Recording date:

Celebrate the 150th anniversary and the new print and digital editions of The English and Australian Cookery Book by Tasmanian Edward Abbott with an afternoon of food conversation. Join food historians and writers Barbara Santich, Matthew Evans, Bernard Lloyd and Tony Marshall for a discussion about Australia’s culinary heritage.

Panel Discussion - A Culinary History

Date: 13/09/14
Location: NationalLibrary of Australia

I’d now like to move us on to the next part of our program which is the free flowing conversation I mentioned a little bit earlier.  Barbara will now be joined by Tony Marshall and Matthew Evans.  Now Barbara I’ve already said a few words about and I’d like to introduce to you Tony Marshall who recently retired after 36 years working with Heritage Collections at the State Libraries of Victoria and Tasmania, and Tony’s path crossed with mine many years ago in the State Library of Victoria, it’s very nice to see him again. 

Tony is now an Honorary Research Associate in history and classics at the University of Tasmania.  His research interests are principally biographical, apart from a long standing obsession with a surveyor Nathaniel Lipscom Kentish, his recent work has focussed on the Book Collector, Justin McCarthy Brown, the author, soldier and settlor Henry Butler Stoney and of course Edward Abbott.

And the third guest will be well known to most of you and I feel I hardly need to introduce him, Matthew Evans, has cooked and written about food for many years, in 2008 Matthew made the big leap from the rat race of inner Sydney across the Tasman to a farm outside Hobart where he breeds pigs, grows food and continues to write, producing eight books in six years.

Now many of you will know that Matthew’s a Canberra boy, but I’ve got another piece of good news and that is that there is to be a fourth series of Gourmet Farmer to be broadcast on SBS in 2015.  Would you please welcome Matthew, Tony and Barbara.  [clapping].

Matthew Evans

So there was a suggestion that I was an expert at the very start when Amelia first introduced us and I’m not on this book.  The only time I’ve ever read this book was on a boat when we were sailing around Tasmania and I get sea sick so I’ve read one sentence at a time in between gazing out at the horizon.  But I really want to ask Tony about the man who wrote this book but before I do that I just wanted you to describe kangaroo steamer, what kangaroo steamer is for the people who don’t know that dish.

Barbara Santich

Kangaroo cut up small, sometimes it might be minced, although it probably then would have been minced with a knife rather than through a mincing machine, with salt pork, with salt and pepper, sometimes some herb with an onion, sometimes an onion stuck with cloves, and that’s essentially all it was, but it was in a very – a container with a very tight fitting lid and it should have been cooked in a pot of water, that was the standard jugging technique, so you had your jug that you put into a pot of water so that it steamed, just sort of cooked very, very slowly gently for quite a long time, several hours, three hours or more.  But I said it was also adapted to campfire cooking, so people who had a camp oven, and you know what a camp oven is, you could do your kangaroo steamer in that camp over and put it in the coals where it would cook slowly, gently, while you went out and shot another kangaroo for the next day.

Matthew Evans

Fantastic thanks Barbara.  When I’ve been telling people about the – Australia’s first cookbook they all sort of go oh what was her name, the author?  And Edward Abbott is a curious person to have written Australia’s first cookbook can you tell us about him?

Tony Marshall

Well he’s a curious and very interesting person, that goes without saying I think.  He came to Tasmania very early in his life, his father was appointed as the first Deputy Judge Advocate, that is the first judge in Van Diemen’s Land and at the age of 17 young Edward, his father was also Edward, young Edward was appointed his father’s clerk.  Now that was with a nominal salary of 80 pounds a year, but there was so many perks involved in that position that he was actually pulling in about 400 pounds a year.  So by the time he was 20 or 21, he owned vast swathes of land in the upper Derwent Valley northwest of Hobart, had very extensive stock holdings.  When Lieutenant Government Arthur came to Van Diemen’s Land he refused to appoint Edward Abbott to a position in the government, that didn’t really matter because he had nine and a half thousand acres of land, he had six or seven thousand head of stock, he was among the first wool producers in Tasmania, he was selling meat to the commissariat store in Hobart and in the early 1830s, so by that time, by the time he was 30 or so he was a very successful man.  He was Treasurer of the Agricultural Society, he was involved in the racing club he was a figure – a young up and coming figure in society.  But as a result of a land grant that went wrong, a grant that an earlier Governor had made to his father, and which Governor Arthur then rescinded, it was for a piece of land known then as the Launceston Swamp.  For those of you who know Launceston, it’s now the suburb of Invermay, so it’s 220 acres, it was a very substantial grant.

And Governor Arthur rescinded the grant, and the family decided to fight and the burden of the fight fell on young Edward’s shoulders, so from the early 1830s until the resolution of the case in 1860 he was fighting this case, and it took him to the Supreme Court in Hobart, it took him to appeals to the Governor, to the Privy Council in London, hither and yon spending an awful lot of money on this case.  He sold up all of his land in the Derwent Valley and his stock, he put some of that money into establishing a newspaper called the Hobart Town Advertiser, which he maintained for four years and then sold.  Announced that he was going to England to fight his law case, but didn’t get there, spent some years unemployed but continuing to fight his law case, and at the same time appealing to the Governor to employ him, which I think was a pretty long shot given he - - -

Matthew Evans

He was arguing with them.

