Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Redcoats & Convicts Festival - Feeding the People


There was little reference to loaves and fishes in the struggling young colony; indeed, the first decade was one of unremitting famine and paucity. Crops failed. Ships did not appear over the horizon. Neither soldier nor free-settler was suited to growing vegetables, or wheat, or husbanding cattle or chickens. And water supply in this driest of dry lands was tenuous after the be-fouling of the sorry Tank Stream. Indeed, it was not until the tenure of the 5th Governor, Macquarie (1810-1821) that the future of the colony was assured.

So what was the diet in those early days?


The meat was mostly pig and chicken - although both were considerably more scrawny that the delightful critters being cuddled here! And this, even though Sydney was sited on a waterway teeming with fish, and the literature abounds with line-drawings of indigenous peoples fishing. Salting was a preservation method much indulged.

Scurvy was rampant well into the 19th century. Vegetable gardens had failed on Garden Island, within the Domain and along the eastern perimeter of land carved out or Hyde Park - where St Mary's now stands. However, individuals were more successful in their back gardens and in communal plots. Nowadays, we have come to expect 'perfect' fruit and vegetables, rejecting those with blemishes and wonky growth. Back in the early days though, food was desperately short, and anything was better than nothing. Pickling was a preservation method much indulged.

19 comments:

Speedway said...

I love the rich color in your pictures! I can almost taste the flavors of the food shown - except the pink piglet and lovely chick. Yeah, they're food, but at this point too cute to even contemplate.

Thérèse said...

I don't want to think about the fate of this piglet!

GW Bill Miller said...

Cute little piggies. The top one even has a bit of milk on his chin. Pigs are interesting animals but in my humble opinion, they are only cute when very young. After that they are delicious.

brattcat said...

pink pig caressed in a red blanket, looking somehow challenging to anyone who would deny it this pleasure. perfect image for the end of this good news day.

Stafford Ray said...

GW Bill Miller got it right!

Andrew said...

I expect people are now much cleaner and more attractive than back then.

freefalling said...

It's amazing how your attitude to poxy marks on your fruit and veg changes once you have grown it yourself.
The plants put so much time and energy into growing into amazing things, it just seems so disrespectful to discard them because they are less than perfect.

J Bar said...

Terrific captures.

Windsmoke. said...

Blemishes and wonky growth add to the character and flavour of fruit and vegetables, we've become to soft, fussy and wasteful :-).

Julie said...

I agree. Nowadays we are addicted to the sizzle rather than the sausage, the packaging rather than the product, the medium rather than the message. And, dare I say, the politics rather than the policy.

Ann said...

I had no idea they had so much there. Thought it was just a convicts/red coats re-enactment. Love the pig. Wonder what the resident cats thought.

Bob Crowe said...

There is something very visceral, something very fleshy about the first and last photos. We city dwellers rarely see farm animals. Meet your dinner.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

I often think it would be really interesting to go back in time and see what it was like for the first settlers, but realistically I like my comforts too much and I think it would have been as rough as it possibly could be, those settlers were made of strong stock thank goodness! Really enjoyed the images and information Julie.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I was thinking while watching a show on TV tonight how today we have such a wonderful variety of food, even in comparison to our childhood. Then I find this post ... things sure change. I don't think I would ever cuddle a pig no matter how clean and washed it was.

Mo said...

Not a good idea to make friends with your food.

Jilly said...

Fascinating commentary on how the early settlers lived - or nearly didn't. And great photos. It simply emphasises why I'm vegetarian...

Gunn said...

Just SUPERB!

Never seen a pig looking like that!:)
Look a bit like someone I knew.

Julie said...

I am not vegetarian, but I eat very very little meat. I adored both these piglets. Has put me off pork for the rest of my life.

Virginia said...

Sweet piggies. J'adore.
V