Like a slice of Aussie food history pie Possums?

Just released is this paperback book by Victoria Heywood, whose by-line I’m sure you’ve seen (although missing on the cover of the Vineyard Cookbook). The book includes recipes from as early as 1868  through to 1950 (covering two World Wars). The blurb promises ‘hilarious advice from the time’ which usually never means historically or socially meaningful, but it seems like an obligatory addition to these books. I’ll reserve judgement on that until I see a copy.

The  publisher is the Slattery Media Group, who give us The AFL Record and the music magazine MAG, hardly foodie until you realise that the Slattery is Geoff Slattery who as well as being a sports journalist,  “established five highly-rated restaurants across Melbourne (including the Italy 1 group) and is the author of two cookery books”. We’ve fond memories of his articles in the free Melbourne Weekly (when we lived there) and we’ve a Slattery cookbook Good Food No Fuss on our shelf that we still cook from.

Victoria Heywood says ““What I have done is spend hours in dusty attics and specialist bookshops, archives, private and public collections, and university and state libraries. What we used to eat, way back when, is an endless source of fascination for me,”  and in this collection of 500 recipes, she’s included a lot of the old advertisements that give those books their character. Our food writers will appreciate that all the sources are included.

On the Possum Pie etc. page on the publisher’s website there’s a generous sample of the book as a PDF which includes the following yabbie recipe.

Crayfish Curry
Ingredients — One large basinful of crayfish, one pint of milk, one tablespoonful of flour, one tablespoonful of curry powder.
Mode — By crayfish I mean the common small craw or crayfish the children catch in such numbers in every water hole and swamp. I have seen people despise these small shellfish and declare nothing would induce them to eat them. But, as a matter of fact, they are quite equal to salt water prawns if properly cooked. Boiled in salt and water they are very good eaten cold; and curried, they are delicious. Skin and take off the heads and legs of a good basinful of cooked crayfish.
Put the milk into a pan, let it come to the boil, and thicken with the flour and curry powder. Pepper and salt the fish well, and throw them in by degrees to the mixture on the fire, stirring now and then.
Serve in a wall of rice and garnish with a few slices of lemon.

Australian Enquiry Book of Household and General Information: A Practical Guide for the Cottage, Villa, and Bush Home: Recipes and Information Upon Everything and for Everybody, Rawson, Mrs Lance. Melbourne: Pater & Knapton (1895)

The book is available online, from the publisher and it costs $25. Paperback 408 pages . (It’s a bit cheaper on Seek Books)

The pictures at the top are from a memorable evening at the Snaiths whose Warialda beef is hugely popular at Farmers’ Markets around Victoria. Along with some great beef, we also had some of ‘the common small craw’, yabbies to us today.

A new collection of recipes from Australian cookery books from 1868 to 1950 by Victoria Heywood.