Tony Marshall

-  - - his activities.  He was eventually appointed as a visiting magistrate in a new area called Clarence on the eastern shore of the Derwent River, and he commuted from his home in Glenorchy to there, things to do with the law case got so bad that he had to sell up his – his property at Glenorchy, move to Clarence, where he then became the representative in the House of Assembly for Clarence in the first Representative Parliament in Tasmania.  Continued to represent Clarence in first the Lower House and then the Upper House, the Legislative Council, right through to 1867, also became the first Mayor of Clarence in 1860 when Clarence was given – was established as a municipality, but the other big thing that happened in 1860 was that finally the court case, the land case was resolved, it actually required an act of Parliament, called Edward Abbott’s Land Grant Act, he was awarded 3,000 pounds, and I think Barbara and I might not quite agree on this, but I think that despite the fact that he was a member of Parliament and a Mayor and a Coroner and a Magistrate, he was looking around for something to do, and he was clearly interested in food and temporarily he had money in his – money in his pocket to spend, and he started working on the cookery book.  We don’t know when he began to start working – began work on the cookery book, but we know that he was working on it right up till the end of 1863, because as Barbara has already point out it is in fact a scrap book.  There are quotations, he claims in his preface to have consulted over 1000 authorities all sorts of subjects, I’ve in fact identified about 300 various works that he quotes and cites.

Some of those quotations and his references go right up to the end of 1863, I might just finish this little section by saying that one of the things that he was really interested in was ploughing matches.  And ploughing matches were a very important thing at the time, they were a great community event, they were almost the equivalent of an agricultural show, they’d be a great feast day and a competition and they were very wide spread. 

In 1863 in Tasmania there were over 20 ploughing matches, most of them condensed into a season that went from about September to November and there was a grand ploughing match in his municipality of Clarence in late October 1863 and he wrote a poem about it, called the Revels at Rokeby, which is a very funny poem, he was a man with a sense of humour and I think this is a very funny poem and we’ve actually managed to include it in the Companion Volume with some – that goes with the new edition of the cookery book, with a lot of annotations to explain what might not have been understandable.  And that talked quite a bit about the food that was prepared for the event.

There’s one more thing I want to say, although he was a member of Parliament, he was a Mayor, to some extent he was an outsider.  I think that the prosecution of the land case to some extent, brought ridicule upon him.  The newspapers at the time were very fiercely divided, some of them great supporters of him, some of – others of them were really condemnatory of him.

He also, and with apologise to the member of his family who is in the audience, I have to say that he lived a rather irregular life.  We knew until recently of only one – one child, a son who was born in 1843, as a result of some family papers that have recently come to light, courtesy of a descendent who is the audience today, Lynette Ross, we now know that he in fact had four children, born between 1836 and 1843, and the woman that we presume was the mother, he married in April 1852, two months after he was quizzed in a court case in which he was involved as a witness and he was asked if he was living with an unmarried woman and he was forced by the judge to answer the question, and yes he was.  So I think his lifestyle was in some respects rather irregular, and that might also have been a reason why he was if not right on the fringes at least to some extent marginalised, as a member of the – the respectable Tasmania community.

Barbara Santich

I think he was also a prickly character.

Tony Marshall

He was an immensely prickly character and thank you for reminding me about that.  He – he did assault a fellow member of Parliament in the House of Parliament, and on another occasion on one of his numerable court appearances over the land claim, the Premier of Tasmania was also the Attorney-General and Abbott assaulted him outside the court house, because he as Attorney-General was representing the government in this case and Abbott was aggrieved by the whole thing, so yes there are numerous documented instances of him resorting to violence.

Matthew Evans

I don’t hear you say he was a cook or that he had great – he was famed for his dinner parties.

Tony Marshall

Well the problem is we don’t have evidence.  There are very – you know those sorts of things don’t get reported in the newspapers.  Yes there was a dinner at the Ship Hotel, yes there was a dinner for the Annual meeting of the Agricultural Society.  We don’t know what the menus for those dinners on the whole, I don’t think, so we don’t know what sorts of things are being eaten, we only know what toasts were pronounced and what was drunk to some extent.  There’s the odd reference to his interest in food quite early on, there’s a newspaper report about some magnificent potatoes that were grown on his property in the Derwent Valley.  There’s not a lot else about food, so we don’t know.  I think we can only presume, I really like Barbara’s idea of the scrap book that as a newspaper proprietor, possibly not the editor of the paper, but certainly the proprietor he would have had access to a lot of other newspapers which at that time were – it was the practice to print extracts from other newspapers all over the world, so things would go through an iteration of a newspaper in England and extract being published in a newspaper in America, and the American paper getting Van Diemen’s land the same little – little pissy extract being published in that.  He had the opportunity to assemble a lot of information, but in the cookbook he does write about his own activities with food, from a fairly late stage.  He talks for example about the type of stove that he uses.  Now that type of stove was first advertised in Tasmania in 1859, what he was doing before that we don’t know, but we know certainly from that time on how he was cooking and what he was cooking on his stove, but there isn’t a great deal of evidence, there’s some on the cookery book not a great deal of evidence about just what his own active participation in food was.

Barbara Santich

But I think his interest in food also, because he was a foodie, and he was a very particular foodie, there is this way to do it, which is my way and there’s no other way, but I think that also put him on the outer a bit, because there wouldn’t have been other people in Tasmania at that time, in Hobart at that time who shared that interest.

Tony Marshall

That’s right.

Barbara Santich

And who would have been quite so pedantic about if you’re going to eat this then you have to eat it with mushroom sauce; other people might not have cared so much.

Tony Marshall

There are some other hints when he’s talking about hams he says that he has the right to talk about this because he’s regarded as more than an amateur in the production of hams.  He gets very excited about a thing called pyroligneous acid, which is used - - -

Matthew Evans

Yeah it’s in his kangaroo ham.

Tony Marshall

-  - - yeah and he’s actually active in the passing of – of an Act by the Tasmania Parliament to permit the distillation of pyroligneous acid.

Matthew Evans

What’s that in today’s terms?  pyroligneous acid.

Tony Marshall

It’s wood curing of meat.

Matthew Evans

Oh right, oh wow, fantastic.

Tony Marshall

Yeah.

Matthew Evans

Historically is it unusual at that point for men to be writing cookbooks?

