Yana Nura

A school student exploring the Yana Nura garden at Museum of Sydney. Photo © Declan May / James Horan Photography Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

A native garden among the skyscrapers

Yanu Nura, “to walk on Country” is a native garden at the Museum of Sydney that invites visitors to reflect, reconnect and learn about Aboriginal culture, past and present, on Gadi Country. Located on the outdoor mezzanine that overlooks the site of Australia’s First Government House and the area that the first colonial garden was installed on Aboriginal landscape, in 1788.

The garden responds to ‘the cultivated landscape that Aboriginal people created and maintained for millennia, [which is] now surrounded by skyscrapers’ and reminds us that ‘although the landscape has changed, it continues to provide for those who care for it.’ The garden features some of the plants that are native to the area, providing local Sydney Aboriginal people with culture, food, medicine and tools for everyday life’ historically and currently.

A school student exploring the Yana Nura garden at Museum of Sydney. Photo © Declan May / James Horan Photography Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

Deeper meaning

But ‘the governor’s garden’ area holds far more significance than the place where introduced plant species were trialled for colonial benefit. It was the final place of rest for at least two Aboriginal people who were at the forefront of the impacts of dispossession in the 18th century – Arabanoo and Barangaroo, whose stories are told alongside the stories of the plants. Arabanoo was kidnapped and held captive at Government House for almost six months before dying from the smallpox epidemic that swept through the Aboriginal community in 1789, and Barangaroo, who often paid visits to the governor with her husband Bennelong in the early 1790s. Their presence in this place reminds us of Aboriginal people’s struggle and their resilience in the ongoing colonial process.

School students learning about Aboriginal culture in the Yana Nura garden at Museum of Sydney. Photo © Declan May / James Horan Photography Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

The plants include:
Durawi – Lomandra Lomandra longifolia has long strong grass-like leaves that can be used for weaving, and have long been used to make nets and baskets.
Tacoba – Lilly pilly Syzygium australe The tart-tasting, pink-to-purple-coloured berries are eaten or made into a drink by local Sydney Aboriginal people. They also make a wonderful ruby-coloured jelly preserve.
Gurrendurren – lemon-scented tea tree Leptospermum petersonii, the leaves of which are used medicinally
Polkulbi – Blue flax lily Dianella caerulea. Local Aboriginal people eat the deep blue berries, sweet-tasting berries whole, including the small crunchy seeds (beware when harvesting – some other species of Dianella can be toxic!)
Numura – Grevillea Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’, from which local Aboriginal people make a sweet-tasting drink from the flowers.
Warrigal Durawi – Warrigal greens Tetragonia tetragonioides grows prolifically and tastes similar to spinach. The leaves contain oxalates, which can make people ill if consumed in their raw state.
Bawa (meaning shrub or bush) – Native mint Mentha australis has a delicate minty flavour and is used by local Sydney Aboriginal people to treat colds and headaches.
Kai’mia – Gymea lily Doryanthes excelsa, its flower produces nectar which can be used as a drink.
Talara’tingi – Flannel flower Actinotus helianthi which can be made into a tea to soothe grief, and plays an important role in sorry business.
Gadi – Grass tree Xanthorrhoea arborea the base of the leaf can be eaten raw or cooked, and the plant produces a resin that can be used as an adhesive. Parts of the tree are highly valued in women’s practices, as an aid during childbirth.

Sydney D’harawal elder Uncle John Foster and D’harawal Saltwater Knowledge Keeper Shannon Foster who helped inform the Yana Nura garden at Museum of Sydney. Photo © Declan May / James Horan Photography Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums

Sharing knowledge

Created in collaboration with D’harawal Knowledge Holder’s Circle and Saltwater Knowledge Keeper Shannon Foster, the Yana Nura garden space is one of several new installations, programs and knowledge sharing initiatives at Museum of Sydney, including Cadigal Place, the Yura Nura gallery and education program, Garuwanga Gurad which means “Stories that belong to Country.”

The Yana Nura garden at Museum of Sydney. Photo © Declan May / James Horan Photography Pty Ltd for Sydney Living Museums






Another year gone!

Well that’s it for 2019!

