Tuesday, November 11, 2003


Would you prefer skis with that?
Did a bit of a search and found a post war sophisticated restaurant in Melbourne sans skis but with some striking wall sculpture happening for mood. I'm sure that photos exist to show that Melbourne (in pockets) can out-hick the best of them - but they rest unscanned on shelves somewhere. And lest you detect a sneer, boynton would actually jump to dine now at any restaurant so unpretentiously elegant, as long as it wasn't themed retro.

Wen's query on Chinese restaurants got us thinking. We agree with David - in Victoria they probably date from the Gold Rush, and one restaurant in Bendigo is said to have been operating for over a hundred years .
Most rural and regional towns have got one. No it is not public toilets we are talking about...or Mechanics Halls.
But like NZ I suspect that it was only Post-War that the switch in middle class dining habits from home cooking to chinese dining in or out became common. It's hard to track down this sort of info and you rely a bit on family lore. I supect the answers are to be found in Michael Symons' One Continuous Picnic: A History of Eating in Australia.
While searching for an extract I found Research Centre For The History of Food and Drink at the University of Adelaide, South Australia - with many excellent links.
I don't think we have anything like this US Smithsonian exhibition Key Ingredients America By Food, or on a smaller scale the NZ site of yesterday.

In the meantime some images from Museum Victoria's The Biggest Family Album
collection (search for 'restaurants. Vic.'):
A group of waitresses at the Wattle restaurant 1916
Inside the Wattle restaurant with waitresses standing by the tables.
A group of men, including soldiers, dining at Russo's cafe, Bairnsdale circa 1920
and from SLV: Staff and premises of S.P.Q.R. Tea Rooms, Bairnsdale. 1937

Comments: dining

good on you. yes!

I think Michael Symons is actually connected to the Adelaide research centre.

I've heard stories from the fifties of people going to the local Chinese restaurant for takeaway which was carted out in lidded billies. When I was a child in the same era, I can remember going to the dairy with a billy to get the family milk. But that was (briefly) in a country town.
Posted by David Tiley at November 11, 2003 04:13 PM

Thought MS may have been connected. A good thing - very Adelaide.
When I was a child, we used to take away Chinese in our saucepans. And that wasn't all that long ago ;)
Much better idea all round - one area where environmental thinking should outweigh Health/litigation concerns/paranoia, IMHO.
Posted by boynton at November 11, 2003 05:30 PM

When I was a child (a rural kiddy I was) our takeaways were sugar bags full of produce as the result of visits to the local Chinese market garden run by descendants of some Ararat gold miners.

Interesting aside. (Well, I think it so.) Ararat's goldfields were actually opened up by Chinese miners who were not, as general history would usually have it, mere scroungers of the tailings.
Posted by Sedgwick at November 12, 2003 06:51 PM

Thanks Boynton - nice to have suspicions confirmed. Vastly superior to NZ.

A leventyleventh generation (1850s) Aus Chinese friend - her recently born niece is the first in her family who's not entirely ancestrally chinese - is reading a masters thesis on the topic of Chinese food in country NSW. Will have to get hold of it, let you know what happened here.
Posted by wen at November 12, 2003 08:36 PM

Meant to say thanks for the restaurant pics too - my heroine was a waitress/domestic in a Melbourne Pub ( in Preston) at turn of last century. Perhaps she had to wear one of those hideous bonnets. There's an extra paragraph in it, anyway.
Posted by wen at November 12, 2003 08:39 PM

Very interesting aside Mr Sedgwick, IYAM
I hadn't known that about Ararat - and had to do some googling. Seems it was partly because of the walk from Robe factor? I must go back to Geoffrey Serle.

Wen: I think I saw a reference to your friend's thesis - sounds really interesting. Would love to hear more - hope it gets wider publication.

Nice coincidence about your heroine - and again sounds intriguing.
My mother's extended family were deep in the heart of Preston at this time - many stories.
Posted by boynton at November 13, 2003 11:37 AM

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