Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: November, 2015



Whenever I set off to discover a particular period and place in history, one of the first things I head for is the food. What a surprise. What did ordinary people eat? I wonder. How did they cook? It’s such an essential part of life and it tells us so much about who we are.

You might have guessed from previous posts that I’m studying Edwardian times in Western Australia right now, and along the way I found this fabulous bunch of recipes in the Great Southern Leader newspaper of January 1912…

A Cool Drink

Place four ounces of oatmeal, six ounces of sugar, and a lemon cut in slices in a pan. Mix all together with a little cold water, then add a gallon of boiling water. Stir thoroughly and drink when quite cold. Any flavouring may be added instead of lemons.

White Soup

Melt two ounces of butter in a saucepan, then stir in two ounces of flour, taking care not to let it brown. Add two and a half quarts of white stock, stir, and let it boil for fifteen minutes. Remove the scum as it rises, and season with grated nutmeg and pepper. Beat up the yolks of three eggs in the tureen, and mix with half a pint of milk, then pour in the boiling soup gradually to prevent curdling, and serve.

Tomato and Lettuce Salad

Select firm, round, ripe tomatoes of equal size. Peel them with a thin, sharp knife (do not scald them to peel them), and handle them as delicately as possible. Cut each tomato into thick slices, but do not separate the slices, so that the appearance of whole tomatoes may be preserved. Just before the salad is to be served, arrange them upon a bed of crisp lettuce leaves and put a spoonful of thick mayonnaise sauce upon each.

Ham Steaks

Cut thick slices from a raw ham, put them into a frying pan with a small cupful of water, and cook slowly, turning once or twice till the water has evaporated and the steaks are light brown. Dredge lightly with flour. Have ready a sauce made by boiling a teaspoonful of mustard, and a few grains of cayenne. Arrange the steaks on a dish and pour the boiling sauce over them, garnishing the dish with triangular shaped sippets of toast.

 Luncheon Meat Rolls

These are very appetising and not extravagant, since the remains of beef and ham can be used for them. Take some slices of cold meat, trim them neatly into the same shape and size, and sprinkle each with red pepper and salt. Take as many thin slices of bacon or ham as there are slices of meat, and on to the bacon put a little chopped parsley, a suspicion of anchovy paste, and a few drops of mushroom ketchup. Now put the meat on the bacon, and roll both together; fasten with a skewer. Dip the rolls into eggs and bread-crumbs or frying batter, and fry in deep fat. Serve on a mound of rice stewed in brown gravy.

Pigeons in Jelly

Stew a knuckle of veal and make it into a strong tasty jelly with all kinds of vegetables, adding a half ounce of isinglass. Season with mace, white pepper, salt, and bay leaf, and a few slices of lemon. Par roast the pigeons, dressed as for roasting. When ready lay them into liquor and simmer slowly until tender. Take a well-soaked mould and line it with the veal jelly an inch thick, then place in the birds (three will he enough). When set pour in more jelly until the mould is full. Lay aside for several hours. N.B.— One bird should be put in first, then the other two side by side, and fill the mould with jelly. Serve with lemons and cayenne.

It’s unlikely that I’m going to make pigeons in jelly anytime soon, and my family would have me committed if I served them anything so dull as that salad or soup, but it’s a great insight into how times and tastes change, isn’t it? I love the changes in our cookery language, too – ‘a suspicion of anchovy paste’, now that’s just so gorgeous I’m going to have to pinch it, aren’t I…



As a white middling-in-the-middle-of-the-middle-class Australian woman of average size and height, I’ve never experienced prejudice based on my appearance. I’ve been called a Skip and a Gub for the colour of my skin. I’ve been called Four Eyes for my thick specs. I was once called a ‘white bitch’ by an angry drunk in a park who threw her empty beer bottle at me. But I know nothing of racism – that kind of bigotry that saps the souls of its victims and becomes a quiet and creeping violence in itself.

Racism puts a knot in my stomach, the same way any kind of mindless cruelty does. But how much harder must it be to deal with it head on, to face racism every day? How frustrating and heartbreaking must it be to miss out on that job, to be ignored by your children’s school principal, to be spoken to rudely at the supermarket, to hear your children being teased, to have your opinion disregarded, because of the way you look, the colour of your skin, the shapes that make up your face, the sound of your accent?

These questions seem obvious to me, points of empathy and compassion that are logical and commonsensical – and necessary to achieving a reasonably fair and well-functioning society. To me, Australia has always looked like the photograph above, of my Year 6 primary school class: colourful. I don’t know any different. And I don’t need to have experienced racism myself in order to feel its wrongness.

Somewhere deep in my bones is the key. My Irish and my European Jewish forebears knew prejudice, in some form or other. It was too long ago for me to know the details of their stories, but they knew what it was like to be pushed from their homelands in search of a place where they could live free of bigotry. Free to make their way in the world, raise their family, earn a living, unmolested by those who believed they were lesser beings.

I’m proud of my Irish and Jewish heritage, but not very long ago, even in multicultural Australia, this is a statement one would not have made in mixed company. Being white and middling, being as whitebread British as possible, was essential to getting anywhere in life.

This demand for sameness is still with us, from our criticisms of some Islamic women’s fashion sense, to our seemingly ingrained belief that all our lives would be made so much easier if First Nations Australians were moved off their traditional lands and sent to live in towns like ‘normal’ people.

‘Why should they get special treatment?’ I hear some people say, both about Australians who have called this place home for tens of thousands of years and the latest newcomers who seek asylum here. ‘I’ve had a hard life, too,’ some say. And I could say that myself. I’ve struggled at times; I’ve had to face and climb some serious mountains to escape the deathly pit of untold crap. Life itself can be pretty fricken cruel all on its own. But the thing is, if you’re a member of the dominant culture – and in Australia, that remains appearing as whitebread as possible – you find footholds and ropes out much more easily. It’s more likely, if you’re white, well-educated and already well-fed, that someone will actually reach out a hand and help to haul you up.

Let’s not make too fine a point here. Racism is more than a bit of a disadvantage. It causes trauma. And it compounds trauma. It’s handed on from parent to child, through customs, mannerisms – through impossible-to-erase genes. It can make big burly football players like Adam Goodes suddenly feel small, unworthy and tortured. Lost.

Recognising someone else’s trauma, regardless of whether that trauma occurred through the Stolen Generations, or the Holocaust, or any other kind of institutional abuse, doesn’t ever diminish our own personal experiences of sadness and anger. Caring only ever goes in one direction: towards deeper understanding, not just of another’s pain, but of our own as well. Tearing down the phantom, bogus, bullshit walls of racism sets us all free.

And it’s why I’ll always shine my little light as bright as I can on any kind of bigotry.