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True to the Land

A History of Food in Australia

Spanning 65,000 years, this book provides a history of food in Australia from its beginnings, with the arrival of the first peoples and their stewardship of the land, to a present where the production and consumption of food is fraught with anxieties and competing priorities. It describes how food production in Australia is subject to the constraints of climate, water, and soil, leading to centuries of unsustainable agricultural practices post-colonization. Australian food history is also the story of its xenophobia and the immigration policies pursued, which continue to undermine the image of Australia as a model multicultural society. This history of Australian food ends on a positive note, however, as Indigenous peoples take increasing control of how their food is interpreted and marketed.

352 pages | 80 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

Foods and Nations

Food and Gastronomy

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"It’s surprising, given how central food is to our lives, that serious studies of the food industry are only just hitting the mainstream. As van Reyk says in this comprehensive study, a history of food is not only about what we ate and eat. Central to his study is the concept of 'foodways'—how food is grown, produced, distributed, and consumed. He takes us back to Indigenous land-management and food practices, through the colonial period and the introduction of European farming to the present day and the new breed of farmers engaging with regenerative practices and looking to native crops."

Sydney Morning Herald

"Van Reyk begins his story of Australian foodways some 50,000 years ago, and leaves us in 2020 amid serious concerns about climate change, drought, and the threat of bushfires (to all of which he pays full attention). Land, climate, and distance have profound impacts on what we eat and how much it costs. . . . There often seems to be something small and petty about food interests . . . unless we examine the bigger picture, and include agriculture and supply. Van Reyk is very good at correcting this as well as including the currency of food shifts and crazes; the follies of aspirations."

Gay Bilson | Australian Book Review, "Book of the Week"

"Ambitiously evaluates the foodways of this land over 65,000 years. . . . I highly recommend True to the Land to the general public, university students of food history, school teachers and academics. This food history is also relevant to researchers on Australian history, colonial history and cultural and social histories."

The Conversation

"A thorough examination of Australia’s culinary history. . . . Divided into ten chapters and organized historically, the book describes the foodways of the first peoples, the colonization of Australia, during wartime and between wars, Federation, post-colonialism and modernity; it ends with the themes of Australia as a foodie nation and millennial reckonings. . . . A skillfully written overview of Australian food history, detailing the evolution of Australian foodways and agriculture while acknowledging the contributions of the many cultures that make up contemporary Australia."

Digestible Bits and Bites

"Aimed at a broad readership, this book is no romp through the tantalizing delights and clichéd curiosities of 'slippery bob, ' 'kangaroo steamer,' and the like, and it contains only a few recipes. Van Reyk’s voice is direct but relatively informal, his pacing lively but unrushed, but True to the land is a serious and well researched study. . . . True to the land is well worth the attention of those interested in Australian gastronomic history in its many guises—political, economic, cultural, and environmental—and how these entities now shape our food future."

Australian Garden History

"In Australia, more than anywhere else, we are what we eat. From everyday acts of multiculturalism handed over the fence to locking up the families of Tamil meatworks employees: food here is so much more than sustenance. Paul van Reyk’s book is a rich introduction into that conundrum. The only thing is the title. True to the Land? I wish we could be."

Australia Explained

"A comprehensive history of the food of Australia, from its beginning with the First Nations people 60,000 years ago to 2020."

John Newton, author of "The Oldest Foods on Earth: A History of Australian Native Foods"

"A masterful overview of Australian food history and foodways, including their social and political implications and the influences of scientific and technological advances. From millennia-old fish traps to television’s MasterChef Australia, by way of damper and mutton, lamingtons and Anzacs, it charts the evolution of Australian food and agriculture, acknowledging the contributions of the many cultures that make up contemporary Australia."

Barbara Santich, professor emeritus, University of Adelaide

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