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An Australian Food Timeline
Historic sources Popular Australian foods Aboriginal subsistence & Bush tucker Maori foodways Gold Rush
American impact Greek contributions Italian tables Spanish influence Christmas fare

General history sources

Signature foods


Aboriginal subsistence & Bush tucker


Maori foodways

"Maori material culture has evolved over two main periods of Polynesian settlement. The first is known as the Archaic or Moa Hunter period during which the Polynesians made their first contact with the moa...a large struthious bird which supplied them with abundant food...The Polynesians utilised the moa for food while from its bones they manufactured ornaments, fish hooks, bird spear points, and other items...The earliest c.14 carbon dating for the settlement of man in New Zealand is approximately 1,000 years ago...The first requirements of a primitive people landing in a new country are comparatively simple and in this order: food, clothing, and shelter. In New Zealand food would be immediately available and abundant...From evidence it would appear that as the first abundance of moa gradually declined in given places, the settlers then entered upon a more varied programme of fishing, fowling, and the collection of molluscs, etc. Gradually permanent or semi-permanent villages were established... The last great phase in the introduction of new culture evidence were the adventurous voyages southward...about A.D. 1350. This settlement ushered in the Classic period of Maori culture...Agriculture gradually developed...It is likely that the coming of the "Fleet" ushred in a new era by the introduction of food plants. These were the kumara...the taro...the uhi or yham...and the hue or gourd....Most esteemed was the kumara which once grew as far sought as Kaiapoi in the South Island. Cultivated foods came under the rulership of the god Rongo whos emblem was placed in fields with the growing crops...Digging sticks (ko), spades (kaheru), and weeders (ketu) were the main tools used in cultivating the ground...The forest and its product were tapu to the god Tane. This tapu was rigorously imposed."
---Encyclopedia of New Zealand, A.H. McLintock, editor [R.E. Own, Government Printer:Wellington] volume 2, 1966 (p. 439-440)

About early Maori foods and hunting techniques

"Forest birds were taken according to season and under the direction of a tohunga who conducted all operations. Most esteemed were large wood pigeons...To assist in the general operations, it was often customary for all to take annual tribal expeditions to the forest or its neighbourhood. The work was well organized. Experts attended to the snares while others kept troughs supplied with water. Birds were collected, plucked, and deboned after which they were cooked before a fire... the prepared birds bing spitted on straight rods. A wooden trough received the fat from the cooking birds. Cooked birds were preserved in their own fat, usually in gourd containers...and these were stored in the village pataka. Three main ground birds were the weka, the kiwi, and the kakapo...Line fishing was the favourite method of taking fish; and a large number of hooks and even fishing lines have been preserved in museums. Dried dogfish were much esteemd as well as other small species of shark and skate...Most specialised of trolling hooks was the pa kahawai, consisting of a slightly curved wooden shank, on the inner surface of which was inlaid a section of the shell of the paua. A bone hook with an inner barb was attached below and incurved. When polished, the paua takes on a remarkable lustre which attracts surface fish. The line works on a reciprocal fashion, winding itself up to the limit and unwinding in regular fashion. New Zealand rivers are remarkable for their large eels...Smaller seasonal fishes were much esteemed...whitebait...and grayling...But eels were a main and never-failing source of food and were muc in demand, being preserved by sun drying for future consumption. In larger rivers lampreys...were common, and special traps were set at weirs to take the lampreys when they ascended the rivers to spawn...Under natural conditons forest foods available were roots, togh, shoots, and leaves of selected trees. Fruit and berries were also eaten in season. Most important of the foods were the rhizomes of the bracken fern. Special preserves of fern, some more highly sesteemed than others, were carfully conserved by all tribes. Bundles of rhizomes were collected and thoroughly pounded with a wooden pounder (patu aruhe) on a stone base. The starchy material thus separated was made into cakes which were cooked in hot ashes. Fern rhizome was also cleaned and chewed raw by commoners and slaves."
---ibid (p. 440-441)

Maori kitchens & cooking

"Kitchens were for the most part primitive structures barely adequate to keep out the rain, though in large communities log houses were built, the logs being usually of mamku..while in others logs were placed horizontally and used as required for fuel. Less consideration was accorded to cooks than those concerned with the preparation of food than to any other section of the community. Ad food destroyed the tapu of man, kitchens were establishsed well away from the houses of chiefs. All food was consumed outside dwellings in the open air. It was usual to have two meals per day, the main meal being in the evening. In the ditchen was the earth oven, or umu, also known as hingi, a pit some 3 to 4 ft in diameter and up to 18 in. deep. Quantites of wood, large and small, were piled in the pit, and selected oven stones..were spread over the wood. As the wood burnt, the stones became heated and gradually sank into the oven cavity. Embers were raked aside and the stones levelled out, some being put aside for placing on top of the food when it was arranged in the pit. The pit was liberally soused with water; quantiites of green stuff were placed over the stones, and then food such as kumara and fish, and greens such as sow thistle, were arranged in alternate layers. The hot stones set aside were then placed on top. Again liberal quantities of water were used, and a mat to cover all. On this the earth was piled. Food was ready in one and a half hours."
---ibid (p. 442)

Native foods of the Maori

Kumara (sweet potato), taro and yam, hue (gourds), aruhe (fernroot), raupo (bullrush), hinau, karaka, tawa, tutu, other berries (mataik totara, kahikatera, rimu), ti (cabbage tree), mamaku (tree fern), nikau palm, puha (sow thistle), poikpiko (fern buds), kowhitiwhiti (watercress), orchids, fungus (haswai, wairuru, tiki-tehetehe, maiheru, tawaka, hakeka), seaweed, chewing gum (puha mostly), birds (pigeon, tui, bellbird, kaka (parrot), kakariki (parakeet), weka, pukeko, duck--never huia or kinfisher), rats, dogs, insects & lizards, mango marokie (dried shark),tuna, koura (crayfish), shellfish (kina poha, kina kotero, paua tahu, kotoretore (sea anemone jelly), and (sometimes) cannibalism. Bread (wheat gained popularity mid 19th century forwards): paroaoa parai (fried bread), cured corn.
---Two Hundred Years of New Zealand Food and Cookery, David Burton [Reed:Wellington] 1982 (p. 3-15)
[NOTE: This book contains notes on specific Maori foods, cooking methods and storage techniques. Your local public librarian can help you find a copy.]

About Maori food preservation
The Maori peoples of New Zealand stored their foods in patakas, purposely constructed to thwart carnivorous/rodent preditors and encourage safe storage. Maoris preserved their foods by drying, smoking, and salting.

