Friday, 25 May 2007

Food, not-so-glorious food

Food is a subject in which I am very interested – cooking it, eating it and occasionally growing it. I wouldn’t describe myself as a “foodie.” There is something inherent in the practicalities of feeding a family that preclude such pretension (although I do have a subscription to a food magazine). On the other hand, I have my own food pretensions. I have never baked a “packet cake” nor do I own a microwave. I have a leaning towards food that remembers where it comes from.

Thus I found fascinating the fact that the Queensland government regulated the provisions for migrants under assisted passage. A list existed of both the exact provisions and quantity to be supplied to each adult and acceptable substitutions. The list included bread or biscuit, wheaten flour, oatmeal, rice, peas, potatoes, beef, pork, tea, sugar, salt, mustard, ground black or white pepper, vinegar, lime juice, preserved meat, suet, raisins and butter. Each adult was to receive three quarts (about 3.4 litres) of water “inclusive of what is necessary for cooking.”

Examples of acceptable substitutions included 1 pound of flour or bread or biscuits or ½ pound beef or pork for 1 ¼ pound of oatmeal. Or ¾ pound of treacle for ½ pound of sugar. Or 3 ½ ounces of cocoa or coffee roasted or ground for 2 ounces of tea. The list goes on in exhaustive detail.

I assume, though I need to find this out for certain, that passengers did not cook for themselves and that rations were managed by the cook and the galley. Much like at boarding school, I imagine that there would be much jockeying for position at mealtimes and careful observations of each person’s servings – the old “the quick or the hungry.”

Not much chance of indulging foodie fantasies on board, but it does seem as if the government was keen to get healthy, migrant workers and able to enforce their will on these private vessels.

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