“An Organized Disturbance…”

A Bunny Imperious

The American Charles N. Miller’s 12-page encomium to Welsh rabbit, written in 1899, is one of the greatest tributes to any food, indeed it rivals Charles Lamb’s famous paean to roast pig.

Miller’s essay is all the more remarkable for being (hitherto) unknown. A sample:

Bass Extra Pale Ale, Miller’s “first, best, perfect corroborant”, is feted as wingman, to use the vernacular, or more specifically, the U.K.’s. Brit-talk is apposite though, we are in Albion’s shadow albeit Miller was a Yank.

Bass ale, even in its modern decline, is still understood. And Welsh rabbit, well, it hangs by a hare in the culinary acquis. A renewal is in order, of both.

Is Herkimer on Your Gastronomic Map?

Sharp eyes may have noticed the name on the wheel of cheese pushed by a plump bunny in this image included in a number of our posts:

The drawing is the cover of the 1899 Welsh Rabbit at Hildreth’s by Charles N. Miller, who delivered a high panegyric on the cheesy subject.

That’s Herkimer. What’s Herkimer? The name of a famous cheese district in America in the second half of the 19th century. I had not heard of it and it forms part of the 1001 little-known but fascinating food sagas of culinary North America.

Herkimer is a county in central New York State, one of number that comprise the Mohawk Valley.

Every summer, Nan Ressue and others hold a New York cheese festival there, one we hope to attend this summer. Ressue has written excellent notes, with sources listed, on the history of Herkimer cheese fame. Start here to bone up.

The story ended with the approach of WW I, as milk was diverted from creameries to make condensed milk for the Allied forces. Even before that, cheese shipments had declined domestically. Wisconsin and Ohio had started to compete with Herkimer production, and Canada too via increased exports of cheddar to the U.S. Much of this was from Ontario, still indeed a cheddar stronghold.

New York exports, especially to Britain, had declined by 1900 since newly-introduced frozen meat from Argentina and the Antipodes was selling for the same price as the cheese, ousting part of the market.

Still, there has been a modest revival of the former staggering trade which once reached 30M lbs of cheese a year. A Herkimer Cheese company, founded in 1949 in Little Falls, was the first part of the revival. Since then numerous dairy farms and artisan dairies have emerged to produce again fine New York cheese.

A cheddar-type was the principal product of the original industry, both white and orange-coloured (with anatto). Clearly it was prized for Welsh Rabbit, the melted cheese specialty that came with the colonists to America from Britain.

Charles Miller’s book appeared just as tolling time for the Herkimer cheese business was nigh. But culinary and beverage associations and reputations long endure. Virginia Elliott’s 1930s recipe for Welsh Rabbit I recounted yesterday recommended “well-cured New York or Old English cheese”.

The New York reference was clearly to the kind of cheddar Herkimer County specialized in before WW 1. Perhaps a little of it was still around, or a similar cheese was, made elsewhere in the Empire State.

Well, Herkimer is back, and Beeretseq will try some in July, hopefully. More anon.




The Welsh Rabbit Bounds From the 1930s

[A] delightful relish to serve with rarebit is a dish of old-fashioned cucumbers and onions. Slice the cucumbers and a Bermuda onion fairly thin. Cover with cider or wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for fifteen minutes before serving.

Welsh Rarebit No. 2

Dice one pound of well-cured New York or Old English cheese and melt it slowly in a chafing dish or pan. Add half a teaspoon of salt, a soup spoon of Worcestershire sauce and enough stale beer or ale to make the right consistency. Pour it over toast, toasted English muffins or toasted wafers. If the rarebit strings it is because the cheese is green.

Tomato and Bacon Rarebit

Place a thin slice of peeled fresh tomato on toast. Pour the rarebit over it and garnish with two or three pieces of crisp bacon.

