As it became more readily available and affordable it was, back in the 1820’s, added to the rations of the convicts as a privilege, which could be withdrawn as a punishment as required.

Many of the early recipes are based on the stapes available but many of the women managed to create wholesome foods with what was seasonally available. The livestock that arrived with the convicts and early settlers helped to establish herds of cattle for dairy production, geese, turkeys, chickens and ducks for both the table and their egg production, sheep for meat and clothing.

Crops were planted out with varying levels of success in the early days producing wheat, oats and barley; vegetables and fruits  in larger quantities than the home vegie garden came long a little later, all adding to the range of foods more widely available.

For many years food was not in plentiful supply, with water shortages, droughts and crop failures. When Australia had to start provisioning their Armed forces during a succession of wars, food in the young country became even less plentiful, therefor real initiative was required to add some variety to what foodstuffs were available.

A great deal of creative cookery was required with what was available and dotted throughout the pages of this fascinating look at our culinary history are recipes which, perhaps more than anything, show how what was served in 1850, created out of what was available, is just as tasty as the most complex dish served up on today’s menus.

A childhood favourite on a Sunday night in our household during the 1950’s was Welsh Rarebit, cooked without the ale, which was cheap, filling and delicious. Lemon biscuits were plain and simple, made from seasonal and readily available, cost effective ingredients. They were much sought after just as they were coming out of the oven.

Devilled Bones is not something the local witchdoctor would cook up but a dish that today would get a collective ‘thumbs-up’ if served at the dinner table.

Beautifully presented, this delicious look at our gastronomic history, served up in a manner that places the growth of not just our dinner table dishes on view, but also the  way our migrant population, commencing from the very first ship to reach these shore from England, has influenced and created the foods we enjoy today.

AuthorJacqui Newling
PublisherNew South Publishers
DistributorNew South Books
ReleasedDecember 2015