Steak & Kidney With Sauerkraut!



Fleisch mit Gemüse, Aussie-style

The above luncheon menu, sourced here from Australian state library archives, illustrates fusion cuisine before the term was known. In later posts we will examine other menus featured in this link, particularly of Australian 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 is from November 1956. It featured as a main course steak and kidney pie with sauerkraut, green beans, and tomato. It’s a dizzying exhibition of disparate culinary elements.

The appetizer is spaghetti on toast, a starchy combination with probably no direct Italian origin. As a U.K. supper or nursery dish it is well-known, also where U.K. influence was once dominant. Australia is an example, but the dish is known in our own Newfoundland, too.

So we have food elements here of British, German, and quasi-Italian origin. The desserts (fruit-based) are more typically Australian, except the Christmas pudding which is English really, as is the biscuits with cheese to end. Barossa had a vibrant fruit  growing and canning industry from the 1930s until quite recently, and vestiges yet remain. “Barossa Canneries” likely meant the desserts were fruit canned or dried by this large business.

But sauerkraut? Well, the Barossa district had a large German population, much of it from Silesia; they came in the late 1800s. The sauerkraut was a lingering example of their influence.

Given Australia’s isolation, and that in 1956 only about 100 years had passed since the settlement days, why were there not more German dishes on the menu? The answer is given by Angela Heuzenroeder in her informative and lively book, Barossa Food. She explains by the time two world wars had passed, this had dampened enthusiasm for open exhibitions of German culture (understandably). Still, the 1956 Vine menu found a place for good old sauerkraut. Of course it’s cabbage-based, and the British know cabbage!

And (my take): a hotel, as an “official” kind of presence in a community, might be expected to act conservatively in such matters. This applies even more to the Vine Inn as it was, and still is, community-owned in a unique arrangement.

The bistro menu of today’s Vine Inn offers many more choices than in 1956. But interestingly, Italian food is still present. So is German eating, now more elaborate with different schnitzels and a stuffed Heidelberg chicken. With the years passing, war memories have receded and some of the old ethnic dishes are back on hotel menus, at least in Barossa and nearby. U.K.-inspired foods still feature including a roast of the day, fish and chips, and grilled salmon.

Penfolds wines featured on the 1956 menu and today have a world-wide reputation. So that ’56 menu was ahead of its time in that regard too.

Below is the Vine’s dining room as it looks today, taken from the hotel’s website, here.