These recipes are from Virginia Elliott’s Quiet Drinking, a 1930s book I reviewed recently in this blogpost. Any good aged Cheddar, or similar hard cheese, works well. The crumbly, rather than the elastic type, works best.

The direction to use “stale beer” does not mean beer turned sour, but simply beer flat and left in an open container from the night before. Fresh beer is certainly good to use too, but it’s probably a good idea to shake all carbonation out of it.

I’d omit the salt, as cheese and Worcestershire have plenty.

You can add other flavourings to taste such as cayenne (traditional), paprika, scallion bits, bits of diced beet.

I’ve written earlier how Welsh Rabbit captured the imagination of American gourmets in the gas lamp era and up to Prohibition. The source of the image below is explained in this further post on the dish.

Elliott’s reprise of the dish in her early post-Repeal cookery book, which has a chapter on the foods to accompany beer, echoed an earlier era. After WW II, the dish recedes in importance in American cooking.

The 1960s brought the idea back via the fondue and raclette craze but beer did not usually complement such Swiss ways with cheese. Welsh Rabbit in modern cookery is practically forgotten, it was swept away by the postwar infatuation with Continental, (non-U.K.) peasant, and market cuisines.

Welsh Rabbit is due for a comeback, don’t you think? It would suit many who don’t eat meat or like to minimize their consumption. The hearty cuke and onion garnish suggested by Elliott is just right, too. That was the salad of earlier generations.

Rabbit redux!


Relay, Something’s Brewing

Relay, Something’s Doin’ … Relay, It’s a Revolution

In reference to our popular earlier posts on Guinness, including those on draft and bottled/canned, we are well aware Guinness has been building a brewery in Relay, Maryland.

The site is a former distillery, Calvert, owned by Diageo, label owner of Guinness. The property was there, the alcohol history was there. The penny finally dropped and the American Blonde brand and presumably other beer will gush from Guinness fermenters on American soil later this year.

Guinness had owned a brewery in Long Island City, NY back in the early 1950s. It was an outgrowth of the Burke ale and stout brewery built by a longstanding Guinness importer. There were also experiments to brew Guinness elsewhere in the U.S. (in the southwest, for example) in the same period.

The idea didn’t take, but it’s time has come. Today, even for a storied brand as Guinness, the idea that local manufacture has an unassailable integrity is ever more tenuous. Brewing is so sophisticated today that any kind of beer can be brewed anywhere, virtually. All it takes is the will.

In any case Guinness has long had plants or license arrangements in Nigeria, in Caribbean, nay in Toronto. This is just the next step, and long overdue in fact.

Pending opening the permanent visitor centre and taprooms (there will be several) at Relay, a temporary taproom opened a few months ago. It is located in Halethorpe, a mile from Relay and site of one of the Calvert whiskey warehouses. Baltimore is only about 10 miles away.

A two-barrel system has been installed and a bar is open from Thursday-Sunday. The Guinness-brand stouts are brought in from Dublin, but experimental beers are being made and sold from the pilot operation.

The following beers are being offered at date of writing according to the website:


Guinness Draught Stout

Guinness Blonde Lager

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Guinness Antwerpen Stout

Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout (bottles)

Guinness Crosslands Pale Ale (Featuring Dark Cloud Malthouse and Black Locust Hops)

Guinness Black IPA #1

Guinness Golden Series #7

Guinness Golden Series #8

Guinness Mild Ale #1

Guinness IPA #2

Not a bad list.

One of the two brewers is a former Stone Brewery employee, Peter Wiens, an impressive pedigree. They have been quoted that they have a free hand to brew the beers they like. The above list shows some interesting ones, especially the Black IPA. There have been some collaborations as well with local microbrewers including Heavy Seas (Clipper City), long-established in the locality.

Noteworthy is the offering on draft of the strong Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Antwerp (aka Special Export) Stout, to date only available bottled and not easy to find.

One wonders if these are pasteurized, presumably the regular draft is. Even if FES and SES are too it is probably by a less intrusive process than bottled and canned beer typically get. It should be a good drop at the bar, either way.