"Food was stored in a pataka, a small house standing on a high platform out of the way of dogs and rats. The food...had to be constantly rearranged for better ventilation; dried fish, in particular, quickly became mouldy in damp weather. Apart from kumara, which usually had to be kept in the rua or storage pit, the pataka was used to store all the food which would be needed to eke out the meagre supplies which would be harvested over the lean winter months. In drier eastern districts, especially of the South Island, a simple platform was built on one or two stout poles and the food was covered with rough, water-shedding mats. Food shortages were most commonly experienced in early spring, especially when feasting had emptied the pataka and stormy weather prevented fishing expeditions. The bird-hunting season was from autumn to early winter, but often the birds were potted for distribution as prestige gifts. In such times of want, the Maori would drink vast quantities of water and refrain from hard physical labour. The normal two meals per day would be reduced to just one, perhaps consisting of the old standby, fernroot. There are even recorded instances of a type of clay being eaten as a last resort. But there were also times of plenty, and occasions such ccas a tangi-hango (funeral) or the reconciliation of differences with another tribe were traditional times for feasting. Preparations were elaborate. New ground was planted with kumara, and birds, rats, and fish were taken and dried. Efforts were always made to include large amounts of such meat delicacies for the sake of visitors. Sometimes the event was planned on such a large scale that initial preparations were begun more than a year before the feast was to take place."
---Two Hundred Years of New Zealand Food and Cookery, David Burton [Reed:Wellington] 1982 (p. 3)

"The Maori soon discovered that the smoking process used for preserving fish and other meats...worked well for the introduced trout. Because a hot smoke is used, the fish is partly smoked and is thus usually eaten raw on thin slices of bread, perhaps garnished with a little chopped raw onion, parsley and lemon juice. Dried trout. Remove head, entrails and backbone and lay the trout out flat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and hang on a line to dry in the sun for 12 hours."
---ibid (p. 15)

"The principal development in horticulture was not the introduction of the kumara...but the elaboration of storage techniques, particularly the sunken 'cellars' and underground pits which are such a feature of the archaeolgical landscape. In the tropical Pacific the kumara is the perennial plant which can be propogated by the direct transferral of growing vines. It is highly suseptible to frost. The first Polynesian settlers, in adapting it to New Zealand conditions, aimed one of the greater agricultural achievements of Oceania. They discovered that, by lifting the crop in autumn and storing it in pits under relatively constant humidity and temperature, tubers could be retained for winter consumption and also as seed tubers for planting out the following spring. Only a few shallow pits were found in the Palliser Bay settlements, and most of the crop may have been stored in baskets in houses. Large storage pits were probably developed further north and their use then spread gradually throughout the horticultural region. A distinctive regional variant known as the raised-rim pit, found in eastern regions from the Bay of Plenty to the southern limits of horticulture in Canterbury, reached Palliser Bay at a much later date."
---Oxford History of New Zealand, Geoffrey W. Rice, editor [Oxford University Press:Aukland] 1992, 2nd edition (p. 21-2)

Descriptions were obtained from Maori elders knowledgeable in traditional methods for the processing of Tiroi (mussels and Puha), Kina (sea urchins), Kanga Kopiro (fermented maize) and Titi (muttonbird). Information for a number of variations of each method was transformed into process flow charts, and these charts were analysed using a HACCP-based approach. Two of the processes (Kanga Kopiro and Titi) were found to be likely to produce safe foods as Kanga Kopiro undergoes an acid fermentation and Titi preparation involves significant cooking steps. However, the information regarding Tiroi and Kina processing did not supply the necessary data to identify definitely whether fermentations were involved, and if they were, what kind they may be. New Zealand has only experienced one outbreak of botulism, and this was associated with the consumption of Tiroi. It is, therefore, desirable to identify the processes occurring in these foods where the nature of these processes is not understood in order to facilitate their safe future production.
---"Traditional Maori food preparation methods and food safety," Whyte R, Hudson JA, Hasell S , Gray M, O'Reilly R Food Safety Programme, ESR Ltd, Imam, Christchurch, New Zealand, Int J Food Microbiol. 2001 Sep 28;69(3):183-90.

Maori foodways & contemporary notes.


Gold Rush 1850s: Ballarat Victoria
Food prices are determined by supply and demand. Early gold-rush era Ballarat had much demand and small supply. This drove costs higher than the would have been in other areas of Australia and certainly England. The same was true in USA California and Alaska gold rushes. Below please find notes on food prices from our Australian food history books.

"Writer William Kelly recorded signs of gold madness when he reached Melbourne in 1853. With farm labourers deserting their plots and extra mouths to feed, common cabbages could command 2s 6d each and eggs 18 shillings a dozen, he said. For a 'sooty' lump of meat and a cold potato, some 'gritty' bread and a glass of 'saccharine' ale, he paid an eating-house 8s 6d. Yet at a performance of 'Hamlet', gold-diggers in the audience barracked grave-diggers onstage about the depth of their sinking, popped champagne during the interval and pelted nuggets at the curtain calls, A land sale outside Melbourne was enlivened by a brass band and each bid was toasted in champagne...With the goldrush, merchants enjoyed great prosperity. On the diggings, Kelly found an excellent supper of 'the beef and mutton of Victoria, the brad of South Australia, the butter of ould Erin, the coffee of Ceylon, the sugar of Mauritius, the tea of China--while the ham of York, the marmalade of Scotland, the sardines of France, the condiments of India, were only waiting for a beckon to jump down our throughts from the surrounding shelves.' Back in Melbourne, he noted the arrival of Yankee clippers loaded with consumer goods. He wandered the wharves, 'speculating on the possible uses to which many strange and fantastic articles could be applied.' Then probably included the new range of American agricultural and kitchen equipment, which, like many American schemes and influences, followed the gold rush seekers from the Californian fields."
---One Continuous Picnic: A History of eating in Australia, Michael Symons [Penguin Books:Victoria] 1982 (p.60-61)

"Early in 1852 it was South Australia's turn to suffer. Men left their homes and businesses in droves. However, this was not entirely bad. It may have stimulated the gold-rush, but it also stimulated the wheat growers of South Australia; the price they could get for their wheat was astronomical. All supplies were hard to find and expensive. In June 1851 the price of flour suddenly doubled in Melbourne. In 1852 fresh milk was considered a luxury. By 1853 the land under cultivation had dropped by forty per cent. With new towns appearing overnight, there was hardly time to establish any sense of order. Before leaving the cities gold seekers would stock up with flour, tea, sugar, cooking equipment (such as frying pans, iron pots, tin plates and pannikins), tents, firearms, camp-ovens, blankets, carts and horses, picks, shovels and axes. The inns situated on the gold-rush routes offered dreary fare--mostly cold meat and damper. If the gold-seekers were lucky they could buy supplies from farms along the way, but food was dear [expensive]. A dozen eggs, for instance, could sometimes be as much as a guinea, or as little as 4s. 0d. Little coffee tents and sly grog houses were set up along the routes...Once at the diggings it was common for many to exist on the bushman's diet of mutton (sometimes beef or veal), damper and black tea three times a day. This was by no means cheap and could cost as much as 5s 0d. per meal. On Sundays plum diff was the big treat. Fruit and vegetables were a rarity. Some miner shot local game such as pigeon, plover, quail, lyre birds, kangaroos,emus, platypus, and kookaburras to vary their diet. Parrots and cockatoos were roasted or made into soup--very fashionable at this time and evidently delicious. At Ballarat in 1853, docks were boiled and eaten as a substitute for vegetables, and when Tasmanian apples were in season they became as precious as the gold-dust which everyone was chasing...A typical store on a gold site was a large tent into which everything was flung in one great heap; shopping was chaotic. In the heap there would be the finest chunteys form India, pickled salmon, ham, sugar-candy, herrings, sardines....ales, cheese, pork, currants...bread....sugar and potted anchovies. ut, a man had to have money...Meat was usually sold in large quantities; half a sheep cost about 8s. 0d, flour was 1s. 0d, per pound and sugar 1s 6d. Tea was 3s. 6d. per pound."
---The Captain Cook Book: Two Hundred Years of Australian Cooking, Babette Hayes [Thomas Nelson:Melbourne] 1970 (p. 91-93)

Compare with California USA gold rush prices, same period.


