1948 First Chinese cookery book for Australians

In 1948, Roy Geechoun (otherwise Lee Lock Gee Choun) published a Chinese cookery book written for non-Chinese Australians. It was the first cookery book published in Australia to deal with Chinese cooking. Called Cooking the Chinese Way, the book contained recipes using ingredients generally available in Australia. There were also articles on various foods and Chinese food customs.

Roy Geechoun

Geechoun was the son of a market gardener and grew up in Bendigo, Victoria. He eventually moved to Melbourne, where he lived in the suburbs of East Hawthorn and Canterbury and was the partner in a gift shop in Burke Road, Camberwell. He took a keen interest in politics and became a member of Victoria’s Legislative Council. He wrote often to the newspapers and in 1947  gave a speech to the United Nations Association on the Chinese Revolution. In the early 1960s, he was a staunch opponent of admitting communist China to the United Nations.

Roy Geechoun went on to own the Kowloon Restaurant in South Yarra. There he also founded a Chinese cooking school, reported to be the first in Melbourne. His Chinese cookery book was written in conjunction with an “expert Chinese chef”. Geechoun also thanked his business partner, James Law, for his contributions.

In the introduction to the book, Geechoun praised Australian produce, but was scornful of Australian cooking, writing:

“There is a time when it could be said, I think with a good deal of justification, that Australians produced the best food in the world but as cooks they were hopeless.

“But this is certainly not true today, we still grow an abundance of good things to eat but we have finally overcome the time lag from the pioneering days of boiled mutton and damper (bread).

“We no longer eat merely to live, nor do we confine our gastronomic pleasures to the dishes that mother made.”

This first Chinese cookery book was evidently popular and went through at least eight editions. The second edition evidently contained 30 recipes in its 60 pages. By the sixth edition, printed in 1953, there were 39 recipes over 72 pages.

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