This development follows upon a pilot facility installed a few years ago at St. James Gate, the Open Gate Brewery. The American facility will be similarly named.

The Dublin Open Gate has focused, or when we last looked, on saison and other trendy craft styles. But hopefully Guinness stout and porter as made in the 19th century will emerge, or rather re-emerge, and see dawn of day in America too.

Hence we see modest signs that Guinness, after sticking to its knitting with pasteurised, “widget” (nitrogen-dispense) stout for decades, is turning the ship around. It looks to join the craft brewing trend that after all is its own history and heritage, one almost invisible at St. James Gate, so long has industrial brewing been ideé reçue.

If Relay and the Dublin Open Gates offer finally cask-conditioned stout and porter brewed to 19th century standards including from all-malt, the circle will be completed.  If you want to see how cask-conditioned Guinness was served in one pub in Dublin, The Long Hall, look here in the first minute. It’s shown with remarkable colour fidelity, the film is from about 1960.

It’s a documentary from British Pathé memorializing, or in retrospect it does, the “old way” for Guinness. Later in the film in another pub, you see Guinness drawn from an early small metal font: that provided the mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas current today.

The old way served the beer (often, not invariably) from tall gleaming hand-pulls, unpressurised pumps used to dispense ale and porter since the early 1800s.

Will it soon be 1960 and The Long Hall Pub all over again?


Obs. We see no reason not to have an Open Gate in Toronto, Guinness. All in due time, we trust.



Handpumped Guinness in Living Colour

I’m bringing forward my earlier post on draft Guinness as it was before the “nitro-pour”, see here. This post is among the most read in my catalogue, along with my piece on Dow ale.

The post fits well with a fascinating British Pathé clip I found on youtube the other day, see here. It shows in living colour the drawing of Guinness in Dublin by handpump c. 1960. The beer appears to get a finishing dose from a second barrel under the bar. The tap is turned by hand in this case – no pump handle; perhaps the second beer came up by compressed air.

The second brew was probably the flat, more aged Guinness of two forms in the cellar. In that period, draft Guinness was often a mix of two casks, one fresh and foamy, the other flatter, older, perhaps a little lactic. A touch of the latter gave the beer a greater complexity.

In the literature on Irish porter, there is inconsistency whether the fresh foamy cask was poured first or the flatter, older beer. To my mind the older beer should go in second, but perhaps that is not right, or some pubs did it different ways. In any case you see two pours in one glass in the film if you look carefully.

The pub shown, The Long Hall in Great Georges Street, still exists, as you see here. Using the 360 degree view feature one sees the handpull paraphernalia still. Unless used for a craft brand, it is disused as no Guinness today is served by handpump. It’s decor, now.

The pub is extremely handsome, a lush Victorian interior is belied by the plain frontage and fascia. If you want an idea of the 19th century gin palace, this gives more than the flavour.

Cask stout today or no, The Long Hall looks a great place to have a drink and ponder the shades of Brendan Behan.

The stunning visual document from British Pathé, not previously identified by the beer historical community to my knowledge, is a valuable aid to understanding Guinness history.

Diageo Guinness, to my knowledge again, has resisted bringing back cask-conditioned beer, something that mystifies me, but there it is. If it ever does so though, I would advise an all-malt specification and vigorous hopping as Guinness used in the 19th century and probably into the mid-1900s.



CMOS Brewing

In 1939 with war clouds on the horizon, the Journal of the Institute of Brewing (IOB) took time to discuss a matter it had periodically dealt with in the past: the best wood for casks and a comparison of American and “Memel” oak.

The 1939 article was probably the last time the IOB looked at this, or in any detail. After the war Crown Memel Oak Staves from Lithuanian forests and other areas in the Baltic proved almost impossible to find. If brewers could find it, the staves were frequently riddled with shell rounds and other damage connected to the late war.