Barbara Stanich

No, no, in – in England, well starting in France we had [unclear 00:55:14] in 1803, no a bit later than that, 1803 through to about 1812.  Then we had Brillat-Savarin in 1826 and then the – the people that Abbott quotes were writing in England, they’re writings were sort of derived Brillat-Savarin and they were translating, but also commenting on.  So some of the things that he quotes from the original and by Heywood, and you know that was where our astrologists came from was first used, this is all part of a tradition of men starting to write about food, and they’re writing about it, these aren’t cookbooks they’re writing, they’re writing from the dining room [unclear 00:56:04] was writing at the dining room, he’s not talking about the cooking, he’s talking about the eating and that’s the difference.  Men can talk about the eating, but women are supposed to write about the cooking.

Tony Marshall

Yeah.  However can I just say that the two cookery books or two cookery book writers that he compares his book to most directly are Eliza Acton and Alexa Sawyer.

Barbara Santich

That’s right yes.

Tony Marshall

And Sawyer is writing for the whole gamut of food for the very rich, right down to food for the very poor and Acton is being – she’s writing her bread book and her cookery book and they’re the books that they compares his too and thinks that he’s going to fit somewhere into that spectrum.

Matthew Evans

He makes it quite clear this is a book for the discerning housewife, you know there’s actually I think a section where he actually talks about that, but he doesn’t put is name to this book.  It’s obvious that it’s written by a man, he states that, that it’s a man writing it, but he doesn’t actually put his name on it, is there a reason for that?

Tony Marshall

He puts his initials on it EA.

Barbara Santich

Yes.

Tony Marshall

And he identifies himself as an Australian aristologist and that term comes from a man called Thomas Walker, who was a magistrate in London who in 1835 wrote and published a weekly newspaper himself.  He wrote the whole lot, had it published and he wrote a long series of articles about food and he coined the term aristology and aristologist as meaning a student of the art of dining.  And it’s interesting to see how aristologist and aristology come through a couple of those articles are reprinted in a Sydney newspaper, there is a mock aristologist who writes one article in a Hobart newspaper in the late 1840s, the original itself, that newspaper that came for a week – for about six months in 1835 is reprinted several times and copies of that get to Australia.

Barbara Santich

Yes.

Tony Marshall

So there are ways – he would have been – he probably had access to that at least in a library and maybe had his own copy.  So that’s where he takes the aristologist from.  But it becomes known quite early that he is the one who’s writing the cookery book. 

Matthew Evans

Right.

Tony Marshall

He’s actually identified in Parliament by one of his few colleagues Parliament says that it’s well known that the member for Clarence is – is at present working on a cookery book.

Matthew Evans

Right.  Aristologist though I guess what is modern term is foodie something like that or - - -

Tony Marshall

Yeah, yeah and the term hasn’t stuck obviously.

Matthew Evans

No.

Tony Marshall

We epicurean and we have gourmet, it just hasn’t – foodie now, it just hasn’t stuck.

Matthew Evans

Has this book – it took 80 years for this book to come out after they started to colonise Australia, so in terms of a written reference is that a short time or a long time Barbara?

Barbara Santich

Um well he did get it – I’m not sure if there were any publishers in Australia at that time, he got his book published in England and I don’t know there are a lot of English cookbooks that were arriving in Australia.  There was a wide supply of cookbooks from England that came with every ship, and possibly people didn’t feel the need to produce one that was specifically for Australia because they knew that they could just adapt a recipe from whatever it was Eliza Acton or even Mrs Beaton, that they could adapt it, and some of them didn’t even need adaptation, I mean there’s some of the recipes that I’ve quote for puddings from Mrs Beaton’s book it goes straight into Abbott.  So they might not have seen the need to produce a book, that’s why I sais about Abbott see it as – seeing the book as something that represented an Australian identity, this is something that you can waive and say this is who we are.

Matthew Evans

Yeah.  Was it a huge – was it a runaway success this book when it came out?

Barbara Santich

Not really.

Tony Marshall

No not really.  It came out in England in September 1864, so we’re almost right on time for that.  Didn’t get to the colonies until December 1864, it was advertised very widely all over South Australia, NSW, Victoria, Queensland, New Zealand, each book seller and each state seemed to adopt a different approach to advertising it and picking out particular aspects of it.  Abbott was very good at promoting his own cause, so for example he wrote to the Agricultural Society in Ballarat in Victoria and said I see that your Agricultural Show is coming up would you like to display a copy of my book at the show?  And I can send it to you and have copies available for sale, you know he was doing a Bernard Lloyd, he was going around if not travelling the country himself, he was at least by mail, he was able to spruik the book all over the place.  He was writing letters going back to the pyroligeous acid he was writing letters to newspapers all over Australia promoting that and implicitly at least promoting the cookery book.  But no we understand that about 3,000 copies were printed, he probably put up the money for it, and he probably never got his money back.

Matthew Evans

Right

Tony Marshall

The last advertisements I found for it were in fact in Indian newspapers where it ended up being remained at about two rupees a copy.  [laughing].

Matthew Evans

So you can see - - -

Barbara Santich

But it was a critical success, all the reviews, all the reviews and there were many reviews both in Australia and in England, they were all very positive in particularly the English ones were enthusing about the fact that there was an Australian cook book and Mr Abbott has done everybody a good service by drawing the Australian scene to our attention.

Matthew Evans

Well what would critics know I guess.  [laughing].  So I used to review restaurants for the Sydney Morning Herald, and whenever we gave the restaurant best new restaurant in The Guide, it was pretty much a kiss of death [laughing].  So it’s interesting if you see the sort of the subtitle of the book, it’s cookery for the many as well the upper 10,000, so he didn’t even manage to sell to the – to the upper 10,000.  So about 3,000 copies?

Tony Marshall

3,000 were printed we understand yeah.

Matthew Evans

And how many are still in circulation?

