The humble school cookery book – recipes through the ages 137



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Do you have a fail-safe recipe you turn to time and time again? Chances are it’s not from the latest trendy cookbook full of fad dishes. It’s probably in the trusty cookbook you first used in cooking classes at school.

Maybe you still have it? And no matter how food-stained the front cover is or how tattered the pages are, the recipes inside your original school cookbook have probably stood the test of time.

Mum’s best friend in the kitchen since her school days in the 1950’s has been the Central Cookery Book.


Central Cookery Book


Alice Irvine, a so-called Mistress of Domestic Science, wrote the book for cookery teaching in Tasmanian schools but its popularity has endured far beyond the classroom.

Irvine’s Central Cookery Book (1930) became the definitive text for cookery teaching in Tasmanian schools. By its sixteenth edition (1991), it was more than simply a basic text for schools and was widely used in homes throughout the State; as the preface stated, ‘it has become an institution’.

Australian Dictionary of Biography

First published in 1930, you can still buy the Central Cookery Book today.

There’s no mention of quinoa, couscous or chia inside, but how about mum’s go-to favourite recipe, a basic white sauce?

Then there’s that other school cookbook institution Day to Day Cookery by IM Downes? Who could resist the recipe for deliciously simple small cakes?


Day to Day Cookery Book


They’re the tried and true recipes Chef Jamie Oliver wants our grandchildren to be taught in school.

The Naked Chef has declared Friday 15 May Food Revolution Day – a day of global action to put food education and cooking classes back on the school curriculum.

So, when it’s mealtime, do you dust off your old school cookbook for inspiration? Or perhaps you use it so frequently, it doesn’t have time to gather dust. Tell us about your favourite cookbook from your school days and inspire us with the best recipes from it.


This article was written by Dianne Bye

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I too use the Central Cookery Book as my base for so many things… and on the rare occasions Ms Irvine lets me down the CWA… 21st Birthday Edition will generally help me out. 🙂

  2. When I married in the early 70’s, Mum gave me a copy of The Schauer Cookbook…..a very early Australian publication. Her own copy was very well used & I remember it being well-thumbed. I used to love reading it as a child.

  3. I still have the common sense cookery book too from my school days and also the Womans Weekly cookbook

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