The first issue of the Commonsense Cookery Book was produced by the NSW Public School Cookery Teachers Association in 1914 and published by Angus and Robertson. It has been through many editions since, constantly being revised to reflect changing tastes and traditions of cookery. A centenary edition was published in 2014.
The Commonsense Cookery Book was used as a text throughout secondary schools, but over the years has enjoyed a wider distribution. The publishers of the 2008 edition claimed that over a million copies had been sold.
Reviewing the book at its launch in 1914, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote:
Commonsense and a good cookery book are the only two essentials for the making of a good cook, we are told. As good cookery books are by no means uncommon, it must be the commonsense that is rare, for good cooks are not to be had for the making. Now, we have, in one small green volume, the two essentials brought together inseparably...
For many, the appeal of the Commonsense Cookery Book lay in its simple instructions. One reader wrote: ” I never did cooking at school and bought this book when I got married. It is my cooking bible that I go to when I need anything. All the old tried and true comfort food that you may have grown up with and lots more in this wonderful book. Easy step-by-step instructions like cooking for dummies!”
The centenary edition, published by Harper Collins, was launched on World Home Economics Day, on 21 March 2014 with a cocktail party at the State Library of NSW. Currently billed as “the bible no Australian kitchen should be without”, it even tells you how to make toast. There are detailed illustrations of techniques, including how to line a cake tin, how to poach eggs and how to roll up a Swiss roll sponge (perhaps not a problem facing every modern cook on a regular basis).