My book A Timeline of Australian Food: from mutton to MasterChef chronicles 150 years of Australian food, beginning with the first Australian cookbook in the 1860s and ending in 2010 with the game-changing cooking show, MasterChef. It’s presented as a timeline; decade by decade it looks at what we’ve eaten, how we’ve shopped and how we’ve produced our food.

Over the years, as the very nature of Australia changed, the way we ate changed too. The book traces the history of our farmers, our manufacturers, our cooks and of everyday Australians as they lived through boom times, depressions and two World Wars. It has lots of illustrations and looks at the origins of lots of our favourite foods, from Anzac Biscuits to Chiko Rolls.

Even within the lifetime of today’s baby boomers, there have been revolutionary changes in how we eat. While the standard Anglo-Irish staples of meat and potatoes haven’t disappeared, they’ve been joined by pizza and pho, kimchi and kebabs.

Based on my website,, this is history in digestible chunks with big helpings of tasty trivia and a generous dash of nostalgia. How did Tim Tams get their name?  Why was Australia’s first commercial olive oil produced in a prison? Did an Australian firm really market Dugong paté?  The book answers these questions and many, many more.

A Timeline of Australian Food, published by NewSouth Publishingis now, sadly, out of print but may be on the shelf at your local library.


Books & Publishing “…a worthy and useful addition to the small but growing canon of Australian food history writing.”

Good Weekend The Age and Sydney Morning Herald “..crisp, informed, sometimes ironic…always entertaining”

Inside History “This tasty morsel of a book looks at what we’ve eaten, how we’ve shopped and how we’ve produced and prepared our food, decade by decade through depression, war and decades of abundance.”

Food, Wine & Travel – 10 cookbooks to put on your Christmas wishlist “This is the only book in my line-up of 10 that doesn’t contain recipes but I’m including it because it’s a fun book…”

About the author

I’m Jan O’Connell, a grocer’s granddaughter and a baby boomer who has spent a lifetime in leading Australian advertising agencies, writing about ice cream, lollies, beer, yoghurt, soup and a multitude of other things we eat and drink. I have also co-edited a food magazine, Regional Food Australia. My timeline website documents more than two centuries of changes in the way we eat, shop and grow our food. I live, work and eat with my husband Fred, in Abbotsford, Victoria.

Sample spread - A Timeline of Australian Food