Sunday, 14 December 2014

Tastes Like Colonial-Era Deprivation

In  my never-ending quest to find ever-earlier recipes in Australia's newspaper archives, I recently tried to wring blood out of the stone that is this throwaway line:

"If the price of wheat is high, a whole- some bread may be made with the potatoe fibre, and either barley, flour, or oatmeal."
POTATO-FLOUR. (1828, October 10). The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 - 1848), p. 4. Retrieved December 8, 2014, from
I tried two different variations, based on the two possible dishes that someone in the 1820s might have referred to as ' bread'.

The first attempt was ground oats and grated potato mixed with a little flour and then subjected to my usual process for making a leavened loaf. Though the regular flour and yeast did give it a bit of rise, it was very dense, and as my wife diplomatically put it the texture was "slimy".

The second attempt was ground oats and grated potato shaped into small unleavened cakes and fried, in the manner of griddle cakes or johnny cakes. These were slightly more palatable, although I think this speaks more to the miraculous process of frying than anything else. My wife and I each managed to choke down a few of these, and the verdict from her this time was "filling".

As we sat chewing away at them, I filled her in on their provenance - intended to supplement the diet of some of Australia's earliest colonists, and to stave off the famine that was never far away in the early history of the colonies. My wife looked back down at the hard medallions of carbohydrates and said thoughtfully, "Well in that case, they're pretty good."

So when you compare this dish to starving, it's great. I think that is an excellent illustration of the conditions of deprivation early settlers faced.

If you can get something delicious out of this 'recipe', please let me know!