Print media and the development of an Australian culture of food and eating c.1850 to c.1920 : the evidence from newspapers, periodical journals and cookery literature

  • Colin Bannerman

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Chapter 1 considers culture as a product of communication. The central problem is to understand how an array of influencing factors such as food supply, technology and physical and intellectual environment are represented, stored and shared as 'food culture'. It considers mechanisms by which culture might be transmitted from one location to another including the relevance of historical literature and Louis Hartz's notion of Australia as a 'cultural fragment' cast off from the Old World. Chapter 2 shows that the Australian literature represents a discourse in which information about various aspects of feeding was gathered from local and overseas sources and circulated for instruction, entertainment and use. The discourse and the means of conducting it were products of their age. Public participation was evident in the correspondence columns of weekly newspapers and in 'contributory' cookery books. The discourse drew on various themes that were prominent in other Western discourses and reflected social and moral values of the times. It evidenced beliefs that the manner of a society's feeding demonstrates the extent of its' civilisation and that refinement of food and feeding contributes to the improvement of society. It also reflected nationalist sentiment and demonstrated some attempts to develop a distinctive Australian cuisine. Chapter 3 supports these claims with detailed analysis of recipes published in a sample of journals and cookery books. Chapter 4 describes five instances which illustrate in more depth the influence of print media in culture development. The first two show deliberate use of print media to reform cookery practice. The third shows the role of print in cookery education, suggesting an alternative mechanism by which cookery in Australia retained its British character. The fourth tests the idea that the transmission of food and science cultural influences from the Old World to the New followed broadly similar paths and questions the origins of the domestic science movement. The fifth examines commercial influences exerted through print media and notes that food production, processing and distribution enterprise was to become increasingly influential as Australia (and other countries) turned to industrial feeding. The thesis concludes with some reflections on the processes of culture formation and the role of mass communications. It suggests that food culture is both an expression of conceptions of character and identity and a formative influence on them, that the engine of cultural change has been industrial progress and, finally, that the communication system which supports and enriches food culture may also tend to undermine it.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBill Mandle (Supervisor) & Graeme Osborne (Supervisor)

    Cite this