Jacqui Newling – The Cook

Jacqui Newling making ginger nut biscuits, rolling dough between hands, provenanced handwritten recipe, Rouse Hill House and Farm, in kitchen at Vaucluse House

Jacqui Newling in the kitchen at Vaucluse House. Photo © James Horan

I’m a gastronomer. My computer spellchecker tells me this is not a word (the Macquarie Dictionary, however, does!) – but as a philosopher takes their title from the pursuit of philosophy, I believe gastronomer follows the same logic from gastronomy.  By my family’s reckoning, however, I’m a gastronaut. I explore the world of food with an inquiring mind and a deep curiosity – not simply about the food itself, but about why it is a food. How did that item become acceptable as a food and how did it arrive at our tables? In fact, to me, gastronomy is about people – what people do to and with food to make it a part of their lives.

As the HHT’s resident gastronomer, I’ve taken a hands-on role to investigate the type of food that was served in our historic houses – from the gruel served to convicts at the dreaded Hyde Park Barracks to the feasts found on the finer tables of Sydney’s elite. Immersing yourself in a heritage environment gives a real sense of time and place, and, more importantly, a sense of the people who inhabited these spaces – those who dug the gardens, gathered the firewood, walked the floors. Their time has passed but their legacy remains – and while I can’t meet them for a chat, I can get a taste of their lives!

I’m a curious cook. I experiment with recipes and ingredients that have somehow dropped from our repertoire or become lost in time – or perhaps their relevance has simply been overlooked. Testing, tasting, sharing – hit-and-miss at times – but also learning when things go terribly wrong! This blog gives me an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about our food heritage and to share some of the rich stories – and recipes – that sustained those who helped to create our history.

I’m hoping that you will join me on this culinary adventure.

Let’s eat!