Friday, May 24, 2013

An Empire Day Dinner.

May 24 was, in the last decades of the era when the globe was patched with pink bits, called Empire Day. On this day, citizens of the British Empire, wherever they may have been, and wherever they may have been born, took pause from their labours or their official duties to celebrate. In the 1930’s a last effort was made to ward off the end, and to stimulate Britain’s economy and pride, by the establishment of the Empire Day and the Empire Marketing Board.

The furthest reach of the British Empire was of course, its old penal colony, Australia. The Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) May 21, 1932 included the following advice on celebrating the day.

To enable Tasmania[n] women to comply with a request issued by Lady Isaacs and Mrs. J.A. Lyons, that on Empire Day … Empire products only shall be served for meals, a special Empire dinner menu has been compiled. In order that it will be suitable for Empire Day celebrations, the menu includes five courses. A selection of dishes can be made for private use. All the ingredients mentioned can be obtained within the Empire, the majority of them being produced in Australia.

Soup Maigre    Ox Tail Soup
Crayfish Cutlets                       Baked Barracouta
Oyster Patties               Mutton Cutlets
Roast Duck                  Roast Beef
Boiled Ham                 Casserole of Mutton
Cauliflower with White Sauce
Creme of Carrots
Baked and Boiled Potatoes
Empire Pudding,                      Apple Pie
and Wine Sauce                       Banana Chartreuse.

This is an interesting menu which says a great deal about the Australian national sentiments in the 1930’s. We would hardly call this an “Australian” menu today - it is clearly a British menu transplanted to Australia! The ingredients may well have been sourced here, but they are British to the core.

The newspaper article included recipes for the dishes. My choice is for the Banana Chartreuse, because bananas – though very popular in Britain then as now, do not grow there, but they are an important industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Banana Chartreuse.

Four bananas, one gill cream, two pint packets of jelly crystals, vanilla, three-quarters of a pint milk, two ounces sugar, half an ounce of gelatine, half a gill sherry, pinch salt. Make jelly by pouring one and a half pints boiling water over the crystals, then add sherry and stir well. Pour some of the jelly into a plain mould one inch deep and let set. Put a pattern of sliced bananas round the edge of the jelly and very gently pour a little jelly on top of bananas to set them. When set, stand a smaller mould on top of jelly and fill it with water. Pour the rest of the jelly round the small mould and let set. Cut up the gelatin and soak half an hour in milk, then dissolve slowly and cool. Add vanilla, salt, sugar, and whipped cream. Remove small mould by pouring out the cold water and wiping round inside with a hot cloth. Pour in and let set; then turn out onto a pretty dish.

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