Among the gems in my library of cookery books is a 1970 edition of The Colonial Cookbook, which is an abridged version of the first Australian cookbook, The English and Australian Cookery Book: Cooking for the Many as well as the 'Upper Ten Thousand, which was written by 'An Australian Artistologist', Edward Abbott and published in 1864.
Among the treasured paragraphs is this dedication:
HIS FAIR COUNTRYWOMEN OF THE "BEAUTIFUL LAND,"
THE "BLUE-EYED DAUGHTERS WITH THE FLAXEN HAIR,"
THE LADIES OF "THE SUNNY SOUTH,"
OF THE COOKERY OF THE DAY, IS RESPECTFULLY
BY THEIR FAITHFUL SERVANT,
In the introductory preface, the author, Edward Abbott, recommends that 'the housewife who diligently follows this book will become proficient in all aspects of cookery and please her family and guests whether it be at breakfast, luncheon or dinner, or whether it be with soups, meat pies, confections of all sorts, various tipple, or economy by preserving and by the better management of her servants. For within this volume the good housewife (for I address no other) will find advice on all these subjects and yet more besides.'
Indeed, there are 'diverse' recipes for the 'foods of Australia', including emu, kangaroo and wombat — as well as black swan, wattle bird, wild pigeons, mutton bids, eels, oysters and fresh water cod. Chapters cover: The Huswife's Guide to the Better Ordering of Her Household (good and bad huswifery); Soups and Broths (wholesome and warming); Sauces, Flavourings and Accompaniments (to gild the lily and tempt the jaded palate); Fish (the fruits of Neptune's Kingdom); Meat, Poultry and Game (diverse dishes to delight the discerning diner); Vegetables, Salads, Pasta and Rice (to accompany and complement the finest dishes); Pastry, Puddings and Confectionery (including pies and other pleasantries for your pantry); Bread, Cakes and Biscuits (exquisite culinary masterpieces); Dairy Food (farm fresh provisions to feast on as you fancy); Refreshing and Intoxicating Tipple for All Occasions; All About Preserving (with a few receipts for keeping food throughout the year); and A Gentlewoman's Guide to All Occasions (A short treatise on the art of cooking for presidents and paupers).
There are also menus and a useful, if not interesting, glossary. And, perhaps my favourite, Scraps and Sayings, which include recommendations such as 'Feathers should be thoroughly dried before being used' and 'Keep your salt spoons out of the salt, and clean them often.' Most importantly, 'You must drink, as usual, after an egg as after an ox' and 'Good kale is half a meal'.
Abbott took care to point out that he took some trouble with research for the book, 'for it is the first cookery book devoted to the Australian cuisine' and he added, 'I hope it ill be equally acceptable in the Mother Country as I think it will be in the colonies.' Looking ahead, he also noted, 'It is amusing to consider just how fair Australia will be in 100 years. Will it then be a great nation with millions of souls living within great cities?' If only he could have travelled forward in time to see!
A special event...
To celebrate the 150th anniversary and the new print and digital editions of The English and Australian Cookery Book by Edward Abbott, the National Library of Australia is hosting what promises to be a delicious afternoon of food conversation. Esteemed food historians and writers Professor Emeritus Barbara Santich, Matthew Evans, Tony Marshall and Bernard Lloyd will discuss Australia’s culinary heritage.
Incorporating the 2014 Kenneth Binns Lecture and held in association with The Brassey Hotel Canberra and Eden Road Wines, the event will take place on Saturday, 13 September from 2.00pm in the Theatre at the National Library of Australia in Parkes, ACT. Ticket cost is $20 and bookings are essential. For more information or to book your ticket, visit the web site. To view the National Library's digitised copy of the The English and Australian Cookery Book, click here.
Tell me dear readers, are you fascinated by food history? Do you collect cookery books as I do? What's your most treasured title?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.