American impact
Dr. Michael Symons chronicles the introduction of foreign foods to Australia in his book One Continuous Picnic: A History of Eating in Australia. According to Dr. Symons, the first American cooking/products arrived in your country in the middle of the 19th century. Gold madness propelled some fortune seekers past California into your part of the world. Post World War I witnessed the introduction of American food corporations and their products. World War II cemented the "Americanization" of the Australian national diet.

"Back in Melbourne, [William Kelly] noted the arrival of Yankee clippers loaded with consumer goods. He wandered the warves, "speculating on the possible uses to which many strange and fantastic articles could be applied". They probably included a new range of American agricultural and kitchen equipment, which, like many American schemes and influences, followed the gold seekers from the California fields. Australian food, produced by an industry spanning nations, was already shaped by American influences. Among the imports were New England champagne...Soft drinks, which were really flavoured soda water, and been invented a few years earlier in Philadelphia, and so this "champagne" presumably also had it sparkles added. Another imported American luxury of the 1850s was ice..."
---(p. 60-61)

"The 1920s saw increased American influence on food. In 1920, a Leeton Cannery official, John Brady, toured the US and returned with the idea of the Murrumbridgee Irrigation Area rice industry. A Californian...opened the Golden Gate Sundae Shop...The first of the big American food companies moved in. Philip K. Wrigley, the founder's son from Chicago, had set up chewing gum operations back in the war. Life Savers, the candies invented in Cleveland, Ohio in 1913 and successful with the wartime blockade of German mints, arrived in 1921...Destined to dominate our eating and drinking, the first giant food corporations came to the fore in the 1920s. The main names were: Kellogg's and Kraft (from the US)...With hindsight, we can see that these corporations pushed early "convenience" foods, most simply defined as those needing no cooking outside the factory."
---(p. 129)

"With the Pacific war, Australia was mobilised as a giant US base...U.S. troops were "ambassadors" for Aemricanfood and manners, leaving a taste fo cocktails and Coca-Cola...we grabbed hamburgers at every corner."
---(p. 162)
[NOTE: This book contains far more information than can be paraphrased here. Ask your librarian to help you find a copy.]


Greek contributions
People cook what they know. When the Greeks immigrated to Australia, they brought with them thousands of years of culture and cuisine. As in America, you can measure the impact of immigrant cuisine by investigating restaurants, groceries, and cookbooks. Book on multicultural Australia are good places to begin. Ask your librarian to help you find this book" The Greeks in Australia, Anastasios Tamis La Trobe University, Victoria [Cambridge University Press].

Seach your country's newspapers and magazines (ask your librarian how to access article databases) for recipes and restaurant news. Sample articles here: 1, 2, & 2

Local Greek festivals: Greek Festival of Sydney & Antipodes Festival of Melbourne


Italian tables
The types of foods Italian immigrants brought depended upon where they originated. People cook what they know.

"The first Maltese and Italians went to Queensland in the 1870s and 1880s where they worked as labourers. The money was good: about 8s. Od. Per day compared with 1s. 3d., which was the average daily wage back in their homeland. They cut cane and grew tobacco and fruit. The Italian community in Griffith, New South Wales, can take most of the credit for setting up and running the fruit-growing industry there. The Italians were encourage to live in Queensland because of the need for cheap labour, and, since they were hard working, thrifty and willing to operate on a share basis with one or two others, they were soon buying small areas of land. Most of the immigrnats had been farming small plots of land in their home country so it was natural that they should continue to do this. They were also willing to take on heavier debts than many Australian farmers cared to risk. In the 1929 depression many Australian cane growers were forced to leave the land. The Italians took advantage of this and bought themselves precious plots with their hard-earned savings. Life for the early Italians was lonely. They came here without wives and children and then, once they were established, sent for their brides or families. Strangely enough, their ties with Italy were not as strong as their ties with particular regions. They though of themselves as Piedmontese, Lombardians, Sicilians, or Venetians. If they married in Australia, they tended to marry someone who came from their one region in Italy...Italian was spoken in the home and only Italian food was prepared...In the cities they...opened delicatessens and restaurants, thus providing variety for the Australian gourmet. This was particularly so after World War II, which created a special hardship for Italian Australians. The men were interned, although it is doubtful whether many had any political feelings about Fascist Italy."
---The Captain Cook Book: Two Hundred Years of Australian Cooking, Babette Hayes [Thomas Nelson:Sydney] 1970 (p. 136-7)

"Most early Italian arrivals worked in primary industries such as fishing and farming although a few were involved in manufacturing foods such as macaroni. The first Italians to enter Australia in any number (we are talking here of hundreds rather than thousands) came in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, mainly as agricultural labourers on sugar-cane farms in the tropical heat of Queensland. Mass migration began in 1920, and following the World War II they represented the biggest non-English speaking migrant group. Because of their numbers, the richness of their culinary heritage and its adaptability to manufacturing, Italians have had an enormous effect on the way we eat, greater indeed than any other migrant group of the post-war period. During the 1960s and 70s many Italian food products became widely available, including cheese like parmesan, pecorino, provolone, mozzarella and ricotta, Italian salamis and prosciutto, a great range of pasta shapes, olive oil, black olives, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, giardiniera pickles, gelato, cappuccino and espresso coffee...A significant impact has been in the fruit and vegetable trade with Italian greengrocers setting a standard of quality and freshness as well as introducing previously little known varieties such as zucchini, broccoli, globe artichokes, fennel, eggplant, radicchio, different types of lettuces and capsicums, chillies, fresh chestnuts and flat-leaved parsley. One of the most famous greengrocers was Giuseppe De Luca, who arrived from Boston in 1886 and opened a shop on King Street Sydney which specialized in fruit, wines and confectionery. In 1916 the business was take over by the Donato brothers who brought in presentation fruit baskets and fruit salad renowned with lunchtime office workers."
---How to Cook a Galah, Laurel Evelyn Dyson [Thomas C. Lothian Pty:South Melbourne] 2002 (p. 146-7)


