Food and other obsessions, by Jan O'Connell

Mutton to MasterChef

150 years of Australian food history

How did Tim Tams get their name. Who invented the Chiko Roll? My book A Timeline of Australian Food: from mutton to MasterChef chronicles 150 years of Australian food, from the first Australian cookbook in the 1860s to MasterChef in 2010. Sadly, it’s now out of print. Your library may have it on the shelf.

From humble to haute

The evolution of the sandwich

The custom of enclosing a savoury (or sometimes sweet) filling in bread is probably as old as bread itself. But the modern sandwich has come a long way from a limp filling between two slices of white bread.

Bread forks and butter knives

In search of cutlery correctness

Since man first picked up a piece of flint to cut into an animal carcass, people have been devising various implements to replace fingers in the messy art of eating. Cutlery evolved to include a host of specialised knives, forks and spoons rarely used today.

Long soup, pasta or pies

How Brisbane ate in 1929

Back in 1929, did Brisbane’s Italians really put dessicated coconut on their risotto? And were the smart set already using chopsticks in Chinese restaurants. A look at multicultural dining in Brisbane on the eve of the Great Depression.

Give 'em curry

A staple of the colonial kitchen

Whipping up a curry was not a sign of multiculturalism in the 1950s. Indeed, curry had been part of the British cookery tradition since the 18th century, when Brits posted to the colonial outpost of India embraced spicy local dishes.

Australian food history timeline

Not at this address

If you’ve followed an old link to this site you may be a little surprised (or even disappointed) with what you’ve found here. This site does have some posts about food history, but my food timeline now has its own address. There’s a link in this post.

Heaven on a stick

A short history of toothpicks

Toothpicks have a long history. Bronze toothpicks have been found in prehistoric graves, while examples made of wood or precious metals were common in ancient Greece and Rome. In the 1930s, cocktail teasers – the ubiquitous cubes of cheese speared on a stick with a cocktail onion – made their first appearance. 

From Scotland with love

The story of Balfours

This is the story of a family business that began with one small shop, opened by a Scottish baker in Adelaide’s rough and ready colonial days. I wrote the company history for Balfours in 2018 but the full text was never published. There’s a link to it at the end of this post.

Camp pie

Australia's own mystery meat

Camp Pie probably isn’t uniquely Australian. At least in its tinned version it is recorded in Britain long before being manufactured here. But for many years it was one of our local specialties. These days it’s almost impossible to find in Australia.

The letter

A story within a story

“I’m grossly offended by the insinuation I have some personal agenda in interfering with your personal life,” So began the letter I found concealed within a book from our apartment building’s book exchange. I had to know more.

Footy food

From pies and hot dogs to salads and sushi

For decades, footy food mainly meant pies. In Victoria, it was a relationship assiduously fostered by the state’s best-selling brand, Four ‘n Twenty. And it took a long time to change.

Brewer drowns in beer vat

Henry Lindsay and the Red Lion breweries

Messrs. Elliott and Lindsay acquired the Excelsior Brewery in Hay in 1873, renaming it the Red Lion Brewery. Elliott went on to open several breweries under the Red Lion name, but came to an unfortunate end on Cup Day in 1895.

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