Tuesday 29 June 2010

A History of Meals, Adelaide

On Sunday I visited the Unley Museum to check out the Dig In, Don't Wait and Just My Cup of Tea exhibitions. These exhibitions were about the history of Australian meals, as well as what comes in between. The plaque on the entrance of the exhibition aptly explained the premise of the exhibitions to be viewed by visitors:

What, when and how we eat all reflect our cultural and family traditions as well as our personal taste. They are also influenced by changes in the food industry, new attitudes to health and cultural changes in our society. This exhibition is a look at the history of meals, at what's changed, and what's stayed the same.

The exhibitions offered lots of opportunities for community participation - flaps to be opened, puzzles, blackboards and play dough - lots of things for curious and South Australian foodies, young and old. There were old cookbooks, serving ware and stories from South Australian residents. So here are some highlights from my visit to the Unley Museum, as well as some of the interesting facts I learnt about Australian meals over the last 150 years and the foods' origins.

A table manners themed snakes and ladders board


From reading about our culinary past, the British influence was evident. However, there was also stories about native Australian cuisine.

The humble sandwich - named after the Earl of Sandwich in the mid 1700s

Old cookbooks, magazine articles and print advertisements...
I love this old Kellogg's ad :)

Mmm.. yes please!

And nowadays rice is such an important staple in the Australian pantry

Some old work from Women's Weekly

Hrmmm, I'll pass... but recipes like this were common during the Great Depression when everyday Australians simply had to make do and make a meal out of next to nothing. Forget the array of fruit and vegetables we have today! Can you imagine life without peaches? without capsicum? without zucchini?!

Excerpts from the wall of manners with visitors' reflections about table manners written on doilies...
I agree!

Old tea pots and tea caddies. Interestingly, the size of teapots became larger as tea became cheaper. Buying a teapot was a difficult decision for families - it was an important household item and it had to last.

Beautiful antique crockery. It was uncommon to own a complete matching set of fine teacups and saucers - the cost was simply too great. An eclectic mix of cups and saucers was far more common and, interestingly, this is very much in fashion today.

Antique hand-embroidered napery and fine serving ware

Antique silver sugarcube tongs. White sugar cubes were for the elite whereas raw sugar was considered the sweetener for the working class.

The Dig In, Don't Wait and Just My Cup of Tea exhibitions offered such an interesting insight into what Australians have been eating over the past 150 years. It was an eye-opening experience, and I couldn't help but walk away feeling very grateful for modern-day Australian cuisine. We are truly blessed with a tremendous variety of quality, readily-available ingredients. And with that, I sat down to a simple cup of tea upon return to my hotel room... and I savoured every drop.
If you have the chance, check out the Unley Museum in Adelaide, South Australia. It's worth a visit!

Unley Museum
80 Edmund Ave, Unley
Mon to Wed, 10am - 4pm
Sun 1:30pm - 4:30pm

Ladybird x


  1. Oh! Nice pictures of the museum...very interesting...enjoyed going through the pictures :-)

  2. That looks like a really interesting exhibition!

  3. Oh wow, I didnt even know we had a museum in Unley! Might have to check it out sometime :) looks like some great things on display.


  4. Looks like an interesting exhibition!

  5. I had to chuckle when I read the things on those doilies!

  6. This is so beautiful! I wish I had gone- looks so cute and gives an insight into what seems to long ago, but really was only the blink of an eye in the scheme of things.

  7. Oh wow what an interesting exhibition! =)


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