Although this work fully deals with all the many matters connected with the art of living in Australia, its principal object is the attempt to bring about some improvement in the extraordinary food-habits at present in vogue. For years past the fact that our people live in direct opposition to their semi-tropical environment has been constantly before me. As it will be found in the opening portion of the chapter on School Cookery, the consumption of butcher’s meat and of tea is enormously in excess of any common sense requirements, and is paralleled nowhere else in the world. On the other hand, there has been no real attempt to develop our deep-sea fisheries; market gardening is deplorably neglected, only a few of the more ordinary varieties being cultivated; salads, which are easily within the daily reach of every home, are conspicuous by their absence; and Australian wine, which should be the national beverage of every-day life, is at table — almost a curiosity.
Nearly three years have been occupied in the preparation of this volume, as several of the subjects it treats of have hitherto remained practically unexplored. This statement is not intended to excuse any shortcomings, but simply to explain the impediments which had to be overcome. There has been some little difficulty, therefore, in obtaining information in many instances. At the same time, it must be cheerfully recorded that assistance was freely forthcoming on the part of those from whom it was sought. Quite a number have been interviewed on the topics with which they were familiar; and on several occasions this has necessitated journeys out of Sydney on the writer’s part. With the object of making inquiries into the fish supply of Melbourne, also, a special visit was paid to that city. And further, in order to gain an insight into vineyard work and cellar management, an instructive time was passed at Dr. T. Fiaschi’s magnificent Tizzana vineyard on the Hawkesbury River.
It may seem to savour somewhat of boldness, yet I hazard the opinion that the real development of Australia will never actually begin till this wilful violation of her people’s food-life ceases. For let us suppose that the semi-tropical character of our Australian life was duly appreciated by one and all. If such were the case — and I would it were so — there would be a wonderful change from the present state of affairs. But as it is, the manners and customs of the Australians are a perpetual challenge to the range of temperature in which they live. Indeed, the form of food they indulge in proves incontestably that they have never yet realized their semi-tropical environment. With a proper recognition of existing climatic surroundings there would be an overwhelming demand for more fish food; for something better than the present Liliputian supply; and for the creation of extensive deep-sea fisheries. Fish in Australia is nothing more than a high-priced luxury, although projects for the development of the deep-sea fisheries have been repeatedly suggested. Somehow or other we never get beyond this stage, and as a consequence the yield from our fisheries is simply pitiable. A widespread use of fish and an adequate fish supply would give employment to hundreds and to thousands. As I have pointed out in the chapter relating to this subject, the want of enterprise shown in starting our deep-sea fisheries is an inexplicable anomaly. If the Australian people had sprung from an inland race, this would not, perhaps, have been so difficult to understand. But coming, as we do, from a stock the most maritime the world has ever seen, such a defect is not to our credit as inheritors of the old traditions.
Nor can it be pretended that market gardening has ever been taken up seriously, if we apply the statement to Australia as a whole. It is true that Sydney and Melbourne, and possibly Adelaide and Brisbane, have made an attempt in this direction. But even with this admission there is not much reason for congratulation from an olitory point of view. Few — only very few — of the more commonly known varieties are grown. For if the potato and the cabbage were taken away, Australia would be almost bereft of vegetables. There are, however, many others, which are delicious and wholesome, which are easily grown, and which would make a pleasing addition to the present monotonously restricted choice. And there is something even more than all this. It is, that market gardening is a healthy and profitable calling; that it settles the people on the land; and that it creates a class of small landed proprietors — the very bone and sinew of any population.
In the chapter relating to Australian Food Habits it will be found that many of these desirable vegetables are enumerated. Their good qualities are highly appreciated on the Continent and elsewhere, and there is no earthly reason why they should not be grown here. The history of the introduction of the tomato into Australia is instructive in this connection. For years and years it struggled desperately, but unsuccessfully, for a place, and the attempt to bring it into use was on the point of being abandoned in consequence. But at last its undeniable merits were acknowledged, and today it is in universal request. Now, it is perfectly safe to assume that the same recognition would be awarded to many other vegetables vegetables at present practically unknown in Australia. For instance, sweet corn — which, however, must not be confused with Indian corn — is of exquisite flavour, almost melting in the mouth, while it possesses also eminently nourishing properties. It is a great favourite with Americans, and hundreds of acres are required annually for the New York markets alone.
