International honour for Aussie cooking history

Liz Harfull's food heritage book honoured at 2019 Gourmand Awards

Life & Style
South Australian author and freelance journalist Liz Harfull was over the moon to hear her book on Australia's food history had been internationally recognised. Pictures supplied.

South Australian author and freelance journalist Liz Harfull was over the moon to hear her book on Australia's food history had been internationally recognised. Pictures supplied.

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An Australian book that celebrates simplicity in cooking, much of it thanks to the ingenuity of outback women, has produced a sizzling result internationally.

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An Australian book that celebrates simplicity in cooking, much of it thanks to the ingenuity of outback women, has produced a sizzling result internationally.

Tried Tested and True, the latest book from Liz Harfull, has claimed equal third place in the food heritage category of the 2019 Gourmand Awards, announced at a ceremony in Macau last week.

Described by the Paris-based organisers as the food culture equivalent of the Olympics, the annual awards honour the best food and wine books, magazines, digital content and publishers from across the globe, and attracted thousands of entries from more than 200 countries.

Liz said she had been over the moon just to hear her book celebrating home cooks had been shortlisted after becoming the Australian winner in two categories - one for books based around food heritage, and the other for easy home recipes.

"The third placing was a major excitement," she said.

"I write about everyday cooking. There are a lot of books that go into intricate, complicated food.

"To be considered alongside that, with scones and tuna casseroles, is wonderful."

The Gourmand Award webpage showing Liz Harfull's international placing. Books from Cuba and Slovenia were placed first and second.

The Gourmand Award webpage showing Liz Harfull's international placing. Books from Cuba and Slovenia were placed first and second.

Tried Tested and True, a collection of recipes from Australian community cookbooks that helped shape their communities, features over 60 concoctions tested in country kitchens over a one hundred year time period.

Related reading: Liz creates stirring tribute to community cooks

The buzzwords gluten-free, dairy intolerant, sugar alternative, keto/paleo/vegan are nowhere to be seen on its pages, Liz acknowledges, saying the recipes, covering a period up to the 1980s, came from an era before food allergies and health food crazes.

"My books appeal to people who are interested in seasonal ingredients that taste good, and are for people who will work with what food they've got on hand," she said.

"The fact that they're economical is appealing in this day and age, and that they're quick to prepare.

"They're popular because there's a trend of people getting back to nature in Australia that exists alongside the foodie culture."

There is nothing more basic and natural than the 1967 Once a Jolly Jumbuck mutton cookbook compiled by a group of women, known as the Wangi Club, from the Muttaburra region in western Queensland, that aimed to provide inspiration for households relying on mutton for daily meals, especially in drought years.

Once a Jolly Jumbuck was produced by the Wangi Club, set up by Alice Crombie from Marita Downs Station, who set up the club as a social outlet for isolated women living on stations around the Muttaburra area.

Once a Jolly Jumbuck was produced by the Wangi Club, set up by Alice Crombie from Marita Downs Station, who set up the club as a social outlet for isolated women living on stations around the Muttaburra area.

It's this precious capture, and many others like it that have been given a new life, which is at the heart of the international acknowledgement.

Liz said the cookbooks whose recipes she shared would have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their communities over the years to provide services to schools and kindergartens and to build everything from hospitals to swimming pools.

"Many of the books were humble publications, hand-stapled together, with the typing and pages a bit wonky, but they were popular because they came with a promise. Almost every book mentions somewhere in an introduction or sub-title, one of three words - tried, tested or true."

The second international acknowledgement, in the easy home recipes category, excited Liz almost as much as the food heritage honour because, she said, her book had to usable by readers, not left on the shelf.

"I put a lot of thought into what recipes were chosen, what stood the test of time," she said.

Based in the Adelaide Hills, Liz is a former president of the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists and a long-running Australian delegate to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists.

She is no stranger to international awards - her first major title, the Blue Ribbon Cookbook, a celebration of the tradition of agricultural show cookery, was runner-up in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris in 2009 and shortlisted for the World Food Media Awards in 2010.

"I'm like any author - I hope this award means that more people will take an interest in the book now," she said.

An early edition of the much loved and still in print Tara Tucker Book, first released in 1971, which raises money for the Tara Show Women's Auxiliary.

An early edition of the much loved and still in print Tara Tucker Book, first released in 1971, which raises money for the Tara Show Women's Auxiliary.

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