A freelance writer, reviewer and broadcaster passionate about South Australia's fabulous wine and food.
Published April 23rd 2018
The power and spirit of an everyday national icon
Anzac Day brings diverse memories for many people in this country, but one enduring symbol is the unassuming golden-brown Anzac biscuit, beloved by Australians for nearly a century.
Do you like your biscuits chewy or crunchy? What about the issue of whether they traditionally had coconut or not? Whose recipe is the best? And how did they come to be called Anzac biscuits?
All of these questions have been admirably addressed by culinary historian Allison Reynolds in her new book 'Anzac Biscuits - The power and spirit of an everyday national icon', released this week to fortuitously coincide with the Anzac Day celebrations.
Allison has been a familiar figure around the Australian food scene since she emigrated from the UK, initially running a cooking school in NSW, before undertaking a Masters in Gastronomy at the University of Adelaide. She then found her niche in conducting research into social and food history, with a particular penchant for old cookery books (of which she has many!)
Some of these naturally included recipes for Anzac biscuits and she was struck by the fact that the older ones amongst them did not include coconut - sacrilege! How did that happen? Intrigued, as any good researcher would be, she started investigating the provenance of these popular snacks - and found that coconut did not actually make its appearance as an ingredient until the mid-1920s.
The book that grew from this research is a fascinating collection of anecdotes, letters, photos, recipes and stories from Australia and New Zealand, much of it gleaned from family records going back many years. Allison's enthusiasm gives the reader a remarkable history of something we have probably all taken for granted over the years as just another tasty item in the pantry.
In our house, opinions are divided - I like mine crispy, he likes chewy - but we both enjoy an Anzac dunked in a good strong cuppa! So, when you next make or purchase your Anzac biscuits, spare a thought for those soldiers of World War 1 who gave them a name and read this book for more about the story behind such a simple little biscuit.
And they will always be Anzac Biscuits - never Anzac Cookies!
Anzac Biscuits - The power and spirit of an everyday national icon is published by Wakefield Press and is available from www.wakefieldpress.com.au.