Food, Glorious Food
Food, Glorious Food
From farm to factory to table, this collection of films spanning almost a century shows the changing face of Australia's rural and industrial landscapes.
In the late 19th Century primary industry in Australia began to flourish and it continued to boom, along with our economy, into the next century and in the face of two World Wars, The Great Depression and countless devastating droughts and floods.
It is no wonder that Australia still takes pride in its agricultural heritage, built on blood, sweat and tears.
This diverse collection includes North Queensland's cane cutters doing their back-breaking work, an early cattle muster and beekeepers on the move in NSW.
Our finest fresh produce takes a journey from the orchard to the can, ready for export, plus we take a quick tour of a biscuit factory as it churns out a few Aussie favourites and revisit some early advertisements for well-known food products.
A quick tour of a biscuit factory making all the old Australian favourites like SAO, Iced VoVo and Monte Carlo - by the millions. From Australian Diary 46. Produced by The National Film Board 1951 and produced by Jack S Allan.
This black-and-white and colour Kraft Cheddar Cheese advertisement looks at food preparation, food value and how Kraft cheese can make the difference to nutrition. Kraft cleverly positions its processed cheese as a product which can contribute to a household’s ability to increase its food value.
The advertisement begins with a black-and-white sequence of the Australian landscape inside a map of the country. The male voice-over announces that while in the past we were a ‘land of plenty’, a Federal Parliamentary Committee has warned that the country now faces a food shortage. The purpose of the advertisement, according to the noble narrator, is to advise viewers how to get the best foods and the best food value.
In a colour sequence, ‘correct’ and ‘completely wrong’ methods of cooking are demonstrated by a woman in a staged kitchen. The narrator continues in his authoritative tone to provide tips on improving the nutritional value of foods when cooking. Combining leftovers with ‘nourishing cheese’ is just one way of doing this. Kraft Cheddar cheese is used as an ingredient in a range of meals shown to the camera. Rich in calcium, Kraft Cheddar cheese is shown to contain the equivalent of four pints (roughly 2.2 litres) of milk in every eight ounce (roughly 225 gram) block of cheese.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
Migratory beekeepers move their hives around the country, following the blossom. This film follows two apiarists from the Bega region of New South Wales, who take their bees to a stand where the trees are flowering. They set up their hives and the bees are released to take their store of honey from the surrounding bush. The keepers themselves go bush while the bees are on the job. The honey is then extracted from the combs on the spot by means of a portable extractor. After a few weeks, when the stand has been worked out, the beekeepers and their hives move on.
After this film was published the local Bega newspaper ran it on their site and were eventually able to identify the two men featured as Ernie E Abrams and Ron Shuhkraft.
Made by The National Film Board 1947. Directed by Shan Benson.
The poultry farm at Werribee is the largest in the Southern hemisphere.
Over 100,000 chickens produce millions of eggs annually. There is also a thriving trade in day-old chicks. Made by the National Film Board 1950. Directed by Jack S Allan.
A young migrant from England is sponsored by a Shepparton farmer to work on the orchard and learn the industry from the ground up. As the trees bloom and the fruits swell so to does a romance between the young man and the farmer's daughter. Directed by Geoffrey Powell, this film surveys the fruit growing and canning industries of Australia and their importance as an export industry. From The Film Australia Collection, made by The National Film Board 1949.
This short film takes a look at the life of Queensland sugar cane cutters. It shows itinerant workers contracting with a cane farmer, cutting the cane and loading it for transport, from early morning to dark. Other sequences show the cutters in their quarters eating as much food as they need to carry out a tough job. The film is straightforward in its approach: cane cutting is hard work although the pay is good and the industry itself means much to the thriving state of Queensland. Made by The National Film Board 1948. Directed by Hugh McInnes.
This is a complete colour Tandaco Prepared Stuffing cinema advertisement from approximately 1942. It begins like a feature film with a title and melodramatic music and cuts to a woman crying as she peels onions for her roast chicken stuffing.
Having trouble finding the herbs in her kitchen, she imagines the consequences of serving the roast chicken without stuffing. She sees her husband and his boss look at her with disgust. The voice-over concurs that ‘you can’t have that happen’ and a packet of Tandaco Prepared Stuffing appears in her hand. She adds boiling water, mixes it and stuffs the chicken.
Later that night, her husband’s boss compliments her cooking saying that ‘you can’t beat this homemade stuffing’. The ad suggests various meals where you can use Tandaco Prepared Stuffing including cutlets, stuffed baked rabbit, leg of mutton and stuffed tomatoes. The advertisement ends with a packet shot of Tandaco Prepared Stuffing.
Summary by Elizabeth Taggart-Speers
A look at how science is involved in the commercial cultivation of mushrooms. Made by The National Film Board and directed by Jack S Allan.
This clip is from a documentary filmed in Queensland detailing the growing, harvesting, distribution and processing of peanuts. Days of footage – harvesting, drying, threshing and packing of peanuts – are condensed into a neat three-minute sequence by breaking down the process into key steps.
