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Making A Meal Of Our Coat Of Arms

April 18, 2015 Destination Feature, Headline News No Comments Print Print Email Email

EngAusCookery BL and PC canvasIT’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…

EngAusCookeryBook boiled leg mutton quotes.rsz

RECIPE for boiled mutton and turnips – note Edward Abbott’s colourful observations about the meal, and the equired mood and disposition of cook and   diner.

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.

EngAusCookeryBook cover.rsz

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.

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.


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.

 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 evenCookery 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.


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.

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 www.tasfoodbooks.com with delivery included.


Written by : David Ellis

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