My mother’s Recipe Drawer in a way charts the history of family cooking in Melbourne. My parents lived in suburban Melbourne, had three children, had a busy social life and lived a fairly ‘average’ Melbourne lifestyle. The recipe collection reflects this.
When Mum first started cooking for her family late in the 1940s our basic family evening meal was meat and three veg. The meat, mostly lamb and beef, was not too expensive and usually bought from Mum’s brother who was a butcher. Vegetables were plentiful and most homes had a vegetable patch, my father grew tomatoes and beans and other assorted vegies. We had a passionfruit vine on the back fence and a couple of fruit trees. Dad was a keen fisherman and fish appeared on the table usually once a week. Chicken and pork were luxury items and were only served at Christmas. The chicken having been bought live to be killed by my Father, with Mum havinf the task of plucking and preparing it for roasting. Celebration and entertaining dishes were more elaborate, but still in the English style.
Over the years we saw many changes in our family meals and they reflected the changes that were happening throughout Australia.
In the 1940s England was still the ‘mother country’, even though the great majority of Australians had never been there. We studied its history, we bought its books and magazines, the influence was widespread and so it was only natural that our cuisine was mostly English, but over the years this gradually changed.
The English cuisine arrived with the First Settlement of convicts and soldiers in 1788, Free Settlers followed, mainly from the UK and Ireland and they were followed by government immigration schemes, the Gold Rush, refugees fleeing war torn Europe, post war immigration from Europe and the Mediterranean countries and assisted immigration from the UK and Ireland and more recently Asian, Indian and African immigrants, all bringing the tastes and flavours of their countries with them. This has given Australia a unique and wonderful style all of its own – a style that keeps evolving.
Over the years Chinese, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Turkish, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, to name a few, opened in the city and the suburbs, but more importantly delicatessens and shops stocking their ingredients also appeared and our food habits changed forever. Food that had once appeared exotic or foreign to the average Australian started to become commonplace. Today, Australia is a multicultural society and our food reflects this.
The early changes that appeared in my Mother’s kitchen were Chinese Fried rice, Italian Spaghetti Bolognese, the European delights of Beef Bourguignon and Cheesecake , American Hamburgers and instant coffee replacing coffee essence.
Looking through the recipes from Beb’s Recipe Drawer you can see the changes and how many of the recipes are the basis for today’s cooking. Perhaps the old saying “Everything old is new again” isn’t too far wrong after all. What do you think?