As the boxes of mangoes are opened (sorry, couldnt resist) heres a late 19th century Christmas card, with a housemaid (can she even breathe in that corset?) carrying in the pudding under the mistletoe.

The back carries the simple pencilled inscription “mary / To maman.” I actually found it used as a bookmark in a second hand cookbook I bought many years ago. You can discover more about early Australian Christmas cards here, in a story by Megan Martin.

At this time as well we think of all those fighting the terrible fires around Sydney and throughout New South Wales, giving up so much to defend the homes of neighbours and strangers, our prescious wildlife and bushland.

We’re taking a break for a few weeks, and will be back in late January. Merry Christmas, Happy 3rd day of Hannukah, merry Solstice for the 21st, and Io Saturnalia, have a great holiday and enjoy the pavlova and mangoes!

Cheers, Scott and Jacqui

“Boil 6 hours”

‘Christmas Pudding’ in The Book of Christmas (1888) by Hervey Thomas Kibble, illustrated by Robert Seymour https://archive.org/details/bookofchristmas00herviala/page/n34

With thousands of hectares ablaze with bush-fires across the country, and temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius in many regions week, including Sydney, the extremes of our environmental and climate crisis are omni- and ominously present, reinforcing the resounding message that we cannot sustain our current energy-hungry lifestyles.

“boil 6 hours” Christmas pudding recipe (detail). Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection MSS 2011/1 [Ann Weaver], © Sydney Living Museums
The full selection of ‘receipts’ from this collection can be found here

Energy conscious

I’ve been embroiled in Christmas pudding making these last few days, giving me plenty of time as they boil for six hours – the minimum time required to achieve the rich dark colour we expect from a good plum pudding, as per the recipe below – to ponder the value and usefulness of working with food heritage in context of environmental responsibility.

Indeed, having a pot on the stove for six hours, especially in summertime seems a ridiculous waste of energy, but on closer consideration, the traditional plum pudding has its merits in terms of energy use.

“boil 6 hours” Christmas pudding recipe (detail). Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection MSS 2011/1 [Ann Weaver], © Sydney Living Museums
The full selection of ‘receipts’ from this collection can be found here

Eating local

Firstly, the primary ingredient, dried fruit, does not require refrigeration, a very big plus. Our fridges have a lot to answer for – they are one of the highest consumers of energy in our homes, not to mention large-scale cold-chain food systems, but we’ll revisit that hot potato another time. Australia produces high quality dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, currants and citrus peel – eliminating the need for transnational shipping (when buying your fruit, check the country of origin and buy locally grown product). Admittedly these are introduced plants that need irrigation and some mechanised processing is involved in readying them for market – perhaps one day we will be enjoying dried quandong and lily pillies in our puddings. The concentrated sugars in dried fruit also provide natural sweetness. My preferred Christmas pudding – based on a Mrs Beeton recipe from The book of household management, 1861, deemed ‘Very good’ – contains no sugar, avoiding the need for highly refined cane-sugar.

“boil 6 hours” Christmas pudding recipe attributed to Mrs Pocock (detail). Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection MSS 2011/1 [Ann Weaver], © Sydney Living Museums
The full selection of ‘receipts’ from this collection can be found here

Grating edge

In this recipe, breadcrumbs are used rather than flour. Apart from creating a light and moist texture, the crumbs make good use of stale bread. Bread had to be grated to turn it into crumbs ‘back in the day’; a food processor makes this a job done in seconds, a reminder of how much convenience we enjoy from bench-top appliances – but the option is there if you want to minimise the use of electrical power.

“boil 6 hours” Christmas pudding recipe (detail). Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection MSS 2011/1 [Ann Weaver], © Sydney Living Museums
The full selection of ‘receipts’ from this collection can be found here

The remaining fresh ingredients are eggs, which when home-raised and fed on kitchen scraps or purchased from small producers are an eco-friendly option over store-bought eggs, and suet (a particularly clean type of beef fat) was sourced from the butcher as required. I lose points here, as I choose to use butter instead of suet, for a lighter flavor and textural quality, and concede that this requires refrigeration, in fact I freeze it so that it can be grated the way suet would have been.

