In defence of Mrs Maclurcan

7 Feb

Yesterday, I unleashed my inner Bourdain against Mrs Hannah Maclurcan, the author of one of Australia’s earliest cookbooks. I’m not sure why I decided to be so mean to her. Maybe it was Sydney’s record-breaking heat, the position of the moon or, more likely, the fact that I’m insanely jealous of a woman who got to publish 20 editions of the same book.

After sleeping on it, I realised that perhaps my vitriol was unwarranted. It is easy, after all, to attack a woman who has been dead for 75 years. Now, however, in her defence, I would like the record to show that she did have some good points.

She recognised local produce and her 1898 edition included recipes for kangaroo tail soup and jugged wallaby as well as tropical fruits like granadilla , paw paw and egg fruit (or, as she calls them, bringhalls).

She didn’t fall into the trap of pretending Australia was still England either – of her recipe for granadilla cream, which involves scooping out the fruit’s insides and covering them with boiled custard, she says “Of course cream would be better;  but in North Queensland that is quite out of the question.”

She was also a powerhouse of energy and productivity. Not only did our Hannah outlive two husbands and find a third in her final years, she ran two major hotels, was something of a PR maven, raised four children and, in addition to writing the book we have discussed here, also found time to pen The 20th Century Cookery Book: A Thousand Practical Recipes for Everyday Use.

Strangely though, I still hate her. Envy’s a terrible thing.

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