Monday, July 04, 2011

The Colonial Cook Book
The Recipes of By-Gone Australia

Can you hear me clapping?

I have a shelf filling fast with historical resources. I know, the things that make me happy!  Books and other treasures I've found while scouring junk shops and second hand book stores. And I have a favourite.

For my novel The Everlasting, I've been collecting all I can get my hands on about the early pioneers who settled Phillip Island. Those gutsy families who carried themselves and their possessions across the bay to establish new homes in the late 1860s. By the mid 1870s the small community of farmers and fishermen were making their mark on the island.

While I have material specific to island life, what I really wanted was a cook book. A really old cook book. When you know about a family's table, you have a wonderful picture of their lives, the ingredients and staples in their kitchens and the chores which occupied their days.

With 5 minutes up my sleeve, I visited a thrift store one afternoon on the way to collect my son from school. A quick loop of the shop yielded nothing, until beside the door I spotted a shelf of books. Nothing, nothing, nothing... I scanned each row in vain and would've reached for the door handle when I almost tripped over a stack of hardcover books on the floor.

You know where I'm going ...

From that stack, I pulled the 100 year anniversary edition of Australia's earliest cookbook. Typeset to match the original, The Colonial Cook Book pleaded for a new home, not only offering a collection of recipes, but wisdom of that era and observations of colony life. And all for $2!

For a history nut, this book is golden. For a child of God, it's answered prayer. I've been blessed with many resources since then, but I will always remember this one as a wink from heaven. An early addition to my resource library, just when I needed it most.

And what did I learn from this book about life in Colonial Australia? Stay tuned.....