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- The Art of Living in Australia - 1/82 -

The Art of Living in Australia by Philip E. Muskett (?-1909)

Together with three hundred Australian cookery recipes and accessory kitchen information by Mrs. H. Wicken, Lecturer on cookery to the Technical College, Sydney.




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 to-day 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

The Art of Living in Australia - 1/82

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