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April 2017

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As well as recipes, The Art of Living in Australia contains wide-ranging and often entertaining advice on how to live well. Philip Muskett, a doctor, was appalled by the typical Australian lifestyle, lamenting that “Australia is inhabited by a people largely carnivorous and addicted to tea. Surely not one person in a thousand would advocate such a diet under any circumstances.”

Today’s lifestyle gurus often favour an indulgent, forgiving tone. Self-fulfillment is all. (“Surrender is a self-affirming act of personal responsibility”, to quote Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.com.) Not Philip Muskett. He is a man of clear and uncompromising standards:

Although there may be a certain proportion of people whom the cold bath does not benefit, yet I am fully convinced that the number is comparatively speaking small. A good many make the excuse that they cannot take it, while all the time laziness is the real trouble.

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The Art of Living in Australia dates to 1893, and details everything the new colonist ought to understand about the rigours and habits of living in the great southern land. It covers everything from how often you should bathe and how to make toothpaste, to sustainable fishing practices and growing vegetables suitable for the climate.

Written by Philip E. Muskett, a physician, the book also contains over 300 recipes, contributed by Mrs H. Wicken, a Home Economics teacher at the Technical College, Sydney. The recipes include some wonderful gems, some great ideas for easy home cooking, and some that probably wouldn't win you a place on Masterchef.

All of this absolutely begs the question, how well do these recipes stand the test of time? Are these soups, fish and meat dishes, salads, vegetables and desserts of purely historical interest, or can they be successfully created in the 21st century home?

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