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Just add nostalgia and stir: Mythmaking Australian femininity through Anzac Biscuits, collective commemoration and heteronormativity

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Many sweet foods featured in contemporary Australian cookbooks are indelibly connected to culinary tradition and use nostalgia to encourage a sense of collective identity and experience. Anzac Biscuits exemplify this through ubiquity and familiarity, and the annual baking ritual becomes a collective commemoration that shapes ideologies of identity and myth, which are somewhat central to understanding the Australian experience. Yet the mythology around the biscuits is flawed. The recipe recognizable today as Anzac Biscuits can be traced from the 1920s onwards in Australian cookbooks, which calls into question the veracity of the well-told story of women on the home front baking and sending the biscuits to the Anzac trenches during the First World War. This article will examine the parallels between Australian traditions of baking culture and the functional value of the Anzac myth, and the way both seem to reaffirm cultural standards, and attempt to secure gender ideals by presenting unattainable fantasies. While the Australian interpretation of the Anzac myth reinforces a certain unattainable ideal of heroic masculinity – with courage, determination and sacrifice for nation – contemporary cookbooks reflect a romanticized domestic fantasy that centres on family and feminine practice, both heavily reliant on proscriptive heterosexuality and heteronormativity, enhanced and polished via a nostalgia-tinged lens.
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Keywords: Anzac Biscuits; Australia; femininity; identity; nostalgia; pin-ups

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Auckland University of Technology

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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