Hands up if you love to cook? Keep your hand up if you are interested in Australian history? Still with me? Then do I have the perfect book for you (or for someone you know – Christmas is just around the corner and books are ever so easy to wrap…)
Eat Your History: stories and recipes from Australian kitchens is a wonderful, and very beautiful, collection of recipes, social history and historical insights.
According to the author, “This book invites you to share forgotten tastes and lost techniques, and rediscover some of the culinary treasures that have nourished many generations of Australians. Rather than being a history of food in Australia, or a history of Australian food, it offers stories about Australians and the food they ate.”
The stories have been gathered by Jacqui Newling, in her role as ‘resident gastronomer’ at Sydney Living Museums, which looks after 12 historic properties dating between 1788 and 1950. And, yes, one of those properties is Elizabeth Farm, the home of Elizabeth Macarthur. She gets quite a few mentions throughout as does the first Australian cook book (by Edward Abbot and which I blogged about in 2014).
Australian garden history is a definitely a thing, with it’s own society and followers. Yet Australian food history still seems like unexplored territory. Jacqui Newling seeks to fill that gap, and does it extraordinarily well.
Eat Your History is a lovely mix of historic depth and practical example, with a well-balanced mixture of prose, pictures and recipes.
Readers are provided with historical context and background and then treated to fascinating recipes – each tested by Newling, and often using the kitchens and utensils of the period! Some are familiar, like the sea-food chowder and tomato chutney, others are less so, like oyster loaves or rosella jelly. I’m definitely no cook but some recipes even I’m itching to try, like Mrs MacLurcan’s Wholesome Summer Barley Water or Mrs Gaffney’s Date and Nut Cake.
Eat Your History is a book for dipping into and it takes us all the way from the first fleet to the 1950s. Newling shares, for example, details about the nature of colonial kitchens, Aboriginal fishing practices, commercial ice manufacture, and dining room etiquette.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet Jacqui Newling, in Sydney. I found her friendly, intelligent and forthright. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me.
What was your writing process? Lots of research, then lots of writing? Or did you undertake the research as you went along? Read the rest of this entry