This clip shows the harvesting of peanut plants. The harvester’s blade cuts the tap roots of a line of plants, which are then removed from the soil by hand and stacked in stooks to dry. A newly picked peanut kernel is filmed in its soft, green condition. The stooks are left in rows and a dissolve shows the drying process. Two workers lift the dried stooks onto a trailer and then drive up to a threshing machine which separates the nuts from the plant. The residue is discharged onto the field and the nuts are fed directly into large hessian sacks.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
At the peanut processing plants, the peanuts come out of large roasting ovens to be aired and cooled. In the next phase, peanuts go through the blanching machine and have their husks removed. Women operators in a factory production line sort through the peanuts and discard the imperfect ones. Then a large grinding machine is shown turning the nuts into peanut butter while workers fill glass jars with the product. A separate machine fits lids onto the jars. Next, the jars are labelled and cleaned by hand in preparation for delivery. The clip ends with a shot of 'ETA’ company trucks leaving the factory.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
This promotional documentary enters Australian chocolatier Ernest Hillier’s factory in Sydney. It shows men and women working in the chocolate mixing, dipping, packing and mailing rooms. It also includes a brief segment in the ice-cream department. Intertitles are used to identify various parts of the chocolate-making and packaging process. The film details the delicate work and attention to detail required when producing handmade chocolates and sweets for Australian consumers.
In this clip, women seated at tables carefully dip each individual chocolate and place them neatly on trays to dry. Their speed indicates they are familiar with this repetitive task. Men stand over the mixing machines which house boiling hot liquid chocolate. A man forms a row of chocolate dollops on a table. Women then top the chocolate with ‘buttons’ to create the finished sweet. In another area of the room, a man stands over a large vat of boiling chocolate and breaks up blocks to add to the mixture.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
This documentary details the delicate work and attention to detail required when producing handmade chocolates and sweets for Australian consumers.
In the chocolate packing department, lines of women wearing protective smocks and hairnets, hand select and carefully pack individual chocolates into boxes.
One woman passes boxes of chocolates to another, who then makes a final inspection before folding over the outer paper and fitting the embossed lid on the boxes. The lid has the Ernest Hillier signature on the front. A range of box sizes and shapes corresponds to the different packages available.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
Jack Grimsley composed this jingle for Brockhoff Chocolate Biscuits.
Brockhoff Biscuits was a Melbourne-based company founded in 1880. In the 1950s it combined with Arnott’s and Guest’s to compete with American-owned Nabisco, which had entered the Australian market.
The combined company became Arnott’s Biscuits in 1966 and the Brockhoff name disappeared from supermarket shelves over the next few years.
Image: detail from Brockhoff advertisement in The Australian Women's Weekly, 9 May 1962.
It may be dull and dreary in London right now but here in Australia it's all sunshine and fruit. Luckily for the English we are able to send them some canned sunshine to cheer them up during their dark winter months. See how it's done in this film about the growing, canning and export marketing of fruit. Follow a seasonal worker as he moves around Australia picking the fruits of our Sunny Harvest. Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1959. Directed by John Gray.
Early documentary film about Australia's cattle industry. Cattle being mustered across river. Stockman chasing cattle. Men working with cow hides in factory, carcasses hanging up in abattoir, butchering of beef. Beef being wrapped in hessian bags, being lifted by cane onto ship, ships departing.
This cinema advertisement for MILO shows how to get a good night’s rest and plenty of energy for the morning – just drink a cup of MILO before bedtime!
To be bright and full of energy in the mornings, it is crucial to get a good night’s rest.
A man who has a heavy dinner, reads horror books and tosses and turns all night is the perfect illustration of ‘how not to enjoy a good night’s rest’.
At the chemist where a woman buys a tin of MILO, she is told to follow the ‘golden rules for sleeping well’. These are taking your mind off things by reading a little, having a light supper, and drinking a cup of MILO before bed, which ‘soothes the body and nerve’. She has a full night’s rest.
The voice-over saying that MILO ‘helps build up reserves of energy’ accompanies images of an ice skater. Children are shown who love MILO because it is a delicious chocolate flavoured drink.
The ad lists MILO’s added vitamins and minerals before the final line: 'MILO, it’s the tonic of the times’.
Summary by Poppy De Souza.
A look at how Australian fruit, vegetables and meat are grown, picked and canned in factories. Made by The National Film Board 1949. Directed by Jack S Allan.
A visit to Sydneys 1947 Royal Easter Show, displaying the wealth of Australia and its products of farm and factory. Made by The National Film Board 1947. Directed by Jack S Allan.
This short and amusing animated Aeroplane Jelly advertisement is also notable for its product name, jingle and reflection of the time when it was made.
Bert Appleroth created Aeroplane Jelly in 1927. He was an aviation fan at a time when planes were relatively new. He even used a Tiger Moth plane to make deliveries to rural areas in 1934.
The jingle – or 'haunting Earth song' – sung by the alien in this clip is a fragment of the famous Aeroplane Jelly song. The original was recorded in 1937 and featured the voice of five-year-old Joy King. It was played on radio over 100 times per day in the 1940s and is one of Australia's longest running and best-loved jingles.
Finally, when this advertisement was made, the world was gripped in a space race with the United States and Soviet Union (USSR) competing to land a crew on the Moon. The United States made it first when the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969.
A short film dealing with the cultivation and export of citrus fruit in Australia. It emphasises the importance of the health benefits of the fruit and the scientific methods undertaken to ensure it's quality. Made by The Cinema Branch and directed by GA Gamon.
This film examines the process of peach canning from the orchard to the can. From the Film Australia Collection, made by the Cinema Branch and directed by GA Gamon.
This silent actuality footage was taken by the official photographer of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Frederick Charles Wills, and his assistant Henry William Mobsby in 1899. It shows a horse-drawn Buckeye brand reaper and binder harvesting a wheat crop while labourers stack the wheat sheaves.
Summary by Elizabeth Taggert - Speers
This actuality footage from 1899 shows a horse-drawn load of cane arriving at a conveyor belt at a sugar mill in Nambour, Queensland. The cane is trimmed and carried by conveyor belt into the mill for crushing.
Summary Elizabeth Taggert - Speers