An overview of Australian food history, that I wrote for the food issue of The Big Issue in April 2018. From megafauna to mutton to MasterChef, Australian food has evolved for millennia. But perhaps the most dramatic change has been in the last 70 years.
Australian Association of Advertising Agencies c. 1954
In 1963, at a careers night at school, I received this informative brochure telling boys everything they needed to know about working in advertising. On Page 21 was a section called Opportunities for Girls.
I was researching Red Tulip Chocolates when something odd caught my eye: Red Tulip Pea Soup Sausage. Mentioned in an advertisement in 1927, this “sausage” sold for tuppence and made, according to the Grace Brothers ad,”3 pints of delicious Pea Soup”. I had to know more.
Imagine a drink that’s perfect for summer, perfect for winter and absolutely ideal for spring. It helps keep colds and flu away and is an instant cure for indigestion. And although it’s non-alcoholic it makes a great little cocktail if you slurp a bit into your gin.
When the teacher called the roll, the Adamses and Allens of this world were always up the front, while the Winters, Youngs and Zammits were right down the end. As a Trezise, I was pretty well down towards the bottom of the list.
On 12 February 2018 I spoke to a group from the University of the Third Age, Deepdene. The talk was billed as a decade by decade stroll through 150 years of Australian food history. In an hour or so. Hence, it ended up as more of a gallop.
When I submitted the proposal for A Timeline of Australian Food: from mutton to MasterChef to my publisher, the subtitle was originally: from megafauna to MasterChef. However, commercial concerns led to a shorter book, covering just the 150 years up to 2010. This chapter, starting from the very beginning of Australian food, was part of the original submission.
You won’t find a Macca’s, KFC or Pizza Hut. The nearest equivalent for an evening takeaway on King Island is the bakery’s fresh-made pizza – and they only do it on Friday nights. It’s that kind of place.
My earliest memory concerns eating. It happened when I was still too young to sit at the table, not having yet turned two. I was the youngest member of an extended family who gathered together for ‘tea’ on a Sunday evening. But one Sunday I was served a rather unexpected meal.