In time, as the old Memel casks were quite literally tapped out, lined American wood was relied on, with metal casks finally taking over.

Why were the American casks lined? The author of the 1939 article, William Lindsay, explains briskly:

The timber used for brewery and distillery casks is invariably oak. The origin of this oak is usually Russia or North America; other kinds have been tried but not successfully. The properties essential for cask timber are:—
(1) Neutrality—to preserve the flavour of the beer.
(2) Tightness—to prevent leakage.
(3) Breathing ability for maturing the liquor.
(4) Bending ability to prevent breakages.
(5) Hard wearing.
Russian or Polish oak has a fine balance of these properties and is shipped in staves of standardised quality and measurement. The staves are known as Crown Memel Oak Staves, and is the wood commonly used for beer casks. American oak is closer-grained and denser and consequently harder and tighter, but for that reason it is more difficult to remove objectionable flavouring matters. When used for beer, an internal lining is necessary.

The reason the casks were lined was to keep out “objectionable flavouring matters”. What were these objectionable flavouring matters? Earlier articles in the IOB’s Journal explained them as a flavour imparted by the species of oak typical in the Arkansas and other North American oak stands.

One IOB account called it a “cocoanut” taste, but noted that casks from CMOS did not carry the taste. Any tannic taste they did impart was easy to leach out, as William Lindsay explained in 1939, since the grain of CMOS was looser than for the tight American oak.

The disliked taste in American wood was evidently the bright vanillin, coconut taste familiar to anyone who knows bourbon whiskey or Chardonnay wine. And it’s not just American wine, but almost any Chardonnay as most today are stored in American oak casks. Of course some French and other non-U.S. wood is used, but relatively little due to scarcity and expense.

The plain fact is that British brewers did not want the American oak taste in pale ale or porter. There was an apparent exception for Guinness, as some evidence exists for its use of (charred) American oak casks in the 1800s.

But English, Scots, and Welsh brewers certainly did not want the taste. When they first had to use American casks during WW I they lined them to keep that taste out.

British casks from CMOS were not generally lined although experiments occurred off and on with enamelling and other barriers since the 1800s. This was not to keep out a bad taste from the wood but to solve the problem of sour beer from microflora in hard-to-clean wood casks.

My point here is two-fold: tastes change, and the coconut, vanilla taste of craft, barrel-aged beer is familiar to anyone who follows the beer scene. It is doubtful the brewers knew that their British forbears (in the broad sense) generally disdained such wood.

Even if they did know, modern brewing has set its own path. Use of American unlined wood to store beer is only one example of practices now considered normal that brewers generations ago would have found odd, to say the least.*

Second point: has any historical brewing recreation sought to use CMOS for a substantial part of the process? This is not say historical-object brewing using vessels made from metal or American wood lacks value. All historical recreations are approximate anyway. But using CMOS can only increase the chances of authenticity.

I’m not aware anyone has sought to do this. Some wood currently used in mashing, fermentation, or even for casks in some traditional breweries may be CMOS or English oak (even better according to historical sources). But even in these cases the wood in question would only influence part of the taste, probably just a small part typically.

If any recreation project has occurred, or any standard commercial brewing takes place, that does use CMOS or English wood in a substantial part of the process, I would be interested to know, certainly. In any case, I urge such a project. Memel oak is still available, in enough quantity surely to make a few casks and probably other brewing vessels.


*Cloudy beer is one. Sour beer is (by and large) another.



The Irish Pedigree of Corned Beef

Irish Specialists Examine the Question

With the arrival imminent of the day of St. Patrick (SPD), I’ve been re-tweeting my March 19, 2016 blogpost. It argues corned beef has ample Irish roots, certainly throughout the 1800s, and is not a faux-national dish of Ireland via a boost from American cultural influences including its foodways.

This is something worth putting forth in a time when you can read countless media stories on both sides of the Atlantic that recommend corned beef and cabbage for SPD but often with a hint of exasperation, if not apology that the dish isn’t really Irish.

