Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The domestic arts

My trip down memory lane continues.... Anyone else remember the home economics textbook, Cookery the Australian Way (CAW)?

I have kept my copy of it from high shool all these years and find it really useful when I need to know basic stuff I have somehow managed not to learn before now (how long to roast a chicken?) and how to make traditional dishes, such as pavlova or scones (which probably also fall into the category of basic stuff).

I've referred to CAW twice in the past three days. In fact, I probably refer to it more than any other cookbook I own (save for Friendly Food, the recipe book for my allergy elimination diet, at the moment).

I'm really quite fond of it, partly for its usefulness, partly because it taught me the basics of nutrition, and partly because it's a culinary and cultural time capsule. I have the third edition, which was published in January 1980. Australian kitchens and diets - Australian society - have undergone huge changes since then.

Bits I love about CAW -

* Three of the four editors have Diplomas in Domestic Arts. Domestic Arts!

* The use of the term "home-maker", which I suppose was quite progressively gender-neutral for the times, but seems so quaint now.

"The purchase of food is generally the responsibility of the home-maker, who should always endeavour to prpvide the family with nourishing and palatable meals."

* The advice on dinner parties, including

"Arranging flowers for a party table may take some time and should be done early, when the matter can be given undivided attention."

* The pointers on table manners, which include

"You can add to the pleasant atmosphere of the meal if you contribute to the conversation with interesting topics."

* The parade of "classic" dishes, such as

  • Tuna or salmon mornay
  • Hamsteaks and pineapple (although it omits the glace cherry garnish, which frankly is a glaring gap in the performance of the domestic arts, if you ask me)
  • Scotch eggs
  • Sweet and sour pork casserole - yes, it has tinned pineapple in it
  • An array of offal recipes, such as fricasee of brains, which requires the home-maker to acquire "2 sets brains" and simmer and strain them before removing the membranes and blood vessels. Gak!
  • Macaroni and ham salad
  • Junket
  • Blancmange
  • Sago
  • Flummery
  • Golden syrup dumplings, which I love. We ate them a lot when I was a kid. It was the only dessert my mother knew how to cook when she was first married. Later came chocolate self-saucing pudding....mmmmm.

Needless to say, I'm pleased to see Cookery the Australian Way is still in print. That's the latest edition - the seventh - above, which is a special 60th anniversary edition, including special comments from people who have "fond memories" of using the book over the years. I think I might get me a copy.

I'm also pleased to see doyenne of the domestic arts Shirley Cameron is still in the CAW kitchen. She must be getting on a bit now.


The Infamous Mrs. BlueBalls said...

I have quite a collection of cook books. I'm downsizing these days so I will be parting with a goodly portion of them. But I love old and unusual cook books. I got a couple last time I was in Melbourne that claim "Authentic Australian Cuisine" that uses ingredients found there. Example: Kangaroo Stew.

dam buster said...

I fondly remember doing 'home economics' in high school which included the cooking bit. Spag Bog, Beef Sprog etc were all done with the greatest of care.

Jayne said...

Oh, yes, we still have that book kicking around here, it's a goldmine!

Small Footprints said...

Old cookbooks are like history books. I found one from the 1800's ... the owner wrote little comments next to her favorite recipes ... not necessarily comments about the recipe itself but rather what was happening in her family. Things like the husband and sons had worked hard in the fields, all day, so a hearty stew was appropriate for dinner ... or the baby was cutting teeth and this pudding would calm the household. As a vegetarian, I couldn't use most of the recipes (they were big on animal products in those days) but I find the running commentary just fascinating. :)

Thanks for sharing your "history book".

BTW ... I was wondering ... does Earth Hour get a lot of publicity in your area ... and do most people participate? I'm fascinated with the whole concept ... and Australia gets the credit for starting this lovely event.

Small Footprints

Jayne said...

Yesterday my eldest Feral Queen rang and asked for the recipe for flaky pastry from our copy of that very book - we had a chuckle when I told her about your blog post :)

Frisky Librarian said...

Hi Mrs Blueballs. That's quite a bold claim - "authentic Australian cuisine" but maybe they just mean that the dishes are made with native Australian ingredients? Do they use witchety grubs in anything?

Hey db. I have some fond and not-so-fond memories of home ec. The not-so-fond memories include a vegetable soup that looked like vomit. And pumkin pie. My American readers will no doubt be aghast, but, gak! What's with making pumpkin into a dessert?

Hi Jayne. Glad to hear someone else knows the book and of course I am tickled pink by the funny little coincidence of your Feral Queen ringing up for a recipe from it!

Hello small footprints. That cook book sounds fantastic. What a great find. I think I might start looking for old cookbooks at second hand bookshops.

Re Earth Hour - it got a lot of publicity last year, but this year the buzz seems to have er...dimmed. There's talk that the lower profile this year is due to there being so many other things at the forefront of the public mind - like the global economic downturn and job losses and I suppose the bushfires recently. I'm not sure how it will go this year...I'll be turning my lights off though! !

The Infamous Mrs. BlueBalls said...

Actually they do! They use native Australian ingredients and I do think that witchety grubs are in something. I'll have to track down the book and post a recipe. Right now most of the books are stored away while we do work on the house.