When it comes to food, South Australians are…well…different. It starts with their nickname – Croweaters. There are varying explanations for the moniker, one suggesting it’s derived from the bird displayed on the state flag. In fact, the bird is not a crow, it’s a magpie. But, at the time the state emblem was designed, (1904) it was sometimes known as the piping crow shrike. So…maybe.
A more colourful explanation, and one that actually involves the consumption of crows, was published in the The Register, Adelaide, in 1925. According to the writer:
It was first applied to some of the original settlers at Mount Barker, who – whether from necessity or a desire to sample strange native fauna – killed, cooked, and ate some crows, disguised under the term “Mount Barker pheasants.” For years afterwards one could raise a row in Mount Barker by asking how the pheasants were coming on, and later, the term “crow-eater” was applied generally to all residents of South Australia.
Yet another account appeared in Adelaide’s Advertiser in 1934. This time the writer claimed to have been told the story by one of South Australia’s earliest settlers.
Two or three swagmen, travelling in the country, arrived at a place where a party of Cornish miners were having a meal. They were cordially invited to join in the festivities and the place of honour on the menu was rooky pasty. The swaggies refused, saying they did not eat bally crows. The yarn spread far and wide, and the expression crow-eaters was given to South Australians. Apparently the Cousin Jacks mistook the crows for rooks, as young rooks are a fairly common article of diet in some parts of England.
Accept either of these stories and you have to concede that 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. In this case, doorstop bread. This was, apparently, a cherished grocery product, and even a menu item, which had now disappeared. I had to confess I had never heard of it as an actual product, although the name did conjure up an image of uncommonly thick slices. So, I started researching.
It seemed doorstop bread, like the pie floater, frog cake and bung fritz, was largely a South Australian thing. In fact, some cafés in that state still offer doorstops. The Robe Bakery, for example, does a breakfast doorstop with egg, bacon and cheese. The Lakeside Café in the Adelaide suburb of Oakden has a range of doorstops, which it describes as “open melts on cafe-style bread”. But wait. At least one Queensland eatery also offers “door stop sandwiches with fries” and food giant Unileverhas urged its deli customers to offer customers a “roast pork door stop with apple slaw and mustard mayo”.
Further investigation showed that doorstop bread was far from being a thing of the past. It’s all in the name. The thickly-sliced bread itself can be found elsewhere, but it’s called “cafe-style”. Woolworths, for example, has a Homestyle Bake Country Cafe loaf with one-inch thick slices – a doorstop loaf by any other name. Coles has a cafe-style raisin loaf. Both major supermarkets have thickly sliced brioche loaves.
The doorstop is common in the UK, where various firms advertise a doorstop loaf with extra-thick slices. Maybe the doorstop name has lingered in South Australia because, compared to the rest of Australia, the state has a higher percentage of people who were born in the UK or have UK heritage.
I’ve yet to see the word “doorstop” on any café menu in Victoria. And sandwiches with inch-thick bread don’t really appeal. But I hope the ABC listener finds a satisfactory alternative, even if it’s not called doorstop bread. If not, there’s always the alternative of an unsliced loaf and a sharp bread knife.