Every year the Australian Women’s History Forum runs a themed “Women’s History Month” in March. This year’s theme is music to the ears of a pointy-headed food nerd:
Demeter’s daughters: women’s harvest history
The history of food farming in Australia is much more than the record of agricultural production. When the focus is on women, the story starts with Indigenous food harvesting and includes the pioneering cultivation of familiar crops in unfamiliar soil by colonial women.
It also involves meat producers, dairy and poultry farmers, and market gardeners of Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese and many other nationalities. Demeter, Greek goddess of agriculture, also symbolises women growing food in the Depression and those of the wartime Women’s Land Army; women in wartime ‘victory gardens’ when food was still rationed, those who pioneered viticulture and those whose hand was on the plough of agricultural education and research.
The poster shows a portrait of Lu Moo (‘Granny Lum Loy’) by Sydney artist Karolina Venter. Chinese-born, she arrived in Darwin in 1894 and became a very successful market gardener, so beloved that her funeral in 1980 was “one of the biggest and longest in Darwin’s history” – which given the Territorian’s propensity to party on must have been something to see.
Other featured women include Yvonne Aitken, an agricultural scholar and scientist and the pioneering winemaker Mary Penfold.
There’s a growing list of relevant resources, and a calendar of events searchable by area, and a blog, where they’re seeking community input. They’ve already attracted the interest of the Gooloogong Historical Society who are searching for Women’s Land Army members and their descendants, so if you know someone who dug for victory, they’d love to hear from you.
My only sadness is that they have kept the theme to food production, rather than to other forms of women’s economic activity around food – there’s some very interesting work to be done on the Australian female chefs of the late 1970s and 1980s. (And if anyone’s doing that work, I happen to have a really awesome collection of old food mags and forgotten volumes on the subject …)
So, cooking – it’s not really my thing.
Some people get really into cookery and use seasonal ingredients and make their own gnocchi and everything. I would like to be one of those people. But sadly, I can muster up very little enthusiasm for cooking. But I still cook a little. After all, one must eat!
Since my cookery repertoire is so meagre I often find myself browsing big recipe sites to get spinach ideas and the like.
And I read the comments.
Comments are the scourge of the non-feminist internet. The more general and mainstream the site, the more bigoted and venomous the comments, and usually I avoid reading them unless I’m feeling very masochistic.
But I always read comments on recipe sites because they are 1) informative, and 2) quite low on bigotry (I suppose it is difficult to inject a lot of racist / sexist bile when you’re commenting on something as apolitical as spinach and potato soup).
But recipe comments suffer from their own pollution.
It seems every second or third comment makes reference to the commenter’s husband. Like:
I thought this recipe was okay, but my husband thought it was way too spicy!
My husband usually hates vegetables, but he thought this was nice. Will make again!
In fact, it seems that maximum husband-approval is the greatest compliment one can pay a recipe:
Wow! 5 stars!!! My husband loved this! He went back for seconds! And thirds! Thanks so much for this!!!
It is incredibly annoying!
It makes me feel like I have teleported into 1950s suburbia (a magical 1950s suburbia, with consumer net access).
It is a reminder of how little things have changed, at least on the domestic front.
I am waiting for the day when I come across a recipe comment along the lines of:
Zomg! My wife loved this. Will make again and again! Thanks!
On that day, I will make my own gnocchi. With a sauce made from seasonal ingredients!
This post is crossposted from Tor’s blog Adrift and Awake. See the comments on the original post here.