Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Olympic Dinner, 1956.

I know that many of you are suffering from post-Olympic blues and boredom, now that the winter games have finished. To assuage your sense of loss, and give you something to read, I have an Olympic menu for you today, from the summer games in Sydney in 1956. The ceremonial aspects of the dinner, and the menu, were covered in The Australian Women's Weekly, of 7 November 1956
An Australian menu for Olympic dinner.
On November 22, when the red carpet is rolled out over the entrance steps to Menzies Hotel it will be the opening signal for the Olympic Banquet, one of the most significant formal dinners ever held in Melbourne.
THE banquet is being given by the president and members of the Australian Olympic Federation in honor of the president and members of the International Olympic Committee.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and the chairman of the Australian Olympic Federation, Sir Harold Alderson, will be among the party which will receive the Duke of Edinburgh and the other guests.
Exact details of how the Duke of Edinburgh and the guests will be received have been worked out with military precision.
Officials have even counted the number of steps the Duke will have to climb from the red carpet to the Gowrie Room, on the first floor, where the welcoming party will be waiting.
The menu - as Australian as any menu can be – has been drawn up by hotel chef "Blue" O'Malley, with the assistance of sweets chef Henry Timmerman.
Samples of all dishes have been approved by members of the committee organising the
A wine list which was chosen from top Australian wines has also been sampled by members of the committee.
Music for the banquet will be provided by the R.A.A.F. band under the direction of Squadron-Leader L. H. Hicks, Director of Music, R.A.A.F., who composed the Olympic fanfare for the 1956 Games.
As the official party enters the dining-room the R.A.A.F. trumpeters will play the Olympic fanfare.
When the guests reach the head table the trumpeters will play a fanfare and a special version of "God Save the Queen'" arranged by Squadron-Leader Hicks.
The trumpeters, an impressive sight with R.A.A.F. crested banners flying from their trumpets, will be stationed opposite the entrance to the dining-room. An R.A.A.F. string band will play in the orchestra balcony.
The banquet will be held in the hotel's dining-room, as the banquet-room is not large enough.
Floral decorations will be arranged by the hotel's own florist, Mrs. F. S. Neuss, who will use the Olympic colors and five circles as a theme. "It's a wonderful thrill to be doing the flowers for this occasion," she said. “Of course, as it is such a formal banquet, the arrangements will not be extravagant. I haven't quite worked out yet what I will do – except for using flowers in the Olympic colors. I will have plenty of scope in November with the spring flowers available."
Here is the menu, all Australian except for the New Zealand Toheroa soup:

Capricornia Fruit Cocktail, Toheroa Soup, Tasmanian Lobster, Creme de Menthe Sherbet, Roast Turkey and Ham, Green Peas, Potatoes Parisian, Asparagus with melted butter, Hazel Nut Bombe, Sweetmeats, Coffee.

Chefs O'Malley and Timmerman, both Australian trained, have had experience in preparing dinners and banquets for all nationalities.
"We're used to providing all-Australian menus," Chef O'Malley said, "as the Prime Minister always likes an Australian menu for any banquet he attends."
Toasts at the banquet will be proposed by a toastmaster in a specially designed red=coated uniform.
For this occasion a professional actor has been engaged.

The inclusion of a New Zealand specialty is somewhat of a mystery. The country was part of the colony of New South Wales until 1841, but the Kiwis attitude to that little historical fact seems to be “good riddance” or “thank goodness.” I jest, folks, there has been a friendly enmity between the two countries ever since the formal separation.
Toheroa is the Māori language name for) Paphies ventricosa , a large bivalve mollusk endemic to New Zealand. The name apparently translates as “long tongue.” It was so popular as an ingredient for soup, that it was very nearly rendered extinct at about the time of the Olympic dinner in 1956.

This is how you could have made the soup, when the shellfish was available, even if only in canned form.

Toheroa Soup
Two onions, one tin toheroas, one quart milk, or milk and water, one teaspoonful curry powder, one and a half teaspoonfuls flour, two tablespoonfuls butter, seasoning to taste, juice of half lemon. Pour liquor from toheroas and cut up fish, leaving a few nice pieces aside. Boil the liquid and cut up fish with a pint of water and the onions for an hour, and'strain. Bring the quart of milk to boil and thicken with the flour and curry powder. Add the butter and seasoning, then the toheroa liquid, strained, and the larger pieces. Immediately before serving add the lemon juice.

Auckland Star, 27 July 1943

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