I’m Josephine. I live in a lovely little town in regional New South Wales, Australia. I have a passion for gardening, cooking, animals, sewing and of course my family. I also have one super passion and it is vintage Australian cookbooks. In fact I am obsessed with them! My favourites are from last century, specifically 1900 to about 1980. I love all sorts of cookbooks from old CWA recipe books, fundraising cookbooks for schools and churches, little recipe booklets from companies like Nestle and Carnation and most of all I love handwritten recipes and those carefully collected recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers.
So, what is the attraction of these vintage recipe books? Well, there are lots of things that draw me to them. One of them is the history and the stories that are contained within their pages. Every book and recipe tells a story in some way about the time in which it was written and the people and this country at that time. I also love the simplicity of them. I love to cook – I mean I really love to cook, but I have to say that when I look at a lot of modern recipes and see a really long list of ingredients, I tend to mentally eye roll and skip to the next page. I love the simplicity of the ingredients in these vintage recipes. Mostly they tend to be what we refer to as pantry staples and although the same ingredients appear over and over again in various recipes, each recipe is unique in its form. One thing that I think is also important to note about these old recipes is that they really fit with the current food philosophy of reducing food miles and eat seasonally. Another great point about these recipes is that you are unlikely to end up with some obscure ingredient lurking in the back of your fridge or pantry that you bought to make one particular recipe but never used again.
To be honest though and I mean really honest, I think I love these little treasures and the gems they contain because I am getting old. In a world that I find myself increasingly struggling to understand, they provide a comforting link to my younger years. I look at these books and instantly recognise meals and cakes from my childhood which were frequently prepared by the women of my extended family and served to me at their homes or shared on the table at family gatherings. I associated certain dishes or cakes or slices with particular family members and I would often look forward to visiting that person not just because I loved to see them but also because I really hoped that their delicious specialty would be on offer!
Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of food from all around the world but I prefer to eat it when I go out for a meal because invariably the person who is cooking it is going to be doing a much better job of it than I could ever do at home.
People often turn their noses up at the “Aussie” food of last century. I think there a few reasons for this. The first is I think there is a bit of a cultural cringe going on. Secondly, I think some people probably have memories of boring and poorly prepared foods. Overcooked vegetables (think mushy carrots and stinky overboiled cabbage), flavourless, tough and overcooked meat and meals that were simply dumped on the plate without much thought for presentation.
I have given this blog the tag line of “Old Recipes – New Tricks”. I want to explore these wonderful old recipes but I want to update them a bit when it comes to technique and presentation. It is not my intention to change the base recipe ingredients (unless there is a good reason for doing so, such as the inability to obtain an ingredient) but rather vary the method of the recipes by doing things such as preparing vegetables in a way that pleases the modern palate and cooking meat that ensures maximum moisture and flavour. I will also combine some modern favourites with an oldie but a goodie – such as a soup recipe from a 1950’s cookbook served with a nice olive oil soaked foccacia.
I’ve always wanted to have a blog but never really had anything to say. Here I hope to have some fun cooking, sharing some great recipes and learning lots about Australian food from last century.