Cookbooks combine beauty and usefulness in a way few books have done since the demise of the copperplate illustration and leather binding. They are often a rare blend of the gorgeous and the practical, as if a Victoria’s Secret model dropped by to do the dishes.
It’s no wonder that, despite the internet, we are still loving and buying recipe books and every Tom, Dick, and Leila is releasing one.
As a news and sometimes sports journalist for the Nine Network, I kind of fell into the genre by coming up with an idea that promptly grew its own legs and dragged me along with it.
What I have always wanted are those long standing family or personal recipes that home cooks treasure and very rarely share with anyone. The kind of meals that get everyone at the barbeque talking, or that your friends request you make at any opportunity.
And I needed the weeknight standards that despite frequent appearances and a relatively low degree of difficulty continue to be family favourites.
So I put out the call on Weekend Today, radio, facebook, twitter, and wherever I could. Australians responded in droves. What we collected proved just how much we love our cooking, we value our incredible produce, and the amount of cultural diversity we have here.
Choosing between submissions was just so difficult, I thought we would get plenty of chaff that we could instantly bin, but the shockers were very few (anything cooked in powdered soup, or heavens above, instant coffee!).
Instead we had the very best flavours of Italy, Lebanon, the Philippines, Vietnam, and so many more, as well as the Aussie classics or Quiche Lorraine, ANZAC biscuits and Fruit Loaf.
And the stories that came with them are heart-warming vignettes from ordinary families, there’s the Nanna who was a war bride from America, the slices made by Grandma in the country for the trip to boarding school, the Sicilian immigrants cooking a taste of Italy on their North Queensland farm. Every dish has a story or photo that says something about our country.
A large portion of the profits from Australia’s Favourite Recipes goes to Legacy, our wonderful charity that supports the families of deceased or incapacitated servicemen and women. Sadly, demand for their practical and financial help is still growing and they rely on the generosity of the public to allow them to do their work.
Fortunately we are a generous nation, and never more so than when we are handing over the recipes for the meals that are close to our hearts.
Many thanks to Leila McKinnon for sharing this piece with Booktopia!
Australia’s Favourite Recipes
Australia’s Favourite Recipes is the cookbook by Australians for Australians: more than 70 treasured recipes collected from families all around the country. Collated and edited by journalist and television host Leila McKinnon, and with a foreword (and pavlova recipe) by Margaret Fulton, the book features the stories and memories of everyday Australians and their favourite dishes, while celebrating the wealth and diversity of the food we hold dear.
Each recipe has been photographed with a sense of evocative nostalgia – native wildflowers decorate the Christmas table, and pages from historical Australian cookbooks are interspersed with collages of the labels and other food memories from our collective childhoods. Every recipe features a charming introduction describing why the dish is of importance to its contributor, how it came to be a special family dish or perhaps a little story about the contributor’s grandmother and how she introduced them to the recipe. It is a collection of treasured memories. From the perfect chewy Anzac biscuit and Mum’s no-fail spaghetti bolognese to the ultimate lamb souvlaki and lemon delicious, Australia’s Favourite Recipes showcases our national cuisine – the dinners, cakes and slices we crave – and shows how the food we eat has changed over the years.
Note: Part of the proceeds from sales of the book will be donated from author and publisher to Legacy Australia, a charity that provides services to Australian families suffering financially and socially after the death or incapacitation of a spouse or parent during or after their defence force service.