But if there is one desirable form of food which we should expect to find in daily use by the whole Community, it is surely the salad. More than this, it deserves to meet with favour as a national dish. It takes pre-eminent rank in Southern Europe, and is certainly entitled to occupy a similar high position in the Australian food list. Unfortunately there is just the same story to tell, and the strange neglect of salads can only be expressed by the term incomprehensible. It is a waste-saving dish; it is wholesome, in that it is purifying to the blood; it is full of infinite variety; and its low price brings it within easy every-day reach even of the humblest dwelling. But, as things are, even the salad plants themselves are represented by a meagre list, and are confined to only few varieties. And as far as salad herbs are concerned, they are literally unknown.
Now, although I am strongly of opinion that a more widespread use of fish, vegetables, and salads in Australia would be attended by the happiest results (both by benefiting the national health and by developing Australia’s food-industries), yet it must not be understood that I countenance vegetarianism. So far from being a vegetarian, I am one of those who firmly believe in the advantages derived from a mixed diet. But my assertion is that we in Australia habitually consume an injurious amount of meat to the exclusion of far more needed nourishment. The golden rule as far as the Australian dietary is concerned is a minimum of meat, and a relatively maximum amount of the other classes of food. The influence which food exercises upon health is a matter of far-reaching importance, in that it affects the daily life of the whole population. Amongst others, the following medical writers — Sir James Risdon Bennett, Dr. J. Milner Fothergill, Dr. T. King Chambers, and Dr. J.H. Bennett — have in the past contributed much to this subject. In the present day, Sir Henry Thompson, Sir William Roberts, Dr. T. Lauder Brunton, Dr. F.W. Pavy, Dr. Burney Yeo, and many more have given their advocacy to the same purpose. It is urged by all these authorities that there is a needless consumption of animal food even in the old country, and they all agree that an exaggerated value is attached to butcher’s meat on the part of the public. If representative medical opinion thus protests against the use of an unnecessary amount of animal diet in the climatic conditions obtaining in the United Kingdom, how much more would the misuse of the same food in a semi-tropical climate like Australia be disapproved of! Indeed, I am perfectly certain, that were those who have given attention to food and dietetics in possession of the facts, they would unhesitatingly condemn the grotesque inversion of food-habits at present in vogue throughout Australia. There is one very important matter which unquestionably requires to have special attention drawn to it. I refer to the customary Australian mid-day meal. Strange to say, all through the hot season, as well as the rest of the year, this consists in most cases of a heavy repast always comprising meat. Why, even in the cooler months, a ponderous meal of this kind is not required! My own views are that meat in the middle of the day is quite unnecessary, and, indeed, during the hot months actually prejudicial. Most people in Australia, after a fair trial, will find that a lunch of some warm soup, with a course perhaps of some fish, and vegetables, or salad, or whatever it may be to follow, will not only be ample, but will give them a sensation of buoyancy in the afternoon they never before experienced. Among the recipes will be found many which may help to bring about a reform in this respect. The heavier meal should certainly be towards the evening after the sun-heat of the day is over, at which time it is more enjoyed and better digested.
Having thus far referred to our totally inadequate supply of fish food, of vegetables, and of salad plants and herbs, there is still the great Australian wine industry to consider. At present only in its swaddling clothes, it is destined before very long to enter upon its vigorous life. There was an eminent French naturalist, M.F. Peron, sent out to Australia by the Emperor Napoleon during the years 1801 to 1804 inclusive. A shrewd observer, he saw even at that early period of Australian history that there were unequalled possibilities for her wine. In the course of his interesting narrations he remarks:—“By one of those chances which are inconceivable, Great Britain is the only one of the great maritime powers which does not cultivate the vine, either in its own territories or its colonies; notwithstanding, the consumption of wine on board its fleets and throughout its vast regions is immense.”
In the whole of Australia the annual production of wine is only a little over three million gallons; but in France, as well as in Italy, it is nearly 800 million gallons. These two countries together, therefore, every year produce about 1,596 million gallons more wine than Australia. These stupendous figures reveal very plainly what an enormous expansion awaits our wine industry.
The colossal growth of the wool trade is in striking contrast to the puny dimensions of the wine industry. In 1805 the exportation of wool from Australia was “nil.” In 1811 it reached to the modest amount of 167 lbs., while Spain exported 6,895,525 lbs. In 1861 the exportation of wool from Australia increased to 68,428,000 lbs., whilst from Spain it fell to 1,268,617 lbs. And lastly, in 1891 the amount of wool exported from Australia reached the majestic figures of 593,830,153 lbs., representing a value of 20,569,093 pounds. If New Zealand be included, the total export attains to 710,392,909 lbs., having a value of 24,698,779 pounds. It must be borne in mind that these figures represent only the wool actually exported, and do not include that kept back for Australian requirements. As I have pointed out in the beginning of the chapter on Australian wine, if the latter industry had increased in similar proportion, Australia’s prosperity would be second to none in the world.