Tony Marshall

Oh I don’t know how many copies there are in private collections but I reckon there are something between – oh probably around 20 copies in institutional libraries in Australia.  There’s one in the collection here at the National Library, we’ve got four at the State Library of Tasmania, thanks to some not only the library’s own collecting, but private collectors who have donated their collections.  The major – the major institutional libraries have got them, there’s one at the Alexander Turnbull Library in New Zealand, there are three or four copies in English libraries I think, but - - -

Matthew Evans

And there’s one in that bag.

Tony Marshall

-  - - that’s right there’s one in that bag you will be able see later.  But I think not many have survived, which I suppose on one hand might suggest that it was cooked from, and they were just damaged to the extent of destruction through cooking, they may have just disappeared.  There was a copy that came on the market in Australia not long ago that had come from a convent school library, so it’s interesting to think of getting into those sorts of institutional libraries.  On the last page of the Companion Volume there’s a very funny little advertisement I found from one of the Hobart newspapers seeking two copies of the book for a hotel in Sorrell, east of – east of Hobart, why they needed two copies I don’t know.

Matthew Evans

In case you get pork fat on one of the pages.

Barbara Santich

We don’t know how many copies actually arrived in Australia.

Tony Marshall

No.

Barbara Santich

And we don’t know how many stayed in England where they might have just bene remained and burnt.

Tony Marshall

That’s right and you might guess that maybe what if it was a print run of 3000, maybe a couple of thousand came to Australia and some to New Zealand and maybe a thousand – 500 to 1000 in England, and some for the Indian market which would have been quite important too.

Matthew Evans

Right.  So if Abbott funded this, and it – it struggled to sell.

Tony Marshall

Yeah.

Matthew Evans

And ended up at two rupees on a remainders table in India.

Tony Marshall

Table in Bombay, in Calcutta.

Matthew Evans

So did he write it to reclaim his fortune that he’d been spending on these court cases?

Tony Marshall

At first I thought that he did but I think that – and he may have done so but he would have had other reasons for writing it and he certainly wouldn’t have got his money back.  It was advertised very extensively.  I think I mentioned that he got 3000 pounds, I might not have mentioned, but he got 3000 pounds eventually as compensation over the land case.  I calculated that one newspaper advertisement he inserted in one of the Launceston newspaper would have cost him three pounds, 15 shillings and that’s a lot.  You know if you’re doing that a lot it’s a very easy way to get through 3000 quid.

Matthew Evans

Yeah, was he referenced, you know you say it got critical acclaim but was he referenced after the book came out?  Did other cooks use his recipes of stuff from his book?

Barbara Santich

No I don’t think so, I think it just sort of – it just wasn’t recognised.  I don’t know there were many sales here we just don’t know about that, but no it wasn’t – it was recognised in the critical reviews as being an important book, but there were, it was – it was just one book among many and you know when you’re selling cookbooks that people will take the one with the prettiest pictures.

Matthew Evans

Yes.

Barbara Santich

But it was competing with other books.

Matthew Evans

I guess when I look at this book, and I think of this amazing moment in Australian history when someone’s taken indigenous animals and put them in the book and as you say not really plants but done animals, and finally we get this identity, I’m slightly saddened to think that there was this bright spark that dimmed very shortly after it came out.

Barbara Santich

Yes it sort of lasted through – through the 19th century and indigenous game was still featuring on menus into the – well into the 20th century, but it was menus you might get – you might get kangaroo, you might get wild duck, you would get all the seafood of course which is still indigenous.  We lost most of the – of the fauna, partly because of the spread of agriculture, not only farming but also grazing, grazing the – grazing of sheep virtually wiped out the Yam Daisy in Victoria which a lot of earlier settlors had eaten and enjoyed.  In the native currant that I mentioned that was made into jam, that existed in Sydney but there was also another cousin of it in South Australia and people made that into jams and jellies, but it was difficult to pick the little berries, so what they would do, and it was a plant that was a parasite, so it had to have a root on something in the ground, and when they got tired of picking the little individual berries one by one they’d yank out the plant and then it didn’t keep surviving.  So that was one and also the spread of agricultural in the bottom part of the Florey Peninsula meant that the poor native currant disappeared.  And I don’t – I don’t know that anybody has – there are some native plants, indigenous plants that have been made available through nurseries but I don’t think native currants is one of them, and I wish it were.  But the one I wish most of all were some attention was paid to it, would be the wonga pigeon, the wonga wonga, because everybody who ate it in the 19th century, it didn’t exist in Tasmania, so he didn’t necessarily eat it there, but everybody who ate it, praised it as being the very best pigeon, the very best game bird in the whole world.  And they still exist, but they’re protected like the wombat and a few of these other things that we - - -

Matthew Evans

Like swans.

Barbara Santich

- - - are not allowed to eat now.  But people may – people are experimenting with some native fruits, I don’t see why we can’t be experimenting with the animals as well.

Matthew Evans

Do we know what Edward Abbott looked like?

Tony Marshall

No we don’t and there is in the House of Assembly, the Tasmanian Parliament a board of portraits of all of the members of the House of Assembly, and he I think is the only one who’s represented on that board by a silhouette.

Matthew Evans

A silhouette?

Tony Marshall

So there is no other – there is no known image of him apart from that silhouette and who knows if that’s really him or not, if it was just something that was stuck on the board because they couldn’t get a proper photograph of him.  I mean photography was very common in the later period in which he was living, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t have been an image of him, except that he didn’t want there to be.

Barbara Santich

But nor do we have any descriptions of him, we don’t know if he was tall or short or - - -

Tony Marshall

Or portly.

Barbara Santich

- - - stout or rotund, no, left hander, right hander we don’t know.

Matthew Evans

How do we know all this stuff?  Sorry I’m not a researcher.

Tony Marshall

How do we know all what stuff?

Matthew Evans

Oh you know like you know how do you guys research?  Sorry this is a really dumb question, I get amazed – I just read the book and get – get astounded but you got well there’s 300 – at least 300 sources of information.

Tony Marshall

Oh well I count it.