Spanish influence
The story of Spanish food in Australia is intimately connected with the history of immigrants, settlers, and restauranteurs. People cook what they know. A
The Spain-born Community:Historical background
Spain's first significant contribution to Australia predates the arrival of the first Spanish settlers: it was the introduction in 1797 of Spanish merino sheep to NSW. These sheep were the beginning of the Australian merino breed. The first recorded Spanish free settler in Australia was J.B.L. De Arrieta, who arrived in 1821. The colonial Government of NSW granted him 2,000 acres of fertile land at Morton Park. He died in 1838. Spaniard's Hill (near Camden) perpetuates his memory. A few Spanish fortune-seekers were recorded in the Victoria goldfields in the 1850s. A group of Catalan and Basque Spaniards migrated to Victoria in 1880. Around 1885, a number of Spanish families settled in White Hills (Victoria). Others settled near Echuca (Victoria) and worked as tomato growers, while still others settled in Queensland and worked in the sugar cane industry. By 1891, the Spain-born population numbered 503 persons. It slowly increased to 992 by 1947. In the years following the Spanish Civil War (which took place between 1936 and 1939) over 600,000 Spaniards left Spain and moved to other countries, including Latin America and Australia. Spanish rural workers were considered to be suited to cane cutting and were offered assisted passages. In 1961-62, 1,808 Spain-born settlers arrived in Australia. In the following year, 4,585 arrived. However, in March 1963, following unemployment problems in Australia, the Spanish Government suspended assisted migration from Spain. Later, after negotiations in Madrid, the movement of Spanish workers to Australia was resumed on a limited scale.The number of Spanish-born in Australia reached a peak of 16,266 in 1986. By the next (1991) Census, their number had dropped to 14,708 because fewer Spaniards were migrating to Australia. The current Spanish community in Australia is ageing, with 82 per cent of the Spain-born having migrated before 1981."

"Although Spanish seafarers began exploring the South Pacific in the fourteenth century, it was not until the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s that Spanish immigrants began to arrive in Victoria. The first Spanish restaurant was opened in Melbourne in 1860. By 1871, 135 Spaniards lived in Victoria, 80% of them men. Over the next two decades, the number of Spanish women arriving in Victoria tripled; a few more men also arrived. Despite a military coup in Spain in 1923 and the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, few Spanish refugees settled in Victoria. Immigration Acts passed in the 1920s restricted the entry of Spaniards and other southern Europeans. By 1947, the Spain-born population of Victoria was only 252.The Spain-born population dramatically increased from the late 1950s, following the 1958 Spanish-Australian migration agreement. The agreement provided assisted passages to Spanish migrants, many escaping poverty and hunger. The community in Victoria increased from 374 in 1954 to 3,143 in 1966. During the following decades economic improvements in Spain coincided with a dramatic slowing of Spanish immigration to Australia. The Spain-born community in Victoria today is at its lowest level since the early 1960s, declining from 4,067 in 1986 to 2,909, in 2001." Immigration Museum/Victoria

"The Spanish community started the tomato industry at Bendigo, using their old gravity irrigation methods."
---One Continuous Picnic: A History of eating in Australia, Michael Symons [Penguin Books:Victoria] 1982 (p. 224)


Traditional English Christmas dinner in Australia
Christmas dinner provides perhaps the best example of a country whose culinary traditions were literally turned upside down. British winter Christmas meals were not practical in the middle of the Australian summer. Traditions don't perish, they adapt.

"Christmas dinner. Over the years Australians have come up with a number of Christmas dishes all their own. Some of these reflect the country's rugged colonial history. For example, a dish called "colonial goose" substitutes a stuffed leg of lamb for the more traditional English roast goose. "Billy can pudding" offers a simplified version of plum pudding made in a kind of tin but used to carry water. Other colonial recipes include "Christmas damper," a quick Christmas bread, and "drover's plum pudding," a kind of rice pudding made with raisins and nuts. "Father Christmas salad," a red, white, and green mixture of cherries, pistachio nuts, and lychees, represents another original Australian Christmas recipe. Many Australians eat their Christmas dinner out of doors, in order to enjoy the summer sunshine. Some barbecue or take picnics to the beach or other outdoor beauty spots. Others eat a cold meal at home, often combining salads with cold meat dishes. Still others, in spite of the heat, prefer an English Christmas dinner, complete with roasted meat, poatoes and gravy. Many families, no matter what they have for dinner, choose to end the meal with a hot Christmas pudding (...plum pudding)."
---Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, Tanya Gulevich, 2nd edition [Omnigraphics:Detroit] 2003 (p. 41-2)

Anglo-Australian Christmas notes, recipes & menus:

[1840]
"Mary Thomas had described the first Christmas Day in Adelaide, three days even before the colony was proclaimed. 'We kept up the old custom...as far as having a plum pudding for dinner, likewise a ham and a parrot pie...' she recorded. And later she discovered one of her neighbors actually had enjoyed roast beef, 'though we were not aware at the time that any fresh meat was to be had in the colony.' The fast was that Captain Duff's cow had fallen into a lagoon and was so injured it was expedient to kill her. The continuation of a quite unseasonable feast--'plum pudding at 100 degrees in the shade'--is perhaps the most oft-remarked Australian food oddity. After devoting a chapter of his Australian Colonists (1974) to the habit, the historian K. S. Inglis remarked, 'It would long be an Australian tradition to enjoy both the heavy Christmas dinner and the absurdity of it."
---One Continuous Picnic: A History of Eating in Australia, Michael Symons [Penguin Books:Victoria Australia] 1982, 1984 (p. 26)

[1858]
"Looking back over the years to his entry of his first Christmas Day, in the year 1858, spent in his new land of Australia Richard Skilbeck recorded:-'My first Christmas in Australia. The customs which have been endeared to us by childhood's festivities and which was wont to fill our youthful breasts with such joyous anticipations and not less pleasurable realizations are gladly dispensed with. The sun shining in his strength renders anything cooling grateful, but of spice cake and cheese there was no lack...Mr. and Mrs. Roberts came to dinner and no mean Christmas dinner either, a loin of veal with ham, followed by plumb pudding and currant pie."
---A Look at Yesteryear: Early Australian Cooking, Valerie Mckenzie and Joyce Allen [Centennial Publications:Sydney] 1980 (p. 92)

[1863]
"For the sake of tradition many colonials tried to transpose the inapporpriately heavy English Christmas dinner to the sultry Australian summer, but inevitably adaptations crept in. Rachel Henning, writing from Exmoor Station in Queensland a few days before Christmas 1863, describes the preparations: 'Annie has been concocting mincemeat. She and Mr. Hedgeland held a great chopping in the veranda yesterday while I was settling the week's acounts inside, and when I went out I beheld a black-looking mass like a huge dirt-pie. It was made of dried apples and currants, raisins, spice, brandy, etc., and I dare say it will prove very nice...Of coruse itwould be bad in a if you put meat or suet with it. We have doubts about the plum pudding, as we have no eggs at present, and the fowls refuse to lay.' The resulting dinner represented a mixture of traditional and Australian elements: in addition to the pudding and mince-pies adapted from British recipes the ate rather welll with that old English favourite roast beef, two brace of wild Australian duck, Australian summer vegetables in the form of pumpkin and okra, apple tart (presumably done bush-style with dried apples) and, for a good Queensland finale to the meal, watermelons."
---How to Cook a Galah: Celebrating Australia's Culinary Heritage, Laurel Evelyn Dyson [Lotnian Books:Melbourne Victoria] 2002 (p. 177)