Just yesterday, I discovered a salutary 2011 academic study entitled Irish Corned Beef: a Culinary History. It was published by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and was co-authored by Dr. Mairtin Mac Con Iomaire of the DIT and Padraic Og Gallagher. You can read it here.

I was pleased to discover that the authors do not accept the “simplistic” explanation I had also found wanting, that the connection of corned beef to the Irish really results from Irish immigrant contact with Jewish corned brisket in New York, in particular.

The authors point out that corned beef (under various names) has a long history in Ireland. Initially, this was as a largely aristocratic or festive dish, independent of the British. Later, the association expanded under British auspices, often to supply corned beef for HM ships and Empire needs (Cork city is important in this history).

Finally, the dish manifested as part of the Irish cooking repertoire simpliciter. My 2016 post examines the matter essentially from this last aspect, limited to the 1800s.

The authors point out that to be sure corned beef and cabbage had (as many foods do in any country) a regional footprint in Ireland, as well as an irregular family pattern.

Based on their investigations including personal testimonies, some families never ate the dish. Some ate it along with bacon as well, or for the main holidays. The authors suggest that later in the 20th century corned beef declined in popularity while bacon enjoyed an uptick. They consider that the relative cost of these meats is the main factor in this regard. Conversely, the comparatively favourable price of beef in the U.S. encouraged a greater consumption there among those of Irish background, hence the long association between Irish-Americans and corned beef.

But as I argued in my 2016 article, this does not mean corned beef and cabbage is a post-Irish emigration culinary development. I read the 2011 study as making the same point.

I had found the three sources reviewed in my 2016 post in literally a few minutes, bearing in mind I used just Google Books and only the full-view component. I’m sure there are other references in popular literature of the 1800s and earlier to the enjoyment of corned beef in different parts of Ireland among different classes and ethnicities.

In any case, the valuable 2011 study of two Irish food specialists encourages me to think such evidence must exist.

Whether the popular commentary of today will swing back to appreciating corned beef as an Irish culinary datum remains to be seen. I think this will happen, but it will take time, as for any received wisdom to be changed.

Finally, one of the nice things about the food world – here I refer to its daily, vernacular form well-outside the halls of academia – is that it blithely carries on without regard to what the press or other tastemakers may think. Hundreds or thousands of corned beef and cabbage dinners are being held this month across North America and not a few I’m sure in Ireland, under the assumption the dish is Irish. This will carry on forever quite probably, but it will be satisfying to some observers that the assumption under which the tradition operates turns out to be right.

Obs. I enjoyed as well the largely jargon-free tone of the 2011 article. Its acknowledgement of the relevance of non-academic writing on the subject or related topics was welcome as well, with reference to writers such as Myrtle Allen, Alan Davidson, and Mark Kurlansky among others. I say this without in any way taking away from the importance of the latter-day “professionalization” of food studies via the academy. At the same time it is a development considerably inspired by non-university-affiliated writers and independent researchers, whose activities continue to be relevant.

Note re image: the image shown is entitled St. Patrick’s Day Icon Set Collection, by mvolz, was sourced at this site. It is believed in the public domain. Used here for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property therein resides solely in its lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.


Barney’s Beanery Rocks Beer Pre-craft


Shown, courtesy the archived menu collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, is the beer list of the legendary Barney’s Beanery in Hollywood, CA.  The time period is c. 1980. We first visited L.A. about this time, and the beer list is exactly as I recall it.

Barney’s was founded in 1920 and continues at the original location in the same, low-slung wood frame building. New ownership in this millennium has expanded the brand to other locations, all to the good provided they keep the original. The image of the original location is from the restaurant’s website. The exterior is virtually unchanged for generations and the interior, judging by images I’ve viewed, looks pretty much the same too.