Matthew Evans

But where do you find all that - - -

Barbara Santich

Have you got that many hands?

Matthew Evans

How do you know what’s happened you know with his family in 1823 and all that kind of stuff?

Tony Marshall

Well I have to say that for my research a lot of it comes from newspapers, and I did my first piece on Edward Abbott, first major piece back in 1999 for the Symposium of Australian Gastronomy, which was held in Hobart that year and I gave a key note address about Edward Abbott, which was then published – very curiously it was published in the Australian Library Journal, I’m not sure why.  Well I do know why but it’s a very strange place, but I was then asked if my essay could be republished in this newly published Companion Volume, and I looked at it and I said no, but I’ll rewrite it for you.  And the reason I said that I can answer in one word, and that word is Trove.  The National Library’s absolutely fabulous resource put together with state libraries and other libraries, which brings together so much really wonderful and important Australian material but in this case it was the digitised newspapers which enable us to search newspapers, so easily.  I mentioned that we know what sort of stove he refers to in his cookery book, I thought now when did – when might he have bene using that, it took me two minutes on Trove to find when that stove was first advertised in newspapers in Hobart Town in 1859.

Matthew Evans

Wow, so much less clever saying it took you two minutes.

Tony Marshall

Yeah but I had so many things that I needed to find out Matthew.

Matthew Evans

Yeah exactly.

Tony Marshall

So – and it’s a matter of dredging through archives.  You know – I don’t know what you needed to do, but I went dredging through the records of the Colonial Secretary’s office in the archives in Hobart, which means looking at the registers to find out if there are files relating to Abbott, then looking at the indexes to find out where those files are, then reading the original handwritten files on microfilm which is never easy, because they haven’t been digitised yet.  So there’s a lot of foot work involved metaphorically speaking in doing that sort of research.

Barbara Santich

And I took a lot of the books that he had referred too and acknowledged and some other ones that he didn’t, and tried to find, I didn’t do it for the whole book but I think this has been an interesting task to do, just to work out what bits of the book are Abbott’s own words and which are cut and pasted from other sources and I did some of that by – by as I said looking at some of the books that were around at the time, that he would have used or that he did use that we know he used and the trying to see where they were similar and where they weren’t similar.

Matthew Evans

Trying to work out what was original and what wasn’t.

Barbara Santich

There’s one I found that I don’t think he copied from anywhere which is just a paragraph on chocolate, and he says chocolate, you know it’s this big really.  He says chocolate is - - -

Matthew Evans

No wonder he didn’t sell it, you’ve got to have topic on chocolate.

Barbara Santich

-  - - no chocolate was a beverage, it was only a beverage.

Matthew Evans

He – he you know he was famed for the amount of – varieties of basil I believe he could grow and he used garlic in his cooking, and he was quite – he used quite bold flavours and interesting flavours and when you read the book, even though it’s steeped in that sort of Englishness, it’s actually quite encouraging to see the flavours that he was using.

Barbara Santich

We don’t know that he was using them do we?

Matthew Evans

No I guess not.

Barbara Santich

We know that he wrote about them, but we don’t – I mean this is one of the problems from a culinary historians point of view, you can say yes he reproduced those recipes but he might have just copied them because we know that he copied things from other sources.  He might just have copied those recipes and never have cooked or never have eaten them.  Now there are some that we know that he did cook and eat because he says, and gives his opinion of it, but other ones we don’t know.

Matthew Evans

Wow.

Barbara Santich

So that’s why I say we don’t just how representative this is of Australian food.

Matthew Evans

What he actually- - -

Barbara Santich

Tasmanian food in the 1860.

Tony Marshall

And the production of the book I think is problematic.  He wouldn’t have seen proofs of the book, he would have sent his manuscript off to England, we were doing some calculation about times that sea voyages would have taken, and I don’t think he could possibly have seen proofs of the book.  So he sent his manuscript, and it would have been a manuscript of course, a handwritten document, off to the publisher in England.  The book itself as you will see when you look at it, is very curious in general the recipes are set in quite a large type face, it’s a large font, most of the extracts that he takes from other people are set in a smaller type face, some of them almost unreadably small, yes you’ll need your glasses.  And you might assume that all of the sections that are in a large type face were things that he – were written by him, but that’s not so.  Quite a lot of those are not by him.  The section on herbs that you’ve just referred to I started looking at that thinking oh well you know he would have used this and he would have used that, but I came to the conclusion that I think that that was a lot of that was probably nicked from other people. 

Matthew Evans

Right.  He actually expresses the – the view in this book that this is the start of something that he wants this to be the genesis of almost a new Australian cuisine, and when I read about those herbs even if he didn’t use them, when he talks about those recipes and introduces them to the Australian public, did we – I mean where we are now is amazing, but did we go backwards for a time after Edward Abbott?

Barbara Santich

I don’t know, no I don’t think so.  I think that we certainly not, no things continued to progress in the 19th century.  One of the things that happened in the 19th century was the acceptance of tomatoes, they started – well in South Australia they were growing them within a few years of the colony – well it wasn’t – I suppose it was a colony, the settlement starting, so that was 1836, so they were certainly growing tomatoes by 1840.  And if you look through the Seeds Catalogues, plant catalogues in Sydney and early gardening books- - -

Tony Marshall

And in Tasmania and Hobart.

Barbara Santich

- - - and Tasmania you can see the – you see a lot of those herbs as well.  So we think that they were around and - - -

Matthew Evans

Well I guess the reason I ask, is I’ve seen Australia’s first gardening book as well which is written - - -

Barbara Santich

Yes.

Matthew Evans

-  - - you know a guy who was working in Tasmania, in I think it was 1828 or something, but so there’s - - -

Tony Marshall

Mid 30s I think.