[1873]
"It is almost superfluous to mention that such luxuries as strawberry ices, tipsy cake and trifle, iced champagne, still hock and sillery were not amongs the condiments set for our delectations...There were heaps of sweet cake, the ingredients of which I may explain to the uninitiated are fat, flour and sugar; luscious bush jam tarts in tin plates, the jam ingeniously concocted of brown ration sugar and water; a baking dish full of splendid corn beef sandwiches, no one of which, on my honour as a man of integrity, exceeded an inch in thickness; and another of johnny cakes and leather jackets; whilst the head of the table in the place of honour was a big pan full of what Bill called 'devilled ducks'. The drinkables were of but three varieties viz. good brandy in somewhat limited quantity, (perhaps three or four bottles); good 'Post and Rail' tea in abundant quantity, and good fresh water in unlimited quantity.'---(J.C.F. Johnson, An Austral Christmas, 1873)"
---A Good Plain Cook: An Edible History of Queensland, Susan Addison and Judith McKay [Boolarong Publications:Brisbane Queensland] 1985 (p. 106)

[1909]
"X'mas Plum Pudding

This may be made in one or two puddings, and boiled in greased basins or cloth. Mix together 1 lb. beef suet, free from skin and finely chopped, with 1 lb. of sifted flour, 1 large teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 lb. of bread crumbs, 1 lb. curramts. 1 lb. sultanas, 1 lb. stoneless raisins, chopped fine, 1/2 lb. mixed peel, cut into small dices, 1/4 lb. Jordan almonds, blanched and chopped small, 1 packet of mixed spice, 1 nutmeg grated, grated rind of 1 lemon and orange, and juice of each; add 8 well beaten eggs 1 cup of burnt sugar, 1'2 cup of brandy or rum if desered (it can be done without), 1 grated carrot. Put into a stout greased pudding cloth and into boiling water, and boil 8 hours, 2 hours on the day of serving; serve with sauce."
---The Schauer Cookery Book, Misses A. and M. Schauer [R.G. Gillies:Brisbane Queensland] 1909 (p. 335-336)

"X'mas Steamed Plum Pudding
Cream 1 lb. of butter and 1 lb. of sugar together till white, add 10 eggs, one at a time, beating well between each egg; then add 1 1/2 lbs. sifted flour, 2 small teaspoonfuls baking powder, 2 teaspoonfuls of burnt sugar, 1 grated nutmeg, 1/2 packet of spice, 1/2 lb. of Jordan almonds, blanched and cut small, 1 lb. sultanas, 1 lb. currants, 1/2 lb. seedless raisins, 1/2 lb. mixed peel, cut fine, 1 glass of rum. Mix all well together, put into 2 greased basis, and over with a greased paper, and steam for 4 hours, and 2 hours on day it is to be served. Serve with boiled custard. Half quantity makes a good pudding. The spirit may be omitted."
---The Schauer Cookery Book, Misses A. and M. Schauer [R.G. Gillies:Brisbane Queensland] 1909 (p. 339)

[1928]
"Christmas Steamed Plum Pudding

Cream 1 lb. of butter and 1 lb. of sugar, the grated rind and juice of orange till white, add 8 eggs, one at a time, beating well between each egg; then add 1 1/2 lb. sifted flour, teaptoonful baking powder, 2 tablespoonfuls of burnt sugar, 1 grated nutmeg, 1 packet of spice, 1/4 lb. of Jordan almonds, blanched and cut small, 1 lb. sultanas, 1 lb. curants, 1 lb. seedless raisins, 1/4 mixed peel, cut fine. Mix all well together, put into 2 greased basins, and cover with a greased paper, and steam for 6 hours, and 2 hours on day it is to be served. Serve with boiled custard. Half quantity makes a good pudding."
---The Schauer Improved Cookery Book, 6th Edition [W.R. Smith & Paterson Ltd.:Brisbane, Queensland] 1928 (p. 325)

"A Good Christmas Cake (1.)
Cream 1 lb. of butter and 1 lb. sugar together, till white, add 8 eggs slowly, beaten to a stiff froth. Sift 1 1/4 lbs. flour, 1 teaspoon spice, 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg or cinnamon, 1/2 a teaspoon baking soda, add 1 lb. dates stoned and softened, prunes or figs, cut small. Add to the beaten mixture, add 1 gill of brandy. Line a large cake or 2 small tins with 3 thicknesses of brown paper, put in 1/2 the mixture, prick well to make flat, lay across a thin layer of softened prunes, free from stones, or dates. Sprinkle with 2 ounces of finely-chopped almonds (or sliced), put remainder of cake mixture in, prick through, bake in a moderate oven 5 to 6 hours, leave in tin till cold. Cover with almond and royal or fruit icing (see icings), or Christmas cake icing. (See icings). Prunes and nuts in centre may be omitted."
---The Schauer Improved Cookery Book, 6th edition [W.R. & Paterson Ltd.:Brisbane, Queensland] 1928 (p. 416)

"A Christmas Cake or Birthday Cake (2.)
With the hand, beat 1 lb of butter and 1 lb of fine sugar together till quite white and creamy, add 10 eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each egg, sift on a paper 1 1/2lbs. of flour, add to the flour 1 lb. of stoneless raisins chopped small, 1 lb. of sultanas, 1 lb. currants, 1/2 lb of mixed peel cut small, 1/4 lb almonds blanched, chopped small, 1 packet spice, 1 nutmeg grated, the juice and grated rind of 1 orange; add all these to the beaten mixture, half a cup of burnt sugar (caramel), a tea cup of rum or brandy--the cake is made and kept quite well without the spirit; put into a lined tin and bake for 5 hours in a moderate oven; 'leave in tin till cold. (See icing chapter.)
---The Schauer Improved Cookery Book, 6th edition [W.R. & Paterson Ltd.:Brisbane, Queensland] 1928 (p. 417)

"Icing and Decorations for Cakes
Amongst the decorations used are crystalized fruits of all kinds, especially cherries and agnelica, preserved ginger, orange quarters, glazed walnuts, almonds, cocoanut, white and baked, hundreds of thousands, silver cacheaus, strawberries, piping with cream, mock cream, butter icing, royal icing, meringue, apricot, glace, etc. To ice a birthday or christmas cake. Trim the top of the cake carefully, so that it will stand flat, brush away all crumbs, and stand on a board at least 1 1/2 inches larger than the ake, stand it bottom upwards, so that the surface is flat on a biscuit tin, if you have not a cake stand to enable you to turn it easily. Brush over surface with yolk of egg, also sides, roll out almond paste and cover top and sides. Stand away till next day, then cover with royal icing, allow to become quite dry, and glaze with a reduced royal icing. Then decorate with icing, pipe and bags, using a stiff royal icing for piping. Always keep covered with damp cloth to prevent crust forming, which would block tubes; if allowing icing to stand over night, renew wet cloth."
---The Schauer Improved Cookery Book, 6th edition [W.R. & Paterson Ltd.:Brisbane, Queensland] 1928 (p. 466-467)