Barney’s was known in the old days as Beer-central. That was before Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, and all the rest of the craft beer royalty. But places like Barney’s paved the way – remember that.

As you see, there were only a few drafts available: Miller (High Life), Miller Lite, and Lowenbrau. Lowenbrau was brewed in America by then. The availability of Miller in both light and dark reflects an earlier time, when “dark beer”, an American interpretation of the original Munich (Dunkel) lager, had a niche market. To beer fans then, it was an alternative to the mass-market norm.*

The bottled list is where the action was, and this too reflects an older time, when bottled, pasteurized beer was often the main form of beer available especially in the far-flung west coast.

The selection is a study in 1970s beery predilections. From Canada, they had “Molson’s”, which type not specified, but this is L.A. man, all rules are suspended, go with it. (It was probably Molson Golden Ale).

England – not U.K., England, as many Americans still call the union – supplied Bass and Whitbread, pretty solid. Scotland, separately treated nonetheless, gave us McEwan’s, reintroduced some years ago by Wells of Bedford and available currently in Ontario. The brand with others has been sold to Marston, but I hope it’s still made as the beer is quite good and a taste of post-WW II malty history.

Nearby Mexico offered the usual suspects including Corona, so you see the bridgehead of its current dominance: places like Barney’s made it happen. Beer authority Michael Jackson described Corona as an early, unlikely “sub-yuppie” favourite in California. That success later went national, and beyond.

Was the Beanery a yuppie hangout then? Maybe, I went there after all.

Noche Buena was available too, which Jackson always liked, I think it’s still made, a nice caramel/amber evocation of the old Vienna style, from the time Mexico was in the Austrian Empire’s orbit.

That mainland Chinese beer is a bit of a surprise, as Barney’s was always staunchly American but Richard Nixon had opened up China trade, that probably explains it.

There are no craft beers, even though Anchor Brewing’s beers were available from San Francisco in the 1970s. If the menu is actually post-1977, theoretically beer from New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, the first truly modern craft brewery, could have been offered. But this was much too soon for craft beer to appear, the first glimmerings were on almost no one’s radar when this menu appeared.

You could do a Barney’s-style brunch today with one of its avocado omelettes, say, some sourdough (the Bay Area is close enough), a Cobb salad, Crenshaw melon or similar, and some of these beers. Let’s do it.

Obs. That someone at Barney’s cared about good beer is obvious not just from the dozen German beers on the list, but from the Czech Pilsner Urquell, and also San Miguel Dark. Carlsberg Dark too, which may well have been a stout. (Ed Wray, if you’re reading?).

San Miguel Dark is a rich delicious beer almost never seen in North America, from Philippines. Hark LCBO.

N.B. Thanks to Tim Holt, editor of the journal Brewery History who indirectly suggested to me the topic of this post, two hours ago in fact.

Note re images: the images above were obtained from the sources identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Two forms of bottled Lowenbrau are classified as German, but either this was a, um, printing hangover from earlier days when it was German-brewed, or, perhaps the bar offered German Lowenbrau in bottles and American-brewed Lowenbrau for the draft.





I&G Kindred Spirits


Scotch-Irish Solidarity

Provided by the brand’s PR for review (as earlier I&G’s I’ve reviewed), I opened this at near room-temperature. It’s a release timed of course to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day: the aging barrels had held Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.

I’ve written earlier on the new barrel-in-beer method of Scotland-based I&G. The results are evident to see here as well: the beer is touched by a cured wood flavour, but retains an essential freshness. The result for me is that the off-putting oxidative notes of many barrel-aged beers are absent.

It’s a great method and shows that innovation is ceaseless and necessary in brewing as in any other endeavour.

The taste is good and natural. I like the fact that there is no raw, over-roasted character. And the bitterness is more than adequate. I don’t believe porter and stout should be hop bombs, in fact.

It’s contemporary Irish in following the dryness of most Irish stout of no great gravity, at least the ones I’ve had both made in Ireland and North American emulations.