There are some other striking figures which are well worth referring to. The city of Paris alone requires nearly 300,000 gallons of wine daily. Now, the total yearly wine production of the whole of Australia is but a little over three million gallons. It will follow from the preceding, then, that the single city of Paris itself would consume in 12 days all the wine which the whole of Australia takes 12 MONTHS to make.
The future prosperity of Australia, at least to a very great extent, is wrapped up in her wine industry; for its development means much more than a large export trade to other countries. It means, in fact, the use of Australian wine as a national and every-day wholesome beverage; it means the covering of the land with smiling vineyards; it means employment and a healthy calling literally to thousands upon thousands; and, lastly, it means settlement upon the land, and a more diffused distribution of the population throughout Australia.
It must be remembered that the nervous system is far more susceptible to the effects of alcohol in a warm than in a cooler climate. It is said that in Southern Europe there are very few water drinkers, but that, on the other hand, there are very few who indulge in strong drink. The system does not feel to want the strong alcohol, so to speak. A weaker wine in a warm climate produces the same feeling of exhilaration that one of greater alcoholic strength does in colder countries. We shall not go far wrong in Australia if we stick to our own natural wines. As it will be found in the chapter on Australian wine, the every-day wine for Australian use is a wine of low alcoholic strength; a wine of which a tumblerful may be taken with benefit; a wine, indeed, which is beneficial, cheering, hygienic, restorative, and wholesome.
By reason of his semi-tropical climate the Australian is bathed in an atmosphere of sunshine. This has a distinct effect upon the blood, for the action of sunlight upon this fluid is to redden it — a fact which has for ages been dwelt upon by the poets. But for a scientific explanation of this effect of sunlight in reddening the blood we must turn to the spectrum analysis. The visible solar spectrum as shown through a prism by the ordinary sunbeam is made up of the seven different colours, namely, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Instead of consisting simply of white light as a whole, it is now universally accepted that in this spectrum different properties belong to different parts. Light or luminous power to one portion; heat or calorific power to another; and chemical power or actinism to a third.
The visible solar or Newtonian luminous spectrum, resulting from the decomposition of white light by a prism, is only the middle portion of the whole solar spectrum. Beyond the red end there are rays possessing still greater-heating effect; and beyond the violet extremity there are rays endowed with far more powerful chemical action. The violet, and especially these latter ultra-violet rays, redden the life stream by increasing the haemoglobin — that crystallizable body which forms so large a portion of the coloured corpuscles of the blood. Sunlight, moreover, has not only this action upon the animal kingdom, but also upon the vegetable world as well Plants, like celery, which are subjected to blanching, become whitened under the process of etiolation. This is due to the absence of chlorophyll, the green colouring matter of plants, which can only be developed by the presence of light. The tops of celery, being unearthed, retain their green colour, while the stem embedded in the soil acquires its familiar whiteness.
Many philosophical writers, notably David Hume and Charles Comte, C. Montesquieu in his L’Esprit des Lois, and Henry Thomas Buckle in his HISTORY OF CIVILISATION IN ENGLAND, have dilated upon the influence which climate exerts over race, and all their forceful opinions are to the effect that the character of a people is moulded by climatic conditions. More than this, the same new was entertained by the classic writers; for we find the philosopher and orator Cicero recording his belief that “Athens has a light atmosphere, whence the Athenians are thought to be more keenly intelligent; Thebes a dense one, and the Thebans fat-witted accordingly.” Again, Horace, the poet and satirist, has given us the famous passage:—” You would swear he (Alexander the Great) was born in the dense atmosphere of the Boeotians.”
But the influence of climate is not confined to ordinary conditions alone, because without the shadow of a doubt it controls disease as well. As it is well known, certain diseases are peculiar to, and confined to, certain regions. And, moreover, a malady will vary in its type in different zones. Thus the disease known as rickets is in the old country marked in many cases by bending of the bones, giving rise to deformities of the limbs, &c. The Australian type of the disorder, however, is milder altogether, and is of a different character. The Australian child is straight-limbed almost without exception, yet the Australian type of rickety disease, as I pointed out in 1891, is quite a definite affection.
