ME AND MY BIG MOUTH
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. It’s available online now or your bookstore can order it for you.

Give 'em curry

A staple of the colonial kitchen

“Many people are disgusted at the mere idea of eating the white wood grub which the blacks are so fond of. As a matter of fact, there is nothing nasty or disgusting in these soft white morsels, any more than there is in an oyster. It is all a matter of taste…I have never tried them in a curry, but feel sure they would be excellent.”

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 below.

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.

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.

Lost restaurants of Melbourne

Where and how we ate in the 1950s

In the 1950s it wasn’t quite dining as we know it – only a select few Melbourne restaurants were legally able to serve a glass of wine with your meal. And you might come across the odd singing waiter.

The great Australian pie

Fast food with a history

Australians’ relationship with the pie goes back to early colonial times. We’ve seen roving pie sellers, pie floaters, footy pie nights and all-night pie cafés, and a day at the footy wouldn’t be the same without one.

Mutton chops vs French cuisine

Mid 19th century Sydney restaurants

In the 1840s and 1850s, there were Sydney restaurants offering French and Italian dishes. But many establishments proudly trumpeted their rejection of such fancy food in favour of solid English fare.

Christmas in Broken Hill

From The Barrier Miner, 1932

Broken Hill may be a town associated with blue singlets and heavy-drinking miners, but in 1932 the local citizens knew how to celebrate Christmas in style. The following article appeared in the Barrier Miner on the Wednesday after Christmas.

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