National Library of Australia

Early Australian cookbooks

Edward Abbott (1801–1869)The English and Australian Cookery Book: Cookery for the Many, as Well as the ‘Upper Ten Thousand’

London: Sampson Low, Son and Marston, 1864

illustrated book; 19.0 x 13.7cm

John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Early Australian cookbooks

In early colonial Australia, printed cookbooks were an indulgence, offering little useful information for Australian conditions, and often requiring unobtainable ingredients.

Australia’s first cookbook appeared in 1864. Written by Hobart landowner and member of the Tasmanian Parliament Edward Abbott (1801–1869), The English and Australian Cookery Book: Cookery for the Many, as well as the ‘Upper Ten Thousand’ was more a grab bag of colonial oddities than a definitive guide. It did, however have a section on game, which included kangaroo, emu, wombat, mutton birds and black swan.

In the 19th century, supplies became cheaper and more plentiful—so too local recipes.

One of the most popular Australian cookbooks, first published in 1915, was The Worker Cook Book, compiled by Mary Gilmore, later Dame Mary (1865–1962), containing ‘every-day recipes of Australian housekeepers in working class homes’.

In the 1920s, the book was pirated and conspicuously titled, The copy of that pirated book in this exhibition contains a long handwritten note from Gilmore, stating in part that ‘no copy was authentic unless sold by The Worker’.