Document Type

Article

Publication details

Wessell, A & Wishart, A 2010, 'Recipes for reading culinary heritage: Flora Pell and her cookery book', ReCollections, vol. 5, no. 1.

Published version available from: http://recollections.nma.gov.au/issues/vol_5_no_1/

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

Cookbooks are a wonderful example of material culture — they have historic and social value that make them an important part of a museum collection. They provide a range of insights into everyday life such as attitudes towards food, domestic economy and the roles of women. This article focuses on one particular cookbook, an edition of which forms part of the National Museum of Australia's National Historical Collection. Our Cookery Book, written by Flora Pell and first published in Victoria in 1916, was reprinted more than 24 times until the 1950s. A study of the cookbook and the life of its author reveals much about the education of girls, the changing role of women in society, nutrition, nation-building and the power of the temperance movement in early twentieth-century Australia. Flora Pell was a living contradiction who espoused a woman's 'heaven-appointed mission' as a 'wife and homemaker' while forging a career for herself in the Victorian Education Department. Her recipes and 'valuable home hints' were in the press, on the airwaves and in print. She may well have been Australia's first celebrity chef. The authors, a curator and a historian, have tackled the subject from complementary perspectives and offer different interpretations of the cookbook as object and historical text. They conclude with an examination of how this seemingly innocuous, but highly controversial and influential cookbook can be interpreted for a museum audience.

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