Home Grown in the Hunter
Food and drink have always been fundamental to human life, but they provide far more than just sustenance for our bodies. Gathering to eat and drink has long been one of the keyways people come together as community, mark celebrations, and build and sustain relationships. From its waterways, soils, foreshores, and seas, the Hunter Region has played a major role in nourishing people for millennia by providing not only food and drink but also the spaces to cook and enjoy them.
The First Nations people inside the footprint of what is now known as the Hunter Valley have cared for Country and been nourished by the land’s abundance since time immemorial. Traditionally, they eat fish, lobsters, and other creatures of the streams and seas, fruits, vegetables and honey from bushlands, and kangaroos and other land animals. First Nations communities in the Hunter Region (Wonnarua, Awabakal, Worimi and surrounding Nations), as elsewhere, ensure ecological stability through complex and enduring systems of lore. For the colonising British and settlers from other parts of the world, the Hunter Region promised abundant crops, vine-growing opportunities, and pasture for grazing domestic animals. They brought with them different plants, animals, and land use practices. Their incursions into the valley transformed it irrevocably.
Food industries like dairying and winemaking, and the manufacture of foodstuffs like Arnott’s biscuits, and Redman’s cordial, provided both employment and locally grown and made produce. Retail and delivery services, including The Store cooperative, and Oak dairy foods, developed from the door-to-door salespeople of earlier decades to support consumer access to food and drink in the region.
Hunter food stories are multifarious, layered, intertwined, and continue to evolve. This collection celebrates these tasty histories, showcasing items from the Special Collections’ holdings to uncover the different ways people have interacted with this place and the food and drink it has provided through time.
Charles (Charlie) Cook pictured alongside an International C1900, OAK Farm Bulk Collection Service truck, 1967.