For many years I have been collecting old cookery books and recipes from Australia’s dim and distant past – mostly from around 1890-1950, although recently I have found some remarkable recipes from the very earliest days of Australian settlement. The excellent services of the State Library of NSW have yielded many original sources I had not previously located and I decided to collect them into a book, part cultural history, part memoir, and part cookery book.
Indeed it can be used as a cookery book, as everything in it can be cooked provided you can find the ingredients, but really it is a cultural history of Australian cooking from my own point of view, reflecting my experiences over decades in Australian cities, bush, towns and outback. It records menus, techniques and ingredients from a time which has now truly disappeared. Australian food and cooking is praised around the world today, and the influence of multicultural and transnational foods has become almost universal in cities and towns. The Old-School Kitchen has pretty much disappeared, as has the food it once produced in such abundance across the continent.
The cover of the book is based on the original design of Edward Abbott’s English and Australian Cookery Book published in London in 1864, and existing now in hard-to-find copies in Rare Book Collections in libraries, a few in private hands. Recently a couple of facsimile editions have appeared. Issues around the publication and use of the old cookery books are complicated, and I will add remarks on this subject in the posts here. I have used the original cover as the featured image on this page and will add other images from the early cookbooks here most of which will not make it into the published version of the book.
There is still a way to go before this project reaches its end. I am discovering new things every day and even after the book itself is finished there may be more to add. At least with self-publishing you can issue second editions easily. I am also thinking of providing a more comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography on this page, as new items come to light.
It will be published as an ebook form, on Amazon and other ebook retailers, and will also be issued as a softcover print book, through the usual distributors, although you may have to order it online. a Deluxe Edition in hardback with additional illustrations will be issued at the end of this year (2021).