[1956]
"Cold Christmas Dinner

Iced Fruit Cocktail
Hors D'oeuvre: Caviare on Toast (Cold)
Soup: Cold Consomme Clear Soup (Iced)
Fish: Crab Mayonnaise
Entree: Asparagus Moulds in Aspic
Joint: Cold Boiled Ham and Cold Roast Turkey
Lettuce Salad, Potato Salad
Sweets: Cold plum pudding with whipped cream or plum pudding in jelly, Cold Christmas Sweet Mince Tarts, Fruit Cup
Dessert: Bon-bons, Iced Coffee
The fruit used in Cold Australian Christmas Pudding could be turned into a quart of chocolate ice cream and placed in frigidaire, and served as a cold Christmas pudding."
---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, Eleventh edition [W.R. & Paterson Pty. Ltd:Kemp Place Valley, Brisbane, Queensland] 1956 (p. 33)

"Cold Australian Christmas Pudding
Put 2 cups milk and 2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa into a wet saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 oz. of gelatine dissolved in 1/2 cup of water. Heat over fire; do not boil. When cold add 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup of dates cut small, 1/2 cup chopped raisins, 1/2 cup of sultanas, 1/4 cup of shredded almonds or walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped cherries, 1/4 cup of finely-minced peel. Turn into a wet mould. When cold, turn out, decorate with holly, and serve with whipped cream. This plum pudding may be set in strawberry jelly, using 1 1/2 cups hot water to a pint packet. It may be set, and served in a quart of chocolate ice cream."
---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, Eleventh edition [W.R. & Paterson Pty. Ltd:Kemp Place Valley, Brisbane, Queensland] 1956 (p. 422)

"Christmas Sweet Mince Tarts
Pass through a coarse mincer twoice 1/2 lb. firm beef suet, skin removed, 1/2lb. of picked currants and sultanas, 1/2 lb. peeled and cored green cooking apples, 1/2 lb. stoneless raisins, 1/2 lb. mixed peel. Add the grated rind of 1 lemon, the juice of same, 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well. Moisten with 1 wineglass of brandy. Line patty tin with Flaky Pastry...Fill with the sweet mince meat, cover with tops. Make opening in centre with a skewer, glaze and bake in a hot oven till pastry is risen and set. The Christmas mince meat may be potted, then covered down perfectly air-tight. Should keep twelve months." ---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, Eleventh edition [W.R. & Paterson Pty. Ltd:Kemp Place Valley, Brisbane, Queensland] 1956 (p. 354-355)

"English Christmas Cake
1 lb. butter, 1 lb. sugar, 8 eggs, 1 1/4 lb. plain flour sifted with 1 small teaspoon bi-carb. soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 nutmeg grated, 1/4 lb. mixed peel, 2 lb. seedless raisins, 1/2 lb. each currants and sultanas, 2 oz. blanched and finely-chopped almonds, the grated rind and juice of 1 small orange, 2 tablespoons warm water, 1/2 cup treacle, 1/2 cup lukewarm black coffee. Beat butter and sugar to a cream, add 8 eggs one at a time, beating well after each, then add grated rind and juice of the orange, mix soda and water and add it to the treacle, then add to mixture. Stir in the coffee. Add sifted flour and spices and fruit alternately. Mix well. Put into 2 prepared tins and bake 3 to 4 hours in a low moderate oven."
---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, Eleventh edition [W.R. & Paterson Pty. Ltd:Kemp Place Valley, Brisbane, Queensland] 1956 (p. 495-496)

"Favourite Christmas Cake
Pass through sieve on to clean paper 1/2 lb. plain flour, 2 oz. self-raising flour, pinch salt; 1 level teaspoon each of nutmeg, spice, cinnamon, 1 packet sultanas, seedless raisins cut small, currants, 1/2 lb. stoneless dates, 1/4 lb. mixed peel, 1/4 lb. prserved figs, 1/4. Jordan almonds, shells removed, all cut small. Mix well through flour. Cream 1/2 lb. butter till white. Add 1 tablespoon brandy. Add 4 eggs singly, beating well after each egg. Dissolve a level tablespoon treacle with a 1/4 teaspoon of bi-carb. soda in a prepared tin. Prick through mixture with a thick skewer to break all air bubbles. Never have tin more than three parts full. Dip hand in cold water. Pat over top of cake mixture for proper finish. Place in a good moderate oven for 1/2 hour. Reduce heat as low as possible for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Do not open oven door after reducing heat till finished. Leave in tin till quite cold or wanting to ice...Very good."
---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, Eleventh edition [W.R. & Paterson Pty. Ltd:Kemp Place Valley, Brisbane, Queensland] 1956 (p. 496)

"Special Christmas Salad
Mince together 4 oz. raisins, 4 oz. of preserved ginger, 4 oz. of crystallized pineapple, 2 oz. of walnuts. Mix through 2 tablespoons of whipped cream. Lay on crisp lettuce leaves and serve cold."
---The Schauer Australian Cookery Book, Eleventh edition [W.R. & Paterson Pty. Ltd:Kemp Place Valley, Brisbane, Queensland] 1956 (p. 675)

[1962]
"White Christmas
Ingredients--1/2 lb. copha, 2 cups rice bubbles, 1 cup icing sugar, 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup mixed fruit, chopped nuts if desired, few drops vanilla essence. Sift icing sugar, mix dry ingredients and essence, add melted Copha, spread in scone tray and set in refrigerator. Cut in squares and serve."
--Shauer Cookery Book, twelfth impression [W.R. Smith & Paterson Pty. Ltd.:Brisbane Queensland] 1962(p. 778) [NOTES: (1) What was
Copha? (2) Today's recipe courtesy of Peerless Foods, manufacturer of Copha]

What was Copha?
According to the records of the
Australian Intellectual Property Trademark Database, Copha brand edible oils, edible fats and desiccated cocoanut were introduced to consumers February 5, 1916. The original owner was Lever Brothers. The product is currently being manufactured by Peerless Foods in Melbourne. Ads published in popular magazines and cookbooks promoted the Copha as a new time saving product. The most common use of Copha in Australia is in Chicolate Crackles (small cakes) and Kellogg's Rice Bubbles (similar to American Rice Krispies).

[1937]
"Chocolate Crackles, a new COPHA recipe

5 ozs. Rice Bubbles (4 cups)
2 1/2 ozs. Fine Coconut (1 cup)
8 ozs. Icing Sugar
2 1/2 ozs. Cocoa (3 tablespoons)
8 ozs. COPHA
Mix dry ingredients, melt COPHA and pour over same. Thoroughly mix and spoon into paper cup containers and alow to set. The above quantity makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen."
---display ad, Australian Women's Weekly, December 18, 1937 (p. 51)

