I don’t believe I have given you a dinner menu from an Acclimatisation Society before, which has been a serious omission which I will remedy today.
Acclimatisation Societies were a nineteenth century imperial concept. There were two broad aims: one was to aid the study of natural history, the other was to encourage the spread and cultivation of native species from the respective colonies. A third aim was perhaps to have a jolly good eating time – most of the dinners were clearly intended to showcase all of the intriguing exotica that could be obtained and prepared for the table.
The Acclimatisation Society of Victoria (Australia) was established in 1861. The first annual dinner was held in 1863. The following year, the Melbourne newspaper the Argus, in its edition of 7 July 1864, gave a detailed description of the second annual meeting and dinner. Part of that article is transcribed below:
Acclimatisation Society's Dinner.
The second dinner given under the auspices of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria took place last evening, at Scott's Hotel, Collins-street West. About sixty gentlemen were present, … The whole affair was highly successful. Not only was it a fitting tribute to the cause of acclimatisation, but it was also a complete triumph of gastronomy. All the varieties of " fish, flesh, and fowl" obtainable-indigenous and imported - were represented; and there was in consequence a repast as gratifying to the bon vivant as to the man who looks upon the multiplication of our food resources merely from the utilitarian point of view. There were several kinds of soup - oyster, Murray lobster, wild turkey, and kangaroo. The fish included,"cod" from the Murray, trumpeter from Hobart Town, eels caught at Yon Yean, and perch brought from Gipps Land. Among the entrees were curries, pates, and salmis, in which wombat, bandicoot, and paroquet figured conspicuously; but the bonne bouche was certainly the "vol au vent of frogs." With regard to the more substantial features of the feast, it may bo observed that, although there were saddles of Chinese mutton and kangaroo, the undoubted pièce de resistance was a saddle of mutton (weighing 451b.) cut from a Leicester sheep, and presented by Mr. T. F. Hamilton, of Gisborne. There was also a famous haunch of venison, but it had not been hung long enough to thoroughly satisfy epicures. Other sorts of game were plentiful, and English pheasant and hare were discussed simultaneously with native companion and mallee hen. Of the vegetables, the yams and sweet potatoes were much inquired after. There was a great assortment of sweets, one prominent item being a pudding named after His Excellency the Governor. The wines included some choice European varieties, samples of the best vintages of New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria ; a sparkling American wine – Cautauba - grown in Ohio; and some colonial Madeira, thirteen years old made by the late Mr. Bear. The success of the entertainment was considerably enhanced by the response made to the Acclimatisation Society's appeal for "palatable contributions. Among these contributions was a fallow buck, a black swan, and some wallabies, sent by Mr. McHaffie, of Philip Island; a number of pheasants and rabbits, by Mr. T.Austin, of Barwon Park; a hare, by Mr.W. Lyall; yams and sweet potatoes, by Mr. E. Dacomb, of Portland; and several bottles of home-made colonial pickles, by an unknown donor. The contributions by the Acclimatisation Society of Queensland consisted of sugar bananas, pineapples, green ginger, arrowroot, oranges, and preserves, from the estate of Mr. Charles Coxen; some sugar from the station of the Hon. Louis Hope; and a number of yams and sweet potatoes; and we understand it was a matter of regret to Mr. L. A. Bernays and other gentlemen connected with the Queensland society, that, owing to the short notice, other articles could not be sent. For other information about the viands, we must refer our readers to the subjoined "bill of fare.”
Sydney rock oysters.
A la tortue.
Au dindon sauvage.
A la queue de kangaroo.
A la bisque d'ecrevisses du Murray.
Les cabillauds de Murray, sauce crevettes.
Le fillet de merlan au gratín.
Le filet de sole à l’orliz.
Le mullet grille a la maitre d'hotel
La matelotte d'angullle.
Les anguilles frites au beurre.
Le porch do Gipps Land a la Nantaise
Les anguilles du Yan Yean a la Tartare
Le perch du Murray a la Chambord
Le poisson noir, sauco Gonolse.
Le carrelet, sauce Normande
Le fillet de trompeteror au turban.
Le dorade au bleu.
Le vol au ventt de grenouille a la poulette
La chartreuses de pigeon sauvage.
Le fricandeau de wombat aux epinards
Les côtelettes de venaison, sauce champignons
Le fillot de canard noir, sauce d'orange.
Le bandicoot en currie
Le civet de chevreuil.
Le pate chaud de perroquets.
Le salmi do sarcelles aux truffes.
Le lapin sauvage sauce a la chasseur.
La rnayonaise de volaille.
Le chaud froid de gibier.
Do. do. poulet nouveau.
L'Aspic d'escalop de lapin native
Do. de pigeon native
La galantine de dindoneau.
Hûre de sanglier
Lo cochon sauvage du Goulbourn.
Le jambon glacé – langues glacées.
Le selle do mouton de Chine.
L'agneau de Chine garni de pilaf
Lo lapln do Barwon Park, bouilli sauce celery.
Le dinde bouilli sauce celery.
Les dindes rotis.
Les oies rôties.
L'ole du Cap Barren.
Le canard sauvago roti.
Le jambon braisé au Madeira
Le lapin de Barwon Park rotis.
Hanche de venaison.
Selle de kangaroo.
Le faisan. Les oiseaux de wattle.
Le lievre Le dinde sauvage
Le native compagnon Le canard noir
Le canard des bois Les pluviers dorés
Le pintade roti Les wombats
Les bandicoots la poule de mallee
Les Sarcelles Les cailles
LEGUMES DE LA SAISON
Les yams de Queensland.
Les pommes de terres douces, les artlchaux.
Les corbeilles garnis.
Les biscuits aux amandes.
Les meringues Suisses.
Les biscuits do Savoie a l'orange.
Les tourtes aux pommes.
La chartreuse de fruits.
La gélée de Danzick.
Les pommes aux riz meringues.
Le boudin de Darling.
Le fondu au Parmesan.
Les gateaux Napolitains.
Le blanc mange a la Moscovite
Les beignets d'ananas.
La Charlotte a la Parisienne
Le gélée au Madeiro,
Le compote d'abricot de Chantilly.
Le meringue a la crême.
Le boudin de Victoria.
Le macaroni au gratin.
Le boudin glacé a la Cerito.
Les crêmes aux fraises glacées.
The dinner was served à la Russe, by which it is to understood that almost everything was carved at the sideboard, and handed round by the waiters. The effect of this arrangement was to prolong the repast over a period of something like three hours and a half- an arrangement which, judging by results, was not at all unsatisfactory to the great majorityof the guests.
Recipe selection was difficult today. I decided against giving you instructions for cooking wombat or bandicoot, but still wanted to keep the content Australian. In the end, amidst such elaborate richness, I went for a simple banana recipe, for no better reason than that bananas are an important crop in my home state of Queensland.
Procure five ripe bananas, take off the skins and pound the fruit in a mortar to a pulp with 5 oz.white sugar. Beat up half a pint of good cream to a stiff froth, add the pounded bananas, half a glass of brandy, and the juice of one lemon; mix well together, then add ½ oz. of isinglass dissolved in a little boiling water, gently whisk for a few minutes, fill the mould, set in a cool place till wanted. When required dip the mould in warm water for a few seconds, wipe and turn out onto a glass dish.
The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld) 6 December 1890.