Cooking The Books – Kate Belle

Chef with cookbookIt seems everywhere I turn at the moment I hear the name Kate Belle. And why not? Kate has been super-busy in 2013 with two releases from Random Romance and the fabulous The Yearning from Simon & Schuster. I’m delighted to host her on Cooking The Books.

Now, this post made me laugh out loud. It harks back to an era of hostess skirts, progressive dinners and everything cooked ‘en surprise’. In honour of that I couldn’t resist illustrating Kate’s gorgeous post with a pic from my own retro cookbook collection. Take it away, Kate!

Thanks Louise for having me visit here at Cooking the Books and hello to all Louise’s faithful readers. Are you ready for a little nostalgic journey into the food of the recent past? Time machine please…

We’re going back, past the 1990’s cultural food explosion, past the 1980’s nouveau food fad, back to a time of Chiko Rolls, Pine Splices, paisley body shirts and flared hipsters. Back to the 70’s.KateBelle-glamfrontlores

The 1970’s is one of the more memorable periods of food history in Australia. The wider population was yet to embrace ‘wog food’ as it was ungraciously known back then. (Thank goodness for a strong program of immigration or we’d still be eating meat and three mushy veg). In the 70’s mainstream Australia was trying to break away from its English colonist food roots, experimenting wildly with colour and ingredients, resulting in some flashy and unappetising dishes.

It was the age of vivid colour. Flavour was sacrificed to the visual impact of a dish, and it had to be bright: green gherkin, unnaturally pink processed meat and bright yellow cheese or pineapple.

A friend of mine collects cookbooks and once showed me a fabulous tome promoting the newly released Glad oven bags. It was filled with stunningly revolting recipes for dishes you wouldn’t dream of serving to your dog. Here’s a couple of samples:


Camembert en Surprise. Photo from Cordon Bleu Monthly Cooking Course

Frankfurt Casserole: into a casserole dish whack a few chopped frankfurts, black olives, chopped pineapple, chopped gherkin, chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce, chopped carrots and stock. Stir. Wrap it in a Glad Oven bag and shove it in the oven until the smell overwhelms you and you have to evacuate the kitchen. I imagine when this was served it looked a bit like vomit.

Hawaiian Banana: Take a Glad Oven Bag and place one banana per person inside. Pour in 500mls full fat cream. Tie neck of bag (tightly) and bake in the oven for 30 MINUTES!!! Pour the gooey mess into bowls and consume – if you dare.

Just bloody awful, don’t you think? But these were REAL recipes, tried and tested in the kitchens of Glad Oven Bags! I wonder if anyone taste tested them, or were there inventive wanna-be cooks challenging each other to come up with the most outlandish combination?

I was a country town kid in the 1970’s. Everything we ate was homemade. The ONLY take away available was fish and chips from a local service station. Oh, and pies from the bakery. And, oh boy, did we think they were treats. Even though there were often unnameable grisly bits inside the pie meat, we didn’t care. Our mum’s didn’t make them, so they had to be good.

Yearning lo resI think this is the kind of food my teenage protagonist in my novel, The Yearning, would eat. Her parents are a conservative pair, a sausages, mashed potatoes and frozen peas kind of couple. I reckon she would have had devon sandwiches, or perhaps that god-awful salty meat paste (does anyone remember what it was called?) at school. On tuck shop day she probably ate a cream bun, bursting with fluffy mock cream and a small dot of jam. Back then strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon were only available in summer when in season. The rest of the year you ate apples, carrots, potatoes.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for her immature taste buds to taste her first champagne? Her first Chinese dish? Her first chilli laced stir fry? These new flavours would be a shock, a strange discovered pleasure. As were the many other (perhaps more dubious) pleasures she was introduced to by her much adored teacher, Solomon Andrews. He opens her up to an irresistible new world of ideas and experiences, including food she never knew existed. It’s part of the reason she falls so desperately in love with him. I imagine the Chinese dishes and wine he served to her would have made her feel very grown up and sophisticated.

Do you remember the first time you tasted something new? Or a horrific dish served up to you in the 1970’s?

The Yearning by Kate Belle

It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

Read an extract here: (

Buy The Yearning:

Ebook: Amazon ( or iTunes (

Print book: Target, Kmart, Myer, Collins, Dymocks, Big W, Eltham Bookshop and other independent bookshops ( and major airports.

Reading group questions here (

Author Bio

Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets. She holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.





6 comments on “Cooking The Books – Kate Belle

    • Hi Alissa. Kate’s post has driven me back to my old Cordon Bleu cookery course binders. Some of the recipes are mind boggling but I can’t go past the great articles on technique.Yes, the old school canteen was appalling. I think I’ve blocked most of it.

  1. Hi Kate and Louise, I remember the 70’s vividly. Crocodile Rock was my favorite song and no one thought of eating them back then. The dish I loved to hate was the 1970’s Anglo, sweet and sour. A can of pineapple chunks, a can of tomato juice and one onion, sliced Chinese style end to end. This was usually added to some pan fried pork that when tough in the boiling sauce.

    • OMG, that’s awful, Dora. It seemed like pineapple was in everywhere in the 70’s. No BBQ or party was complete without pineapple, cheese and kabana skewers. Or grilled pineapple desserts. UGH.

      • I remember sweet n sour, bloody awful stuff. My sister in law brought chow me in to my 40th birthday. It was a huge hit. Mince meat, onion, cabbage and curry powder. Gotta love 70’s food!

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