Festive indulgences

Brandy and spices, which add festive spirit to the pudding, are both the product of ‘natural’ preservation processes – the former made from fermented grapes and distilled, and the latter, generally dried. Kept airtight, away from light and heat, they keep for years, without refrigeration.

A plum pudding set to boil © Jacqui Newling for Sydney Living Museums
A plum pudding set to boil © Jacqui Newling for Sydney Living Museums

“Boil 6 hours” – or 12!!!

And now the thorny issue of the cooking process – the requisite boiling for six hours, which seems excessive and wasteful in terms of energy consumption. But boiling a pudding is far more energy-efficient than baking a cake, for example, which requires an oven to maintain a high temperature for up to an hour, perhaps more for a large fruit cake. The plum pudding, however, can be cooked on a stove top, with direct heat rather than ambient heat. And if the pot in which the pudding is immersed has a tight-fitting lid and is of relative to the size of the pudding bowl, it uses very little water; once it has reached boiling point, only a small gas flame or medium setting for an electric hob is required to keep the water at a steady simmer.

“boil 12 hours” Christmas pudding recipe (detail). Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection MSS 2011/1 [Ann Weaver], © Sydney Living Museums
The full selection of ‘receipts’ from this collection can be found here

And the feast goes on

Best of all, leftover pudding will keep without refrigeration for several weeks – perhaps months – if stored in an airtight container kept in a cool, dry, well ventilated pantry, leaving space in the fridge for the more perishable festive fare. And the pudding bowl and cloth can be used over and over again.

A Christmas pudding Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
Worth the effort! A Christmas pudding Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

To view the full ‘receipts’ from the featured manuscript collection click here
Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection MSS 2011/1 [Ann Weaver], © Sydney Living Museums

A box of Christmas mangoes

This week we welcome guest author Dr. Madeline Shanahan to the blog. A historian and archaeologist, Madeline was a guest speaker at this year’s Spring Harvest festival at Elizabeth Farm, where she talked with Jacqui about spices. Earlier this year her new book – Christmas Food and Feasting – was published, looking at how the concept of the ‘Christmas dinner’ evolved, both in Britain and throughout the English-speaking world. So pull up a crate of mangoes and carve up the pudding as we dive in! [Eccentric images supplied by yours truly]

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Seething!

A stewpan. Detail from Francatelli's cooks guide and advertiser, page 5. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

When you read 19th century cookbooks the terminology can be unfamiliar. Take this definition of stewing: “the act or operation of seething, or boiling slowly.” [1] Boiling sure, but ‘seething’?

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Under pressure

Sheep or pig bones excavated at the Mint. Sydney Living Museums. Photo (c) Jamie North

Eagle-eyed reader Ariela asked about an usual item listed in the ‘third drawer down’ – Slacks patent digester! So chop up your turnips and gather those leftover bones – this week we’re in for for some thrifty high pressure cooking.

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Spring Harvest at Elizabeth Farm

Spring Harvest Festival at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

“It is now Spring, & the Eye is delighted with a most beautiful variegated Landscape – Almonds – Apricots, Pear and Apple Trees are in full bloom. The native shrubs are also in flower, & the whole Country gives a grateful perfume.”
Elizabeth Macarthur to her friend Miss Kingdon, Parramatta, 1798  Continue reading

The third drawer down

Spoons and ladles from Francatelli's Cook's Guide and Advertiser. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection

While we’re mainly looking at the pots and pans in this series on the colonial batterie de cuisine, it’s a good time for a diversion into all the miscellaneous bits and pieces in a kitchen – all those things we keep in the ‘third drawer down’.

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Under the hammer

The kitchen at Vaucluse House. Detail of photo (c) Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

One of the best documentary sources for kitchens and dining rooms in the colonial period isn’t actually family archives – but newspaper and auction advertisements. Individuals leaving the colony after a few years – or facing ‘pecuniary embarrassment’ – would typically sell up, so lists of household effects are fairly common. Larger sales warranted their own catalogues, which could be broken down room by room; for a curator these are a goldmine of information as to furnishings and paraphernalia, artworks and even what books were in personal libraries.

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