Matthew Evans

- - - mid 30s was it, so 1830s, and there’s salsify and kale and all this kind of stuff, well I grew up in Canberra, no offence Canberra, [laughing] God I’m back here, I usually – I get away with this joke some places, I won’t tell the joke.  1970s Canberra – I was an apprentice chef in Canberra when I went in a regional cooking competition and the only things that I could be buy that were grown locally were parsley and apple juice.  [laughing]

Barbara Santich

So you could make really something delicious out of that.

Matthew Evans

So that’s why I think perhaps we went backwards for a time or that perhaps the thing is that maybe the things that were in the book never did exist here in parts of Australia in more interior parts of Australia and have now only just come to the surface.  I mean using garlic, I remember talking to Charmaine Solomon she wrote a recipe in the 1970s for the Women’s Weekly I think she was working for at the time and used some garlic in it and got abused, got an abusive letter saying how dare you cook Diego food in the Women’s Weekly.  So that’s why I kind of wonder if as a nation, you know, I’m interested, you say no.

Barbara Santich

I think we have to remember that in the 20th century there was – well there was a war at the end of the 19th century then there was the First World War, then there was Depression, then there was the Second World War and this changes, first of all it changes people’s mentality, but it also changes the supply of ingredients.  A lot of the foods that you were talking about the vegetables they were grown in home gardens, home gardens started to disappear in the well in the 20th century, so there was a lot more self sufficiency in the 19th century, because they had too.

Matthew Evans

So Barbara comes from South Australia anyone - - -

Barbara Santich

I don’t I come from NSW.

Matthew Evans

Oh well you live in South Australia sorry, but if you go to South Australia I reckon they had a pretty – pretty good culinary history compared to other parts of Australia, I think there’s been a lot of ways immigration have kept quite a variety of foods in South Australia that haven’t necessarily existing in other parts of Australia.  So you’re from NSW that’s interesting, but we won’t talk about that now [laughing].  I think we’re probably getting close to time so yeah thank you, these are the two book I’ll be launching them in a minute, but there’s a Companion Volume that goes with it, we didn’t really talk about today that both these people have contributed to and I haven’t, so that’s worth a read.  [laughing]  Thank you.

Barbara Santich

Thank you.

Tony Marshall

Thank you.  [clapping].

Amelia Mackenzie

Thank you so much Matthew, Barbara and Tony for a really interesting conversation.  I can’t think of three better people to be talking about food to each other and to us all.  But I really wonder what Edward Abbott would have made of all this, and I kind of wish he could have been here to tell us what he thought.

Now I would like to give you a chance to have a look at the book and move on to the next stage of the afternoon, where we are officially launching the new print and digital editions of the English and Australian Cookery Book, and focussing on the National Library’s edition of the 1864 publication it was displayed in our Treasures Gallery in 2012, and the Library knew, as libraries do, that it as a really significant piece of Australia’s history.  So it was put on display for a period and we took the opportunity to digitise it.  And I have to apologise for what you see there as we call it a library binding [laughing], it means that for one reason and another the original binding didn’t survive or perhaps was too damage to be saved, so it was replaced with a standard library binding. 

Now what you’re looking at is Trove, and Tony very generously mentioned Trove just now, it is indeed a fantastic resource for all sorts of things.  We are – in fact this is the first time we’re showing to a public group the new – what we call the new delivery system for digitised books and journals and that means the new way it’s presented online.  So this is the first page that you would see when are searching for this work in Trove.  And as you can see there’s a contents page down there, and we’ll just click through to open it up, and this is what it looks like.  This is what we were looking at a bit earlier on, and looking at it in two page view, I’ll just get that closer, and once you’re in the – the page views it is possible to if you wish to take a closer look at any of the part of the page to enlarge what you’re looking at.  So the National Library’s copy is a signed copy so we can take a closer look at the inscription by zooming in or zooming out.  Okay so we now know it’s a forged signature.  [laughing].

I’d also like to draw your attention to these little navigation icons along the left hand side and anybody who works in newspapers will be familiar with these, but it’s also possible to do a search of the contents and I can’t resist [laughing] down the left hand side you can see where the references are to those particular search terms and there it is.  So we can’t see that.  What we’re looking at of course is a facsimile of a page which is what happens when we digitise, it is also possible to call up the transcription of the content and this is the beauty of our new online display in that you’re not just looking at a flat image but the transcribed text through optical character recognition or OCR we call it for short.  Some of you will know about those things.  And this also allows you to cut and paste or indeed to correct the text if you’re of a mind – if you’re of a mind if you see little slips and our newspaper users will be very familiar with this when we render a digitised page into a machine readable characters into OCR text sometimes the characters are not read fully by the machine and we have made it possible for members – anybody who wishes to help us out by correcting those areas of transcription and it’s be a hugely successful with our newspaper service we have many dedicated text correctors around the country.

So I hope you’ll have many happy hours exploring the book and exploring Trove and – and when you’re looking in Trove of course the beauty of it is that it will lead you off in other directions as well.

So thank you for allowing me to do that and it’s now time to move back into the print world and specifically spend some time talking about the new print facsimile edition of the English and Australian Cookery Book.  So let me introduce Bernard Lloyd who is with us to officially get the launch of the edition off today.  Bernard is an author and a culinary historian, another one, based – also based in Tasmania who I notice like our speakers if very well represented in the National Library’s catalogue.  Bernard has been instrumental in the republication of the English and Australian Cookery Book so it’s very fitting that he is with us here today, thank you Bernard.  [clapping]

Bernard Lloyd

Thank you very much for inviting me to be here.  About 10 years ago I started to write a book or compile a book about food and drink in Tasmania, Before We Eat it’s called and at that time I came across this person who’s book we didn’t know his name it was just EA, who’d written this book so long ago and I went into the State Library of Tasmania and I picked it up this little green book, this tiny type in it and started reading the most to me extraordinary picture of a world and also as a writer looking at another writer how the things that he thought were important in the world I was captivated by this book and I quoted at him all the way through, he’s a kind of a leap motive in that book Before We Eat.

