Eat Your History By Jacqui Newling

Nicki Alchin
5th Dec 2015

Have you ever wondered about how Sydney's food culture has been shaped by its early and subsequent settlers? You are in luck then, as Sydney Living Museums has just released through a joint publication with NEWSOUTH, ‘Eat your history’, a book written by its resident gastronomer, Jacqui Newling.

The book gives insight to what people were eating at various points in time, but of even more interest, how they were cooking it by the inclusion of authentic accounts and recipes. Jacqui has been able to do this by researching the food stories of the early settlers and the folk who once lived at the twelve Sydney Living Museums properties. She sets the gastronomical scene with First Fleeters’ anecdotes and builds up from there to the 1950s.

Along with a history of how food influenced early colonial society as a whole, we read individual stories from the Wentworths (Vaucluse House), Macarthurs (Elizabeth Farm) and Macleays (Elizabeth Bay House) about food events and cooking techniques gleaned from personal letters, diaries and recipe books. This snapshot of early Sydney gastronomy is just the beginning of our food culture. The other properties in the Sydney Living Museum stable provide more of a generational history.

What stands out with the narratives of the other properties is the way in which recipes were handed down. Official recipe books full of personalisations, journals filled with hand written and cut out recipes, and aural history memories have been rounded together from six generations of the Rouse and Terry families who lived at Rouse Hill and Farm, as well as the four generations of Thorburn and Macgregor families at Meroogal in Nowra. Documents and aural stories from Sussanah Place in The Rocks and Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga also provide an understanding of Australia's appetite for various food stuffs through the ages.

‘Eat your history’ will appeal to anyone interested in the part food plays in our everyday lives as it is an historical and hands on point of reference about Australia’s food culture. You can read it as a stand alone book or as an adjunct to enjoying the Sydney Living Museum properties. If nothing else, it will provide you with the opportunity to revisit some of your own favourite family recipes and the memories each dish evokes. You can purchase the book for $49.95 at the Sydney Living Museum online shop: