Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine
The convicts’ diet at Hyde Park barracks between the 1820s and 1840s provides us a snapshot of the harsh environment of the early Australian settlers. Food was regarded as a scarce product and the regular food allowance set by the British government provided the convicts with basic fuel for survival only, as it didn’t provide enough essential nutrients for a healthy diet. Hence the statement of one of Hyde Park barracks’ convicts Francois-Maurice Lepailleur, “you don’t starve but you’re always hungry.”
The convicts relied on the heavy consumption of tea – the ration’s allowance indicated that 15 grams of tea was consumed daily, which is equivalent of two litres of tea per day – probably to withstand the physical demands of imposed public work.
Porridge, soup and bread were some of the convicts’ staple dishes. The British early settlers brought their traditional dishes with them, which was the early influence of Australian cooking. British dishes such as meat pie and lamb roast are now an integral part of the Australian contemporary gastronomy. Australian cuisine has humble origins and remarkably evolved from bland dishes cooked from the convicts’ basic rations to being a current world reference in fine-dining cuisine.
Newling, J. (29 June 2017). The convict diet. The Cook and the Curator – Eat your History. Retrieved from http://blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/cook/the-convict-diet/
Haag, W. (n.d.). Hyde park barracks tableau. Sydney Living Museums. Retrieved from http://blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/cook/the-convict-diet/