A LIT­TLE FOOD FLIGHT READ­ING

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

SeedCake&HoneyPrawns:Fash­ion andFad­inAus­tralianFood by Colin Ban­ner­man (Na­tional Li­brary of Aus­tralia, $34.95) is a schol­arly trawl through our food his­tory.

Don’t let that put you off. The briefest glance through this book will have any­one with a trace of nos­tal­gia in their bones well and truly hooked. Its se­ri­ous brief is to es­tab­lish a well­re­searched back­ground to our mod­ern ob­ses­sion with food, throw­ing light on how we got to where we are to­day. Ban­ner­man is a stu­dent of food his­tory, the cover says, and has pub­lished books on the sub­ject, in­clud­ing one on old Aus­tralian cook­ery books. What he is at­tempt­ing here is to es­tab­lish a ‘‘ still point’’ in our food his­tory, amid the hub­bub of fash­ion and the clash of de­signer woks, from where we can look back at ‘‘ the com­pet­ing forces of nov­elty and nos­tal­gia, health and hap­pi­ness, econ­omy and ex­trav­a­gance, care and con­ve­nience’’ that have di­rected our at­ti­tudes to what we eat and how we think about food.

The book fea­tures news­pa­per quo­ta­tions, archival pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions, prod­uct brochures, styled mag­a­zine food shots, book cov­ers and a leaflet on Ni­cholas Soyer’s pa­per-bag cook­ery (circa 1911). On this last sub­ject, revo­lu­tion­ary for a mo­ment, Ban­ner­man quotes Rita of the Melbourne Her­ald and Genette, gos­sip colum­nist at the Syd­neyMail, who wrote that the rush to buy pa­per bags had eclipsed the win­ter sales. The col­lec­tor of kitsch will love the Hawai­ian lamb chops, fon­dues and moulded fruit-stud­ded jel­lies. Ju­dith Elen

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