By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
The Art of Living in Australia
By Philip E. Muskett (Sydney University Press, $28.95, softcover, 282 pages)
It’s a revelation that more than a century ago, Australian-born medical practitioner Philip Muskett first mentioned the value of a Mediterranean diet and drinking habits for the Australian way of life.
In 1893, the health reformer showed foresight: “…There has been no real attempt to develop our deep-sea fisheries; market gardening is deplorably neglected, only a few of the more ordinary varieties being cultivated; salads, which are easily within the daily reach of every home, are conspicuous by their absence; and Australian wine, which should be the national beverage of every-day life, is at table — almost a curiosity”.
The Art of Living in Australia was Muskett’s appeal for Australians to alter aspects of their physical life. His recommendations included ablution, appropriate clothing for hot and cold weather, bedroom ventilation, diet and exercise.
He found that “… the consumption of butcher’s meat and of tea is enormously in excess of any common sense requirements, and is paralleled nowhere else in the world”.
He disliked the eating habits which had grown from the availability of foods during early colonial times – the predominance of meat, bread, butter and tea – encouraging instead the increased consumption and production of vegetables, seafood and fish, salads and wine.
More than 300 recipes contributed by Mrs Wicken, lecturer in charge of ‘domestic economy’ at Sydney Technical College, are easy to follow.
Muskett points out that soup was a neglected food. It is not expensive, not much trouble to make and is, in fact, a “splendid restorative”.
“To give the greatest amount of nourishment with the least trouble to the digestive organs should be the study of every housekeeper, and soup is a valuable aid in this respect,” Muskett said.
The words of poet Owen Meredith ring true: “…But where is the man that can live without dining?”
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