[1956]
"Copha 'Melt-'n'-Mix' Method for Cakes, Biscuits and Pastry. The new method of using Copha for cake making by first melting Copha, then mixing it with the other ingredients, popularly termed 'Melt-'n'-Mix,' is based on long research into the behaviour of shortenings during mixing and cooking. Copha being a pure fat suffers no change in composition on being melted, whereas mixed shortenings containing salt and water will alter their form on melting and cannot be reconstituted to their original flavour or appearance. Thus the 'Melt-'n'-Mix' method is exclusive to Copha and will only result in a failure if tried with anything else. The basis of this method is that a shortening in a semiliquid form combines more rapidly with the other ingredients and brings about a greater aeration owing to the wider dispension of the articles. In this method of mixing the Copha is placed in a saucepan, melted over a gentle heat, allowed to cool until lukewarm, then combined with the other ingredients, thus eliminating the tedious business of cutting and softening. Another point in flavour of this method is that it is a one-bowl method, cutting down therefore on utensils and time and, with its five minutes' beating, reducing the expenditure of energy to a minimum. When the liquid Copha comes in contact with the other ingredients in the mixing bowl its temperature is rapidly lowered, changing it from a complete liquid to a semi-solid state, and it is then ready for beating. A warning note here--if the Copha is very hot when added the temperature will not drop quickly enough and a heavy cake will result. When all ingredients are in the bowl (with the exception of half of the flour for easy of beating) the next step is to beat vigorously, preferably with a rotary beater or electric mixer. This beating aerates the mixture by incorporating air between the finely divided particles of the various ingredients, which in turn undergo a change, resulting in the smooth creamy batter. Various shortenings stand to differ in the case with which they can be aerated and combined with other ingredients, and it has been found that Copha treated by the Melt-'n'-Mix can become a good cake with outstanding results. The method of Melt-'n'-Mix can be applied to biscuits, cookies, pastry and steamed puddings with equal success, but it must be emphasized that the tested recipes should be used. Failure may result from a recipe which has not been built around Copha."
--Shauer Cookery Book, eleventh impression [W.R. Smith & Paterson Pty. Ltd.:Brisbane Queensland] 1956 (p. 774-775)
[NOTE: This Copha advertising supplement offers recipes for Lemon Delicious Pudding, Snowdrift Frosting, Simple Icing, Fruit and Nut Loaf, Lemon Frosted Spice Cakes, Candied Fruit Cake, Christmas Cake, and Devil's Food Cake. The 1962 edition adds White Christmas (unbaked confection similar to USA Rice Krispies Treats).]

Billy tea
Tea is the measure of British civilization. In remote colonies, tea and its accompanying
social rituals, were daily reminders of wealth and refinement. Even in places where the climate was brutally hot.

"Tea supplies in Australia in the early years were regarded as of prime importance, and if the supply could not be kept up by the English cargoes then it came mostly from China, being still expensive, but the quality was of more importance to the tea fanciers, because it was definitely inferior. The brew which as made from this source of supply was popularly named 'Post and Rail Tea' because of the number of sticks, twigs and long leaves it contained. This must have really tested the taste buds of the very real tea drinkers of the time. An early squatter, Mr. Peter Snodgrass, M.L.C. from the Kilmore district in Victoria was renowned for his drinking 'three quarts of tea at breakfast, and the same quantity at dinner,' as it is recorded. This teapot was said to be the size of a 'garden watering pot'--according to the 'Colonial Observer' in the issue of 11 April 1844. Milk, took was scarce in some areas, so many early settlers had to learn to like it 'straight black' style...In an article 'Some Old Cries, Old Customs and Practices in 1848-1861' written by a Walter S. Campbell...a mention is made of another important aspect of tea time ceremony. 'Of the various articles at one time in use was the 'Tea-caddy'....One of the compartments was used for black, and the other for green tea; a little green was generally mixed with the black to improve flavour. It was supposed that black and greenteas were obtained from different species of the tea plant, but such was not the case, for they are both from the same species but dried in different ways, the green being less than the black...Common tea, generally known as 'ration tea' or 'post and rail tea' was plentiful and cheaper, but its quality was very inferior, a large proportion consisting of leaf-stalks and sort thick twigs. That and dark brown sugar were served out as rations...The idea of serving cool tea as a refreshing summer drink was an inspiration of the Australian homemakers after blocks of ice became available for the early 'ice chests'..." Z
---A Look at Yesteryear: Early Australian Cooking, Valerie McKenzie & Joyce Allen [Centennial Publications:Chatswood,Sydney] 1980 (p. 44-45)

"Meals on the Run...While life in the newly formed towns was beginning to settle into a comfortable, reasonably civilised existence, the more adventurous settlers spurned these comforts and took to the brush. Farther and farther they pioneered into the great, wild heart of Australia--the farmers, the explorers, and the restless ones. Few women went with them: it was very much a man's world...In the remote parts of the country the bush cook's life is much as it is today as it was in the early 1800s. Nowadays he\ uses a steel camp oven like a large saucepan which he sets on the fire. Before that a three-legged cast-iron pot was used, but this was brittle and far from satisfactory. Previously the method of cooking was the same as that used by the Aborigines: hot stones on a wood fire. Bush cooking is an art...The best tea is made by throwing the leaves into the billy as the water begins to boil. In the early days, tea was drunk black, hot and sweet--if there was sufficient sugar..."
---<>Captain Cook Book: Two Hundred Years of Australian Cooking, Babette Hayes [Thomas Nelson Ltd:Melbourne] 1970 (p. 60-62)

Why call it "Billy?"
"Nothing in Australian folklore carried more symbolic significance than 'billy', declared historian Russell Ward when theorizing about its origin. Previous guesses had put the derivation as the Aboriginal 'billa' (for river or water, as in billabong), the French 'bouilli' (from which also came 'bully beef' and a common label on preserved meat tins commonly usurped for tea making) and Scottish 'bally' (or milk-pail) and 'billypot' (cooking utensil). They all sound convincing and Ward further confirmed human ingenuity by suggesting it was named after King William IV. His evidence came from James F. O'Connell's A Residence of Eleven Years, which referred to a big bush kettle as a 'royal George'. Ward proposed that when George IV died in 1830 this became a 'royal William', after the new king, hence a 'William' and hence 'billy' Certainly, this name of our new king, container with wire handle was not common enough to be recorded until about the time of G.B. Wilkinson's Working Man's Handbook."
---One Continuous Picnic, Michael Symons [Penguin Books:Ringwood Victoria] 1982, (p. 31)

What is a Mutton-bird?
"Mutton-bird, any of various species of seabirds, especially shearwaters (puffinus griseus, P. tenuirostris), of the southern oceans, whose flesh is thought to taste something like mutton. Such birds were popular food of the Maori in New Zealand, who used to pot them in their own fat, thus making a sort of antipoedean confit. In the Seychelles, 'salted wedged-tail shearwaters' used to figure in certain traditional dishes, no longer made because the birds now have a measure of protection. Even now, mutton-birds are locally eaten in Tasmania where ready-roasted birds are marketed during the season."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2nd edition, 2007 (p. 529)

