Then and now – a culinary reflection

Cover detail of The Kookaburra cookery book, showing a kookaburra and a woman preparing to cook.

Cover detail of Lady Victoria Buxton Girls' Club, The Kookaburra cookery book of culinary and household recipes and hints, E.W. Cole, Melbourne, 1912.

As 2012 draws to a close, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on how dramatically our food culture has altered, almost in perfect parallel with our social culture, by comparing culinary texts from 1812 and 1912. Continue reading

Monday’s pudding

Half eaten Christmas plum pudding.

Christmas plum pudding. Photo Alysha Buss © HHT

Do you painstakingly prepare a pudding each year for Christmas Day only to find that, by the time it’s served, your family and friends have indulged in the festive spread a little too eagerly? Or, as often happens in Sydney, fresh mangoes, berries and cherries win out over hot pudding? Don’t despair – your efforts weren’t wasted!

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Merry Christmas!

A watercolour painting of a Christmas tree with colourful decorations, 1860.

'Sketch of Christmas tree' (detail) in Sidney James Waudby, Indian Sketches, 1860. Caroline Simpson Collection, Historic Houses Trust

Merry Christmas from all at the Cook and the Curator!

As we hoe into just that one extra slice of pudding (can I have that end bit, and yes, I will have the custard thanks), we cant help but share this wonderfully over-the-top comparison between a British and Australian Christmas.  Its the introduction from that most traditional Christmas tale, the Dickens-style ‘Yuletide ghost’ story. Enjoy! Continue reading

The colonial Christmas menu

Advertisement for Christmas fruits from The Sydney Herald, 20 December 1832.

Advertisement for Christmas fruits, The Sydney Herald, 20 December 1832, p4. Retrieved 29 November 2012 from

Sydney’s newspapers from the 1840s indicate that there was no shortage of good fare for the festive table, advertising plenty of both imported and local produce. Cooks, on the other hand, could be hard to come by. Continue reading

A cache of Christmas pudding recipes

Deatil of a handwritten recipe for Grandmama's Christmas plum pudding’, 25 December 1877

‘Grandmama's Christmas plum pudding’, 25 December 1877 (detail), handwritten recipe inserted into Author unknown, manuscript recipe book, 1832–1837, Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Historic Houses Trust: CSL&RC MSS 2011/1

A collection of precious mementos of shared tastes and Christmases were collected and kept inside a family manuscript cookbook that was donated to the HHT in 2011. The cook book was handwritten between 1832 and 1835, by an unknown author.  Continue reading

Before tinsel there was Christmas bush

An arrangement of flowers, greenery and candle shades on the chimneypiece at Elizabeth Farm.

Christmas at Elizabeth Farm. Photo Scott Hill © HHT

Think back to a time before tinsel, fairy lights and singing Santas. In early 19th century Britain, the favourite Christmas decorations were the age-old ‘holly and the ivy’, along with evergreens such as mistletoe and pine. In Australia however, where the vegetation was evergreen, the symbolic value of a few precious green leaves emerging from a snow-covered landscape was replaced with scenes of abundance.  Continue reading

Mince pies

An illustration from Beeton's 'Book of household management', page 658, showing mince pies on a plate

Mince pies illustrated in Mrs Isabella Beeton, Book of household management, Jonathan Cape, London, 1968, p658. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Historic Houses Trust

Mince pies were exactly that; they were made with minced meat or, more traditionally, minced ‘neat’s’ (ox) tongue, enriched with spices and sweetened with dried fruit. Eliza Acton (1845) clearly had a preference for tongue – ‘boiled tender and cut free from the rind’ –  in her ‘Mincemeat receipt’, nominating the ‘inside of roasted sirloin’ as an alternative.
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