Whether O’Hara’s, Murphy’s, Guinness (any version), or a North American craft brand, it’s a trait almost invariable in modern stout and porter averaging 4-6% abv, anyway.

I prefer a sweeter taste, more malty, a taste too I believe is historical for the mild (unaged) end of the stout spectrum.

True, barrel-aging implies perhaps a greater attenuation than “new” beer, but still at > 6% abv the beer could stand more body.

On the other hand, most consumers would doubtless prefer the formulation as bottled. Can you taste Irish or any whiskey? No, but you never do, that’s always the way. If you used a wood innocent of whiskey’s kiss, it would taste different though. In that sense, using ex-whiskey casks adds a je ne sais quoi.

What the Irish whiskey gives is, the taste that would not be there if you didn’t use it. That’s a good craic, eh? If it isn’t, I plead in defence: broken Irish is better than clever English.



Steak & Kidney With Sauerkraut



Fleisch mit Gemüse, Aussie-style

The above menu, sourced here in Australian state library archives, illustrates fusion cuisine before the term was known. (In further posts we will examine some of the other menus featured in this link, particularly of wine and food clubs).

The Vine Inn is a long-standing institution in South Australia, in Nuriootpa about an hour’s drive north of Adelaide.

The menu dates from November 1956 and features as main course steak and kidney pudding with sauerkraut, green beans, and tomato. It’s a dizzying exhibition of rather disparate culinary elements.

The appetizer is spaghetti on toast, a starchy combination that probably has no direct Italian origin. It’s a U.K. supper or nursery dish and known in certain areas of former U.K. influence; Australia is a prime example. A little birdie told me our Newfoundlanders like it too.

So, you have food elements here of English, German, and quasi-Italian origin. The desserts are more typically local, except the Christmas pudding, although the style of preparation, simply with cream, is English, as are biscuits and cheese to follow.

Do you know what Barossa Canneries was? Barossa had a vibrant fruit and canning industry from the 1930s until quite recently and vestiges yet remain. “Barossa Canneries” likely meant the desserts were made with fruit canned or dried by this large business.

Alternatively, if the fruit for dessert was fresh, theoretically possible in Australia’s climate, maybe the Barossa Canneries term meant that a selection of conserved or dried fruit was also available.

But sauerkraut? The Barossa district had a large element of German settlement, much of it from Silesia. The side of sauerkraut was a modest demonstration of that heritage. Given Australia’s isolation and the fact that only about 100 years had intervened from earliest (settlement) days, why were more dishes not represented with a Germanic stamp?

The answer is given by Angela Heuzenroeder in her informative and lively Barossa Food. By the year mentioned, the two wars had dampened enthusiasm for frank exhibitions of German culture.

And (my take): a hotel, as an “official” kind of presence in a community, might be expected to hew to societal norms more than, say, a family-owned restaurant or of course the family hearth. Indeed the Vine Inn was and is – it still flourishes – community-owned in a rather unique cooperative arrangement, which underlines the inference proposed.

The bistro menu at the current Vine Inn offers many more choices than its 1956 version. But interestingly, Italian food is still represented. So is German eating, now more fulsomely represented in the form of different schnitzels and a stuffed Heidelberg chicken. With the years passing, the war memories receded. Dishes representative of local culture were allowed to assume their former importance.

Dishes of U.K. inspiration still feature too including a roast of the day, fish and chips, and grilled salmon. So there is although not ostensibly, a kind of continuity. The cultural memory is long. Habits and attitudes can change, but it takes a long time.

When the day comes that schnitzel comes off the Vine Inn’s menu, you will know that the global village has arrived. We are getting there, as, turning the picture around a bit, Penfolds, proudly featured for the wine offerings in 1956, today has a world reputation, including some in the very top league. Even some beer people have heard of Penfolds Grange, you know.

Below is the dining room today, taken from the hotel’s website, here.