Mutton-birding
"Although Tasmania has been inhabited for 35,000 years...this intense harvesting of muttonbirds appears to have originated in historic times within a small, mixed group of Europeans and Aborigines. In 1788, when Europeans founded the colony of New South Wales (Sydney), their first settlement in Australia, Tasmania was inhabited by about 4,000 Aborigines. These hunter-gatherers ate shellfish, seals, birds, and such land mammals as wallabies. They had several names for the muttonbird (yolla seems to have been the most common), but the bird was not a preferred resource. The earliest recorded European consumption of the bird dates from February 1797, when the Sydney Cove, a supply ship on its way to Sydney, beached in the Furneaux Group of islands off Tasmania. The crew landed safely on what became known as Preservation Island and erected tents near muttonbird burrows. The birds, plus a daily allowance of a cupful of rice, constituted a great part of the crewmen's diet until they were rescued five months later. But the opportunity to collect muttonbirds in quantity did not initially draw the attention of Europeans any more than it had been a focus for the Aborigines. The colonists were more excited by the rich sealing grounds around Cape Barren Island, also in the Furneaux Group, which they learned about in 1797. In a very few years, large sealing gangs slaughtered almost a quarter of a million fur seals in the Bass Strait. Soon the Sydney-based entrepreneurs no longer found it very profitable to exploit the seals. By the 1830s, only twelve sealers of European origin remained in the Bass Strait, principally on the islands between Flinders and Cape Barren islands. They took Aboriginal women as wives, including four from mainland Australia and one Maori from New Zealand, as well as nine from Tasmanian tribes (the unequal numbers of men and women reflect remarriages after some of the women died). The members of this nascent community were termed sealers, straitsmen, islanders, or Bass Strait islanders. The modern tradition of muttonbirding arose soon after, as the islanders sought less arduous ways of making a living. At first, the main product consisted of feathers from adult birds for use as mattress fill. The islanders also collected eggs in November and December; fledglings in March and April for their meat, oil, and fat; and adult birds, which they salted or smoked."
---"A Muttonbird in the Hand," Irynej Skira, Natural History, August 1995 (p. 24+)

Maori foodways
"On the southern coasts and in the Bay of Plenty, the greatest delicacy was the muttonbird or sooty shearwater, a type of seabird known to the Maori as titi. The early Maori would either trap the birds during their migration periods by erecting nets on coastal cliffs and each evening building fires behind the nets to attract the birds to the light, or, as is more usual now, by taking the young, plump chicks from their burrows...Today the muttonbird season extends through April and May, when many thousands of birds are taken, mainly by the Maori who have retained special rights to the southern hunting grounds. The chicks are used as a source of oil and feather down as well as for their meat, which is widely available commercially. Maoris sometimes simply grill or boil the birds once to preserve the full flavour and the fat content of the meat. Many Maori and most Europeans, however, prefer to boil the birds in several waters before grilling...An early Otago pioneer, Dr Hector, noted that muttonbird were 'greatly prized as food by the Maoris, who preserve them in great numbers by salting and smoking them, trading surpluses they obtain beyond what is necssary for their own consumption, to the natives further northwards, in which case they are packed in bags made of kelp.' These kelp bags were made by cutting a hole in the end of a piece of bull kelp and then, with a stick or by hand, clearing out a space in the honeycomb centre. Muttonbirds, pigeons and all other birds that were taken in large numbers were also preserved in their own fat. The birds were roasted on a spit over a fire and the fat was collected in a trough below. It was kept liquid by means of hot stones. The hot fat was then poured over the bird in the container. In the case of birds other than muttonbirds, this container was usually a hollow gourd decorated with a carved wooden mouthpiece and a few of the bird's feathers as a kind of identification. The principle has been adapted to modern requirements by using tins instead of gourds and non-traditional meats such as pork."
---New Zealand Food & Cookery, David Burton [Mural Books:Aukland] 1987 (p. 9-10)

English culinary adaptations
"Muttonbird. This salty, fishy flavoured Maori delicacy is something of an acquired taste. The fact that it is also very greasy may account for the European pioneers calling it muttonbird, for there the resemblance ends. Its flavour is more akin to a mixture of wild duck and fish. Eaten by itself, muttonbird may be to overpowering for many palates; thus, the recipes given here contain bland ingredients to offset the strong flavour. Soaking the bird in cold water before cooking will get rid of some of its natural saltiness. To reduce the fat content and the strong flavour which it imparts, place the muttonbird in cold water and bring to a boil. Discard the water and bring to the boil in one or two further changes of water. Whether you simply soak the bird or boil it in several changes of water is purely a matter of personal preference, although the latter may lessen the food value of the bird, whose oil is said to be rich in vitamins, iodine and calcium.

"Grilled Muttonbird
Wipe bird with a warm damp cloth to which vinegar has been added, and prick all over to allow the fat to escape. Place the opened-out bird on a wire rack with a dish underneath. Grill under low heat--the fat scorches very easily. Allow about 10 minutes per side. Serve with a plain boiled rice or potatoes.. Serves 2."

Muttonbird supreme
1 muttonbird
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
milk
3 Tbs white wine
Wipe bird with warm damp cloth to which vinegar has been added. Prick bird all over and place on a wire rack in a covered oven dish. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 1 hour. Meanwhile, melt butter, blend in flour and stir in enough milk to make a smooth white sauce. Add wine and pour over cooked muttonbird. Serves 2. ---New Zealand Food & Cookery, David Burton [Mural Books:Aukland] 1987 (p. 890)
[NOTE: this book contains recipes for Roast muttonbird (with orange sauce), Muttonbird croquettes, Roast stuffed muttonbird, Muttonbird paste, and Muttonbird and potato pie.]

"The fresh birds are sold in Tasmanian butcher shops and takeaways; salted birds are exported to New Zealand, where they are popular among the Maori. Taste is very subjective. Some people hate them--in a shop they don't look very appetizing--but others love them. Among "Fumeaux Island Recipes" printed in the Aboriginal Newsletter (Melbourne) are suggestions for baked, grilled, fried, or curried young birds and the following recipe for Old Bird Sea Pie:

Old Bird Sea Pie Ingredients
4 old muttonbirds (cleaned and gutted)
1 large onion
large carrot
1 large swede [turnip]
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
4 large potatoes
2 tablespoons fat (from fried birds)
Sea Pie Crust
3 to 4 cups [self-rising] flour
3 tablespoons fat
enough water for a scone mix dough
Method Cut muttonbirds into quarters, place in a pot, add salt, pepper and fat and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then let simmer for 1 1/2 hrs. Peel and slice vegetables and add to pot, let simmer for 1/4 of an hour, then add potatoes. Put into bowl flour, salt and fat. Rub fat into flour, add water and mix to texture of scone dough. Turn out on to floured board and roll out with rolling pin until it is the same size as the pot. Place dough on top of the muttonbirds, cut hole in middle of dough and let boil for another 3/4 of an hour. Serve hot."
---"To Taste a Muttonbird," Irynej Skira, Natural History, November 1995 (p. 5)

"Mutton Bird or Shearwater
(Puffinus griseus)
A petrel of the south seas which lives and breeds on the islands south of New Zealand. They are extremely numerous, and when very young are thought a great delicacy in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. The day after being killed they are split open, the wings, head and legs having been cut off, and dry salt is rubbed over them. They are preserved in casks like kippers. In the 1930s they were introduced in this way into England, but do not seem to have been much of a success. The flavour is not unlike wild duck, but rather fishy. They are usually grilled, and served with apple sauce."
---Game Cooking: A Collection of Recips with a Dictionary of Rare Game, Theodora Fitzgibbon [Andre Deutsch:London] 1963 (p. 243)


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