Spotlight on Tara tucker as cookbook goes global
WHEN the Tara community put together their first town cookbook, no one could have known how far their tale would travel.
But 48 years, seven editions, a relaunch, and more than 10,000 copies later, a piece of Tara history has ended up all the way in Macau, China.
The tale of the Tara Tucker Book is just one of dozens of Australian community cookbook stories shared in Tried Tested and True, a food heritage book by Aussie author Liz Harfull.
Earlier this month Tried Tested and True was named equal third at the 2019 Gourmand Awards held in Macau, the "food culture equivalent” of the Olympics.
Ms Harfull said she had the idea for Tried Tested and True while speaking to everyday Aussie cooks who - instead of pulling out celebrity chef publications when stepping into the kitchen - would follow handwritten recipes or community collections that had been passed around their towns.
"I became very conscious how important these little books were to what generations of Australians cooked at home,” Ms Harfull said.
It was while Ms Harfull was visiting relatives in Roma that she stumbled upon the tale of the Tara Tucker Book.
Published in 1971 by the Tara Women's Show Auxiliary to raise money for the local show society, Ms Harfull said she was drawn to the story behind the book - that of sisters Betty Gill and Barbara Geisel.
The community-minded girls were always incredibly active in town, and it was Betty who came up with the idea of compiling a community cookbook and took on the task of editing
it, supported by a committee of women's auxiliary members.
Meanwhile Barbara lent her considerable artistic skills (her works hang in private collections the world over) to create illustrations and a quirky cover design, inspired by the famous yarn about a drover's dog sitting on a tucker box near Gundagai.
"As a writer what really draws me the most is telling the stories of everyday Australians and their contributions to their communities,” Ms Harfull said.
"They're usually the people that are not written about, or overlooked, because they just get on with things in a quiet way.”
Ms Harfull also featured one of Betty's own recipes in Tried Tested and True as a representation of the Tara collection.
"The period that these books came out, cheesecakes were really popular, in fact there's a whole section just for cheesecake recipes, and that's quite unusual,” she said.
"The recipe that I chose had an extra connection because it was one of Betty's, so it's always really nice if the recipe itself is linked into the people behind the book.”
And as for her work being named one of the best cookbooks in the world, Ms Harfull was elated.
"I am very proud of this book, and even making the shortlist, let alone receiving a prize that now allows the book to display the prestigious Gourmand Awards "Best in the World” logo on its front cover,” she said.
"It is a very fitting tribute to the unsung home cooks who created the original community cookbooks that I wrote about, and the simple but tasty recipes we all champion.”