The happiness of the human race depending to a large extent on the inspirations of the cook, it follows that, all the world over, cooks need cookery books so began the small review of the St. Andrew’s Dunedin Cookery Book in the 1927 Outlook. The Reviewer was expounding the wonders of its 12th Edition which included cooking for invalids, first aid to the sick and injured, household hints and advice to mothers from Sir Truby King as well as approximately 580 recipes.
This edition had brought the total sales of the Cookbook over 22 years to 61,000 and raised £700 (roughly $64,157.48 today) for local and overseas mission activity undertaken by St. Andrew’s.
The idea for a cookbook initially came from Mrs Robertson of the St. Andrew’s Friendly Aid Society, an organisation of women who assisted the large number of poor who lived within the St. Andrew’s parish bounds. Considerable demands for funds to support the local mission activity had seen the Society seek out creative ways of achieving their goal. The cookbook idea was novel and quickly taken up by the Society. Four women formed a Committee in August 1904 and set about gathering recipes from parishioners and friends. By December 1904, 2000 copies had been published and ready to sell.
The Cookery Book, the first community fund-raising recipe book published in New Zealand, was a great success with all 2000 copies sold by May 1905. It was such a success that the Committee had two offers to take over its publication and sale. The women chose the D.I.C. (Drapery and General Importing Co) who initially agreed to publish 5 000 to 10 000 further copies with the Society receiving threepence for every copy sold. As the popularity of the publication continued the DIC also continued their support. The Society remained responsible for editing and having oversight of each new volume encouraging women of standing to contribute their recipes such as the wives of serving Governor Generals, Lady Liverpool and Lady Plunket. A copy was given to the Queen in 1918 by Countess Liverpool and the response published in the 10th edition and those thereafter where she had been “graciously pleased to accept the Cookery Book” The last edition appears to be that published in 1932.
Rutherford Waddell in a forward to the 5th Edition, in 1911, notes the contribution of new recipes from Professor Boyes-Smith the recently appointed Professor of the new Domestic Science Chair at Otago University and makes comment about the popular new method of Paper Bag Cookery using parchment type bags. He notes that the Cookbook is the only book of its genre containing instructions by Truby King on the feeding and caring of children. Waddell suggests that to be “thoroughly up to date in the principles and practices in domestic science [one] should buy, buy, buy, the St. Andrew’s Cookery Book!”
The recipes do vary between the different editions as new ones are added and old ones removed. Of the 550 recipes which made up the 1905 cookbook, more than half were for baking, puddings and desserts, suggesting the Scots delight in things sweet, with just 50 recipes for meat, 27 for fish and 19 for soup. One notable omission from the early editions however, is vegetable recipes. In contrast the 1927 edition has 46 vegetable and salad recipes which on the whole were supplied by Professor Strong of the University Domestic Science Department.
Much has been made of where the ANZAC biscuit originated in recent years but it would appear that St. Andrew’s Dunedin women can claim the honour for the first published Anzac Biscuit recipe. Professor emeritus Helen Leach of Otago found that the first reference to ANZAC with a recipe was in the 1915 St. Andrew’s Cookery Book although the recipe appeared more cake like than a biscuit. But the 1921 edition published a recipe for ANZAC Crispies which today we claim as the ANZAC biscuit, although research may yet reveal an earlier published recipe.
Community fund raising cookbooks proved to be a popular fund raising activity in the years that followed for many churches and associated groups. As Jane Teal notes in the Kinder Library Bibliography of Church cookbooks ‘Many of these cookbooks are now butter-splattered, do-eared and coverless, but they tell us much about our culinary traditions and developing national cuisines.’ They have come in a variety of formats and appear in many kitchens, but none had the life of the St. Andrew’s Cookery Book. These publications are worth retaining and hopefully will find their way to our libraries and archives.
This article was written for the Methodist paper Touchstone