March 23, 2015

Australia's First Cookbook with recipe for 'Blow My Skull'

David Ellis

IT'S most unlikely you've ever heard of The English and Australian Cookery Book, and even more-unlikely that you'd know anything of its author, a self-styled Tasmanian "aristologist" named Edward Abbott.

But anyone with a passion for cooking should soon be hearing a lot more about Mr Abbott, because his was Australia's first-ever cookbook and it's just recently been re-printed – albeit 150 years after its debut appearance in 1864.

True to its title this amazing tome has plenty of recipes for 19th century English dishes from sausages to roast beef, pies to pancakes, puddings to jellies and custards to cream cakes, and for its Australian flavours suggestions on how best to roast an emu or a wombat, bake an echidna, cook kangaroo tail or black swan, turtle or wallaby, make a broth of boiled calf's heads, bake an ox tongue, and cook cow's heels.

And for the more stout-hearted, toss kangaroo brains in a batter of flour and water and fry 'em up in emu fat. Or put together a drop of colonial rocket-fuel that was a favoured drop of a Tasmanian Governor and comprised water infused with a good half-litre of ale, another of rum, a quarter litre of brandy, sugar and lime to taste – and was appropriately named Blow My Skull…

Edward Abbott's erudite, witty and fascinating book has some 1000 recipes spread through nearly 300 pages. The son of a Canadian-born army officer, he was born in Sydney Town in 1801, moved to Tasmania in 1818 when his father was appointed Deputy Judge-Advocate at Hobart Town, worked for a while as a clerk in his father's office, and in 1823 became a pastoralist on 445ha of land on the Derwent River.

He quickly rose in prominence becoming a Justice of the Peace, founder of a newspaper the Hobart Town Advertiser, was appointed a Police Magistrate in 1848, and became a Member of Parliament eight years later.

Considered somewhat eccentric – during a land dispute with the government he was fined for striking the Tasmanian Premier with an umbrella – he ultimately lost much of his wealth due, he said, "to the rascality of commission agents" when he speculated badly in wheat, flour and oats.

And it was after this that he wrote the officially titled The English and Australian Cookery Book, Cookery for the Many, as Well as for the 'Upper Ten Thousand.' For some reason he did not put his name to it, but instead showed the author as an "Australian Aristologist" – someone who makes a study of, and enjoys, fine dining.

Of 3000 copies sold, only a handful remain in libraries or private collections today, and have fetched up to $13,000 each at auction.

Last year two "culinary historians of Tasmania" as they call themselves, Bernard Lloyd and Paul County took the bold step of reproducing Mr Abbott's work 150 years after it was first printed – publishing it exactly as it had appeared in 1864, and packaging it with a "companion volume" detailing the fascinating life and times of Edward Abbott.

The cookbook alone is a must if you've any interest at all in matters culinary, for not only is it a fusion of traditionally English and colonial Australian dining, it has wonderful insights into the thinking of the time, including observations by Mr Abbott himself and such diverse gems by others as Dress and Manners At A Dinner Party, Why Animals to be Eaten Must Be Killed, A Bachelor's Dinner, Sportman's Food and even Cookery for the Destitute…

And while it also includes views on some of Australia's very first locally-made wines and beers, most importantly it reflects how our pioneers made use of what was around them at a time when food as they knew it from "back home," was in often scant supply.

Indeed one Tasmanian lady named Mary Allport, wrote in her family journal in 1831 how with just an echidna available for dinner one night, she cooked it by adapting a recipe for suckling pig, and on another occasion created a family meal of stuffed wallaby by tinkering with a Scottish recipe for stuffed hare…

The reproduction version of The English and Australian Cookery Book and its Companion Volume costs $75 from good bookstores, and the same online at with delivery included.



[] EXACT reproduction of Edward Abbott's circa 1864 The English and
   Australian Cookery Book – a must-have for those with any interest at all in matters
   culinary. (Tasfoodbooks)
[] CULINARY historians of Tasmania, Bernard Lloyd (left) and Paul County in a
   promotion for their reproduction of Edward Abbott's fascinating first-ever Australian
   cookbook. (Tasfoodbooks)
[] COLOUR plate from an original 1864 copy of The English and Australian
   Cookery Book held by the National Library of Australian – desserts of the day from
   Christmas pudding to jellies and pancakes. (National Library of Australia)
[] RECIPE for boiled mutton and turnips – note Edward Abbott's colourful
   observations about the meal, and the required mood and disposition of cook and
   diner. (National Library of Australia)
[] A PLATE by Penny Carey-Wells and Diane Perndt from the Companion Volume to
   the reproduction The English and Australian Cookery Book, depicting Edward
   Abbott composing his dedication to his book. (Tasfoodbooks)

No comments:

Support Traveloscopy - Support Responsible Travel.

Traveloscopy is a freelance journalism enterprise supporting the tourism and travel industries. We aim to encourage people to travel thoughtfully and responsibly and also support sustainable initiatives within the travel sector. You can help us cover our operating costs, even if in just a small way.

Last 30 Days' Most Popular Posts