[Historical Fiction Prompt] Write about Australian Food in the 1860s

“You have mutton and damper today,

– mutton and damper will appear tomorrow,

and from that day till the end of the year,

your dinner is mutton,

boiled, roasted or stewed.” 

~ Robert Dundas Murray in “A Summer at Port Philipp”, 1843

Let your Australian protagonist prepare a TYPICAL Australian dish. 

Battered kangaroo brains cooked in emu fat, anyone?

Browse the first Australian cookbook, written by Edward Abbott in 1864. Which recipe will you use for your scene? Also mention: What tools does your protagonist utilise when he cooks? Where does he prepare his dish?

Narrate the scene from *his* point of view.

By the way, if you choose turtle, don’t forget to describe (in flashbacks?) how your protagonist hangs it upside down for AT LEAST 5 days, before he can start preparing it!


Don’t forget to infuse some of Edward Abbott’s enthusiasm for Australian ingredients into your scene. I

n 2014, Bernard Lloyd re-printed the first Australian cookbook. He is full of praise for the innovative goals of 1860s author. “He’s probably the first person to really extol Australian ingredients”, Lloyd says in an interview with ABC Australia.

“We see the beginnings of that in Edward Abbott. He did think that the cuisine of his day could do with improvement, and he looked at this ‘lamb, lamb, lamb, mutton, mutton, mutton’ all the time and he thought – we can do better than this.”

“He’s got chapters on Australian beers, on colonial wines, on the way the fruits grow here, and he’s full of praise for it. So he’s the first person to say look, come on Australia, you can do it.”

Abbot himself also wrote about the challenge of curating recipes that were truly Australian. “I am desirous of some reform in the cuisine of some of my countrymen’s establishments,” Abbott noted down in Hobart in 1864. “And I am vain enough to believe that I shall effect that object.”

Try and channel some of his enthusiasm when writing your scene!

If you’re in for a twist, narrate the scene from the eyes of a newly-arrived settler from England, who has just landed in Australia.

Describe his astonishment when he sees the unknown animals that are about to go to the cooking pot. To give you some ideas, here are Abbott’s variations of kangaroo dishes:

Kangaroo Ham

Hashed Kangaroo

Jagged Kangaroo

Kangaroo Pan Ham

Pasty Kangaroo

Kangaroo Roast

Slippery Bob

Kangaroo Steamer

and Kangaroo Stuffing.  

Finally, narrate the moment when they finally taste the dish 🙂


Here’s the original source. Invaluable if you want to write about Australia in the 19th century. 

Edward Abbott: “The English and Australian cookery book: Cookery for the many, as well as for the upper ten thousand”. London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, 1864.

>> Click here to browse the 1864s cookbook

edward abbott PROMPT australian food 1864. Australian Food In The 19th Century.

Or go to http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-9562000/view#page/n0/mode/1up



The Bernard Lloyd quotes are from the article “Australia’s first colonial cookbook with kangaroo brain, roasted wombat recipes is republished after 150 years”, by Nick Grimm. Updated 20 November 2014, online here.
The Robert Dundas Murray quote is taken from the article “Australia and New Zealand” in the “Encyclopedia of Food and Culture”.   


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Australian Food in the 19th Century ~ First Australian Cook Book by Edward Abbott in 1864. ~ Historical Fiction Prompt.
Australian grass trees (Xanthorrhoea species) with red kangaroos. Image via Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 from the 1860s.