And then five years ago I worked on another Tasmanian cookery book, it’s called Tasmania’s Table, which is itself a kind of a scrap book of pictures of you know beautiful dishes and cooks and their signature dishes and Tasmanian ingredients praising them all up, as Abbott did, it’s one thing that hasn’t come out so far, he loved Australian ingredients, he talked about the fish, he talked about the beer, he talked about the things that were produced in this country with tremendous patriotism. 

Then about two years ago came to our – I’m not very good with maths, but it was going to be in two years’ time 2014 was going to be 150 years since the book was published, it was sequecentury and as we know you couldn’t get hold of this book, it was in library, you could look at it with gloves but there was only a couple – a dozen copies or so available how could anyone else see this book, well it seemed a good time to republish it.  And so we gathered together all that we knew, we took the pieces that from the academic world and everything that we could discover that had been written about Edward Abbott, we put that on one side and we also approached the State Library of Tasmania which has got the largest collection of the book, and they’ve got one beautiful copy which yes does have the original cover on it.  And the State Library very kindly gave us a digital version of that – of the entire book, minus two pages we discovered late in the process.

And then we wanted a photograph of Edward Abbott and so we looked and of course we couldn’t find any and my co-publisher who’s not here, Paul County come up with the idea well maybe some of his family has lived, survived, maybe they’ve got a photograph.  So we employed a family historian, a genealogist, and she traced the Abbotts through six – four – five generations.  Five generations and we ended up with Lyn Abbott nee Ross, Lyn Ross nee Abbott and I telephoned her yes she was a descendent of Edward Abbott, and actually she did have, you might be a bit surprised Bernard I’ve got some things, have you got a photograph?  Well I might have.  Well so we met, it turned out that her family home is not you know only a few miles from where Edward Abbott finished himself and she had his writing box and she had his birth certificate, and she had letters that he’d written and she had newspaper articles and she had his fob watch, which amazingly has got his instead of the 12 there is an E then the one is a D, W, A, R, D, A BB O TT [laughing] and I straight away counted myself, Bernard it works.  So now we had all this marvellous material which you will see in the Companion Volume photographs taken of it which have never been seen before.  So you know we decided we had the material for a Companion Volume and we had the material for the – to make a facsimile how hard could it be to make a facsimile?  I mean here it is this is what we want, make me one like that.  But I’m here to say that it was hard, it was difficult, because I mean what are you trying to do, are you trying to make a copy of one book or are you trying to make – you see one you know with this – with that stamp on it and this folded page and that stain and that blot and no, we’re trying to make a copy of a book as it is now, no we wanted to try and make it as if you bought it in the shop, so we cleaned all the plates of their stains and fault, we removed from our copy any kind of librarian’s mark. 

But then you go to the printer, well the paper, I mean how are you going get, what colour was that paper?  I don’t know we’ve only got the paper as it is now.  What’s the thickness of that paper?  Well how do you get that paper?  You know the book was printed in inches, you know it’s Octavia, I mean these things are hard to translate into the 21st century and yeah the colours and the textures we just were not really able or we did what we could to make a facsimile but I discovered it’s impossible to make an exact facsimile.  I’m the kind of person who well was not able to get you know what I mean you have your dream of what you want and then you have what you get. 

And I’d just like to say one amusing story I think about that, on the cover of the book is this shield and it’s the first illustration of kind of cooking in England, that’s one half of it, and cooking in Australia.  Well it’s a embossed guild stamp and it was pressed into this textured paper and so the image when you look at it really closely is not very, not exactly clear, so we employed people who worked in photoshop for days to exactly make – take away all the blurs and make the image beautifully sharp, and again you can see it on the Companion Volume, but then when we took it out – in fact they went so far you know the smile, is that person smiling or frowning, it’s only tiny, well okay.  The flames in the fire, the smoke, every puff you know they really worked on it, did a beautiful job, but then we took it to the printer, and they said oh we can’t print this at this size, I mean it’s just beyond our technology, well they did it in the 19th century.  So you know we had a choice so you will see the cover as it is and the – my co-publisher Paul said to me look you know no one’s going to see that it’s sitting beside the original, you know it’s okay, and here we are in the National Library and probably you will see the original, in fact Lyn has brought the family copy of the book, owned by the Abbott family for over 150 years and she’ll have it upstairs you’ll be able to see it, and you’ll be able to compare it to the – to the new printed edition.  It will be for sale upstairs and there are – there are several thousand copies [laughing] we printed exactly the same number as Abbott did, but they’re not all here I think some two dozen copies here.

Tony Marshall

Rest in India.

Bernard Lloyd

The rest are – some are in India, New Zealand, so that’s the journey of this book, but I think having said all of that I think when you pick it up and when you look at it, you know you will very soon be transported back to the great flowering of Australian cuisine, the beginning and that’s the end [clapping].  And I’d like to introduce - - -

Matthew Evans

That’s okay you ended really well.  So I was just kind of in shock it was beautiful.  Sorry I have to wear these because I wanted to read a little bit of this book.  But I just thought I’d hold it up, you probably can’t see it very well but you will it upstairs, this is amazing, this is the first time – today’s the first time I’ve got to hold the facsimile edition and this book means a lot to me.  We actually went to – we sailed around Tasmania early this year, and we had a photocopied version of this book we knew the book existed, one of the guys I was sailing with had been to the State Library in Tasmania and got the silk gloves on and handled book in Tasmania and he knew about it and we were excited as we travelled around Tasmania discovering a bit about the history of the place to take our copies with us, unfortunately I get sea sick and so I could only read one line at a time in between bouts of sea sickness and looking out at the horizon, but the nature of the book that I wanted to pick it up and I just wanted to flick through it and the way this has been done with the colours and the cover and embossing and the plates – the colour plates inside is truly remarkable.  I wanted to read just a little bit that Bernard showed me earlier, which I’d sort of skipped over.

