Food and other obsessions, by Jan O'Connell

The Soldier's Cake Tin

Taste testing a wartime fruit cake

In 1944, The Age published a recipe for a butterless, eggless fruit cake that would fit the “soldier’s cake tin”. It used lard instead of butter and the results were…um…interesting.

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.

Nanny's brandy cream

The essential accompaniment to Christmas pudding.

Nanny’s Christmas pudding just wouldn’t be the same without Nanny’s brandy cream. Plain whipped cream was provided for the children.

The Americanisation of Sydney

A 1938 lament in Smith's Weekly

It’s not uncommon to read diatribes from (mostly older) Australians fulminating against American fast food, American music, American computer games and, especially, certain American politicians. But when did all this Americanisation start?

My food memoir

Stories from life before pizza

Me and My Big Mouth is a personal account of how Australian food has changed in the baby-boomers’ lifetime. It’s the story of a generation that can remember life before pizza – a generation that has seen the demise of the local grocer and, decades later, the resurrection of the small local deli.

Doorstop bread  

Another South Australian peculiarity?

South Australian eating habits have always been a bit unusual. Which brings me to doorstop bread. I recently had a phone call from the ABC in South Australia, asking whether I could contribute to a segment that explores long-lost favourites.

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.

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. 

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