Custard apples and cherimoyas

Photograph of a custard apple with other fruits in a market display

A custard apple among the avocados at the Marrickville Organic Food and Farmers Market, August 2015. Photo © Helen Curran

One of the things that’s surprised me most about colonial gardens is just how exotic they were. I like to think of myself as relatively broad-palated, but when I stumbled across a list of fruits available in NSW in 1824 my jaw dropped. Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and plums. So far so expected. But the Chilean cherimolia and alligator pear – what on earth were those?

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Then and now – the dining room at Elizabeth Farm

Elizabeth Farm 'then and now'. A combination of a view from 1926, by E.G. Shaw, and one taken in 2015 by Scott Hill.

Elizabeth Farm 'then and now'. A combination of a view from 1926, by E.G. Shaw, and one taken in 2015 by Scott Hill.

The dining rooms that visitors experience at our properties are very different: some are relatively intact, some are complete recreations, while some are evocative interpretations.  Today I’m looking at the dining room at Elizabeth Farm, and how it was known by the Macarthurs, by the 20th century Swann family, and how we experience it today.  Continue reading

How high?

Jellies creams and sweet dishes

Jellies, creams and sweet dishes in Mrs Isabella Beeton, Mrs Beeton's book of household management, Ward, Lock & Co, London, circa 1880. Sydney Living Museums R89/80

How ‘traditional’ does something have to be before it becomes tradition? High tea, as an entity, has been around for over 150 years, but the ‘traditional high tea’ that we enjoy today, with delicate sweet and savoury morsels, bears little resemblance to high teas 100 or even 50 years ago: it was a meal, usually taken in the evening. Continue reading

Of sideboards and serving tables – parte the fyrste

The Belgenny sideboard as seen in the Eat your history a Shared Table exhibition

The 'Belgenny sideboard' as seen in the Eat You History: A Shared Table exhibtion. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Back in December we started looking at dining room furniture, and the ‘esky’ of the 19th century, the wine sarcophagus. Today we’re looking just a foot or two higher, to a piece of furniture many houses have done away with altogether – the sideboard. Continue reading

‘At home’

Thorburn family tea service and manuscript recipe book

Thorburn family tea service and manuscript recipe book in the Eat your history: a shared table exhibition, 2014. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

On the first Monday of each month the Thorburn sisters, Belle (Annabella), Kate (Jessie Catherine), Georgina and Tot (Kennina) entertained ‘At home’ at Meroogal. ‘At homes’ were something of an institution from the 1880s and survived well into the 1920s. Continue reading

The ritual of tea, 1930s style

Table set for tea on the side verandah at Meroogal

Table set for tea on the side verandah at Meroogal, facing Worrigee Street. Photo © Nicholas Watt for Sydney Living Museums

Scott’s coffee conversation about ‘proper’ coffee prompted me, an avid tea drinker, to pop the kettle back on and enjoy a fresh cup of tea. Yes, we’ve discussed tea before, for the convicts in New South Wales’ first settlement, the colonial Regency, and at Quong Tart’s tearooms in the 1890s, but his week I’m taking us to tea in northern Tasmania in the 1930s. Continue reading

Previously on the menu