To give you an idea, well a couple of little bits, just to give you a quick idea about the book.  So his dedication was to his fair country women of the beautiful land, the blue eyed daughters with the flaxen hair, the ladies of the sunny south, this – this book of cookery of the day is respectfully inscribed by their faithful servant the author.  So I’m not sure if he was doing – learning to cook and so he just get the ladies or what, but he had a fairly high opinion and apparently they had a very high opinion of the girls from Tasmania at the time, which you’ll read about I think in the Companion Volume I think there’s some talk about that.  So I just want to read this little bit about turtles because even though he was Tasmania he wrote a lot about Tasmanian stuff he did visit the mainland and he did know a bit about other things and I’m not sure if this is his words or he’s cherry picked this from somewhere else, but it’s about turtles and um, he talks about how to prepare a turtle and it might be slightly frightening but I think it’s quite interesting at the same time.

 

The following is the simplest mode that we can recommend, hang up the turtle the night before it is to be dressed.  Cut off its head or a weight may be placed on its back to make it extend itself.  When dead cut the belly part clear off, sever the fins at the point, take away the white meat and put it into water, draw, cleanse and wash the entrails, scald the fins, the head and the belly shells.  Saw the shell about two inches deep all around, scald it and cut into pieces, put the head, shell and fins in a pan, cover them with stock, add shallots, thyme, marjoram and spice, chop the herbs, stew till tender then take out the meat and strain the liquor through sieve.  Cut the fins in three pieces and take out all the brown as the meat is called form the bones and cut in square pieces, melt some butter in a stew pan and put the white meat into it, simmer it till nearly done, then take it out of the liquor and cut it into slices of a medium size, cover the bowels, lungs, heart, et cetera with stock and herbs and spices and stew them till tender.  The liver must be boiled by itself being bitter and not improving the colour of the other entrails, which should be kept as white as possible [laughs] the entrails being done taken up and cut into pieces, strain the liquor through a sieve and then he goes on. 

 

I think what that shows is an intricate knowledge of turtles, but an intricate method of cookery, you know he’s not just saying to like some recipes he does, he says take a quail, put some fat on it, like a piece of a back fat from a pig and roast it in an oven and baste it incessantly, but at other times he does go into quite detail about the way things should be prepared.  It’s a beautiful volume, it feels beautiful in the hand you can reference it online, which I think’s amazing, so this is the launch of the digital version and the – and the book, I’m not allowed to call it the hard version, hard copy, it’s a book.  But what’s even more amazing is the Companion Volume, so Tony and Barbara who sat with me before and we had the conversation, there’s – they’ve written in this as have another four or five authors, and written their view of Edward Abbott, so it’s got a bit about his life, a bit about you know the book, about the way he’s cherry picked, and I think for me this adds so much value to the other volume.  They come – you can only buy them together I think can’t you?  Yeah so you get both in there and I guess it’s an entry point so it gives you a greater understanding of the man behind this book, which really is to me as a food writer the sort of that moment in time when we started a written culture of food publishing in Australia.  So I’d like to I guess officially launch both – both these books and the online guide for Edward Abbot’s or EA’s The Australian aristologist’s Cookery – English and Australian Cookery.  Thank you.  [clapping].

Lynette Ross nee Abbott

Would you mind if I just said a few words.  This is very impromptu by the way and I am the great great granddaughter of Edward Abbott.  I’m very honoured that these boys actually took this project on, Paul and Bernard, it’s been an absolute honour working with them.  I do have an immense amount of history on Edward Abbott and on Edward Abbott’s father who was quite a unique personality in this country.  The memorabilia that we have – in Tasmania, I am a Tasmanian but I no longer live there, and it was amazing that Bernard tracked my brother and myself down as we are the only two living descendants.  The man was unique in his time and I think what everybody has to appreciate this was 150 years ago.  This is not today with all like yourself you’re the latest fashion and all of that.  This goes back 150 years in history, the man was a character, how many characters are there today that you know of.  He had a personality, he had a wit, he was intelligent, he came from intelligence, and I feel very, very honoured to be here today as part of this – I’m very nervous but I am very honoured to be a part of it, and yes he had a – he was a man of many faces, but how lucky was he.  How many people have many faces?  I’m lucky I’m an Abbott thank you [clapping].

Amelia Mackenzie

Thank you Lyn very much and I feel as if we’ve closed the circle somehow.  So it’s my pleasant duty to close our proceedings for the day and to thank Matthew for his generous words about the book.  To Lyn for reminding us about the length of history that has gone by since – since the book was written.  And to thank Tony and Barbara and Matthew for such an interesting panel session.  We greatly appreciated having Bernard come to help us launch the book and I think what I’ve learned as we’ve listened to all of our speakers today is the real beauty of the sources that all of our speakers have been drawing on whether they might be original artefacts from the era or some of the sources that Barbara has been mentioning and that Tony is so familiar with and that Matthew is – is so curious and interested about that’s what libraries are for of course, to keep them in good shape for the next few generations to come.

I’d like to acknowledge again the support of our friend Alison Sanchez in supporting the Binns Lecture and our accommodation partner the Brassey Hotel for ongoing support, it’s only through the generous assistance of our friends and supporters that we’re able to host events such as today.  And I think we’ve all earned some well deserved refreshments, the Legendary Book Plate team from the National Library have created an Edward Abbott inspired afternoon tea, so I can only imagine what we might be getting there [laughing]. 

Now I have been told that the chef aimed to keep as close to the original recipes as possible but there were occasions when a little improvisation or contemporary additions were required.  Fortunately not I think relating to flora and fauna, but apparently the jam roly poly was not a great success.  So please join us in the foyer for some tasty historical treats, some book signings I’m sure will be possible, and I believe Lyn is prepared to show us her original family copy of the cookery book and the bookshop is offering a 10% discount for books on their special display and last but not least to catch up with our wonderful speakers today.  So thank you again to them and to you all for coming today. [clapping]