At the Congress of Naturalists and Physicians at Strasburg in 1885 the great German pathologist, Professor Virchow, called attention to a sphere of research in which, he alleged, neither the French nor the English had hitherto accomplished anything of importance, namely, the modifications of the organism, and particularly of the special alterations of each organ, connected with the phenomena of acclimatization. This reproach cannot be denied. We have not yet reached the stage in Australia of noting the effect which climate has upon the system in general, much less of inquiring into the changes which occur in such organs as the liver, spleen, &c. But apart from investigating the phenomena of acclimatization, it is very plain that the people of Australia have never given any heed to their semitropical climate, or else the food-faults now universally practised would have been rectified long before this.
It has always been a matter of interesting speculation as to what the characteristic type of the future Australian will be. But reflections of this kind can only be in the right direction by bearing in mind the ever-present climatic conditions. Climate is of all forces the most irresistible; for, on the one hand, the Great Desert of Sahara could not be crossed in an Arctic costume and on Esquimaux diet; nor, on the other, could the Polar regions be explored in a Hindoo garb and on Oriental fare. And though blood is thicker than water, yet the resistless influence of a semi-tropical range of temperature will be to imprint on the descendants of the present inhabitants of Australia some marked peculiarities of skin-colour, of facial expression, of lingual accent, and perhaps even of bodily conformation.
Quite recently an observing writer, in a keenly analytical if somewhat facetious article, gave it as his opinion that the coming Australians will be as follows:—“They will not be so entirely agricultural as the Americans were; they will be horsemen, not gig-drivers. Descended from adventurers, not from Puritans, and eager, as men of their climate must be, for pleasant lives, they will thirst for dependent possessions, for gardens where fortunes grow. The early Americans were men of austere temper, who led, on an ungrateful soil, lives of permanent hardship. They had to fight the sea, the snow, the forest, the Indians, and their own hearts. The Australians, with a warmer climate, without Puritan traditions, with wealth among them from the first, will be a softer, though not a weaker people; fonder of luxury, and better fitted to enjoy Art, with an appreciation of beauty which the Americans have never shown. They will be a people growing and drinking wine, caring much for easy society, addicted to conversation, and never happy without servants. The note of discontent which penetrates the whole American character will be absent.”
From the climatic standpoint alone it is safe to predict that the future Australian will be more nearly akin to the inhabitants of Southern Europe than to his progenitors in the old country; though, naturally, there will be considerable diversity between the native born of the various regions, covering as they do such a vast extent of territory. The ample opportunities for outdoor life will do much towards ensuring physical development. And, finally, the imaginative faculties will be very active, and it is quite permissible to hope that in time there will be a long roll of artists, musicians, and poets.
As it will be seen, a considerable portion of this work is taken up with the practical side of living, as exemplified by the Australian Cookery Recipes. From the very first it was recognised that it was imperative to include them within its compass. It occurred to me, however, that this important department would better be undertaken by someone thoroughly conversant with the subject. With this object in view, therefore, I submitted to Mrs. H. Wicken what I required. I knew Mrs. Wicken to be well qualified for the task from the following facts, namely, that she had previously been successful in her culinary writings; that she was a Diplomee of the National Training School for Cookery, South Kensington; and that she occupied the responsible post of lecturer to the Technical College, Sydney. My propositions were that the recipes were to be written purely for Australian use, and that they were to be of the strictly economical order. Mrs. Wicken accepted the task, and it can only be hoped that her efforts will meet with the approbation they deserve.
In their original form the three chapters on Australian Food Habits, Australian Fish and Oysters, and on Salads, appeared in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Sydney. I take this opportunity, therefore, of expressing my sense of obligation to the Proprietors thereof for their courtesy in permitting me to make complete use of these three contributions. As they now appear in chapters they have been revised, considerably altered, and materially added to, for the purposes of reproduction in book form.
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A farmer being on the point of death, and wishing to show his sons the way to success in farming, called them to him and said —“My children I am now departing this life, but all that I have to leave you, you will find in the vineyard.” The sons, supposing that he referred to some hidden treasure, as soon as the old man was dead, set to work with their spades and ploughs and every implement that was at hand, and turned up the soil over and over again. They found indeed no treasure; but the vines, strengthened and improved by this thorough tillage, yielded a finer vintage than they had ever yielded before, and more than repaid the young husbandmen for all their trouble. So truly is industry in itself a treasure. — THE FABLES OF AESOP.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11