Our daily bread

Our daily bread

Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

One of my greatest challenges in presenting our culinary past to museums audiences is working out what form foods took – what they looked like, their colour, shape and texture – when we only have written accounts to go by, and many of those offering only scanty detail. Continue reading

How to host a Regency breakfast

Regency breakfast hams and figs

Regency breakfast at Elizabeth Bay House. Photo Jacqui Newling © Sydney Living Museums

We recently hosted a Regency-style breakfast in the grand dining room at Elizabeth Bay House as a “money can’t buy” experience for the literacy charity, Room to Read. The offer included a personalised gastronomy-focused tour of the House followed by a breakfast which was based on the menu plan given to Maria Macarthur in 1812, Continue reading

The de Maliez mystery – in search of the governor’s French cook

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

Historical research is a curious thing. You find a fleeting reference or snippet of information that prickles your interest about a place, a person, an object or an incidence, then find yourself chasing leads that might shed more light on the subject. In this case, it is the mystery of Governor Arthur Phillip’s ‘French cook’.

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Dining by lamplight

The Rouse Hill dining room by candlelight

The Rouse Hill dining room by candlelight. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

Currently at various Sydney Living Museums Houses we’re running a series of night time tours, where you can see the houses as their original occupants saw them lit by candle and lamplight. Which raises the vexing question of just HOW should you light the historic dining table? Continue reading

A New Year picnic

Detail of oil painting, A day's picnic on Clarke Island, Sydney Harbour, Montagu Scott, 1870.

A day’s picnic on Clark Island, Sydney Harbour (detail), Montagu Scott, 1870. State Library of New South Wales: ML3

While many Sydney-siders gather around the harbour for New Year’s eve celebrations, New Year’s Day was often spent in public celebration in colonial times in the form of a foreshore picnic. Montagu Scott’s extraordinarily detailed depiction of such an event gives a brilliant ‘snapshot’ of revelers and their antics in 1870. Continue reading

Blood on the tablecloth

Detail of a set table, showing a a plate, cutlery and glasses.

'Supper table' (detail) in Mrs Isabella Beeton, Beeton's every-day cookery and housekeeping book, Ward, Lock & Co., London, [ca.1895]. Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums

Servant ‘butchers’ dinner guest!

In putting on the dishes and taking them off, I shall observe to you a few things, as many accidents have occurred through inattention and want of care. Thomas Cosnett, The Footman’s Directory, and Remembrancer; or, The Advice of Oneimus to His Young Friends. (London, 1835)

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A gentleman’s dinner

The Cook and the Curator set a table with china and silverware.

The Cook and the Curator set the table for a Macleay dinner, at Elizabeth Bay House. Photo Alysha Buss © SLM

Famous for ‘evicting’ his mother and father and unmarried sister from Elizabeth Bay House in 1845, William Sharp Macleay (1792-1865) remained as master of the house for another 20 years. Continue reading