Around the punchbowl

The bowl is painted with a continuous view of the Pearl River waterfront on Canton, depicting the thirteen hongs - wood and brick buildings that served foreign traders as residences, offices and warehouses.

Chinese Export ‘Hong’ punch bowl, made in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, China, c 1780-85. Caroline Simpson Collection, Historic Houses Trust

Every object carries a story of its history and what it represents.  Some objects however actually show you their story; punchbowls are a great example. Continue reading

Escapee tea

Two leaves, of the type used for tea, in a facsimilie copy of the paper originally containing them.

Leaves from Botany Bay used as tea, ca 1791. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: R807

By 1788 the taking of tea, that very British ritual, was enjoyed universally, even in the poorest households. Although tea was available for sale in Sydney from at least 1792, it was not yet considered a ‘necessary’ and therefore not included in convicts rations for another 30 years. But rather than going without, the early colonists found their own alternative in a native sarsaparilla – testament to their resourcefulness. Continue reading

Food and fetters

A map showing the plan of the settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788.

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson. The position of the encampment & buildings are as they stood at March 1788 (detail), William Bradley. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: Safe 1/14

Early Sydney operated surprisingly freely. It was effectively a jail without walls where, rather than being imprisoned, the convicts were the general population, living as a community in tents at first, then in huts and cottages that they built themselves. Continue reading

First Fleet fare

A drawing of first Government House, Sydney, showing the surrounding gardens, water and meeting of Aboriginal and European peoples.

Governor's House at Sydney, Port Jackson 1791 by William Bradley. State Library of NSW Safe 1/14

Most First Fleet or early settlement histories concentrate on rations and the eventual lack thereof when talking about food in the early years of the colony. But as a gastronomer, and for the purposes of this blog, I am curious about what the colonists did with their rations? In other words, what did they actually eat? Continue reading