Food and other obsessions, by Jan O'Connell

The Paris House

Sydney in the Belle Epoque

Opened in 1890 in Phillip Street, The Paris House was the premier restaurant of Sydney’s ‘Belle Epoque’. Later run by Gaston Lievain, from Lille, it offered a ground-floor bistro, a top floor sponsored by the Moet champagne house and private dining rooms where lovers could meet, The expression “As dumb as a Paris House waiter” was testament to the staff’s discretion.

Australian food timeline has moved

It's now at

Were you expecting to see the Australian Food Timeline here? Sorry – it started to get r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w, so we’ve moved it to a new server and changed the address to the more logical This site is now my writing blog – enjoy.

Turning 60 in Paris

And being 60 in Italy

I was turning 60 and my objective was to be as far away as possible from anyone I knew. This led to five amazing days in Paris and further culinary adventures in Umbria.

The Yoplait story

How I wrote myself a trip to Paris

In 1982, when the French were still testing atomic bombs in the Pacific, launching a product with a French name could have been problematic. But research groups gave the go-ahead, so we were off to Paris to shoot the commercial that changed the Australian yoghurt market forever.

Has it come to this?

Frog in a Pond just ain’t what it used to be

Frog in a Pond has been an Australian favourite for decades. But the DIY version (spotted in the bistro at the Barooga Sports Club, aka Sporties) just doesn’t pass muster.

Food to go

Tales from the Railway Refreshment Rooms

How Australia’s first Prime Minister missed his train after stopping for a tot of whisky; how the mobile catering unit nearly caused a train wreck; and other stories from the history of Australia’s Railway Refreshment Rooms.


A poem from the thesaurus

I was working on an ad campaign for a client’s new building, Sky Plaza. So I consulted an online thesaurus looking for “words associated with sky”. The words on the screen sang to me. Some line breaks and a little punctuation turned them into a poem.

High wire

Trials of the over-endowed

Popular history has it that the underwired bra was, in fact, invented by Howard Hughes to prop up the truly remarkable breasts of Hollywood legend Jane Russell. But I’ve had a love/hate relationship with these frustrating pieces or ironmongery.

Easy to get a lawn with

Where's the pun in that?

Along the roadside as you approach Bungendore is a series of signs promoting the product of one of the town’s major industries. (Perhaps its only major industry.) Canturf.

Salt from the earth

Discoveries at the Dimboola Food Festival

A short drive from Dimboola towards Adelaide takes you to the Pink Lake, where salt harvesting started in the 1860s. We took a tour, as part of the Dimboola Food Festival.

Truffle Kerfuffle - or Truffle Oil Kerfuffle?

Manjimup, 2016

It’s not snobbery. Truly it isn’t. It’s just that truffle oil doesn’t taste like truffles. Or rather, it has one note that resembles the truffle flavour in a very unsubtle, strident way. In fact, it’s a chemical – a chemical called 2,4-dithiapentane – and it’s made in a laboratory,

A blast from the past

From missiles to microwaves

The name Raytheon is one you see every time you hop off a flight at Canberra airport. They make weapons. Very big weapons. But they also invented the microwave, which was followed in due course by some very earnest microwave cook books.

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