Jelly / pudding mould, tinplate, maker unknown, Australia, 1890-1939
In colonial Australia houswives produced simple 'one pot' meals with little distinction between days of the week or even time of day. In contrast, their 1870s counterparts were encouraged to make menu plans and to prepare two to three course meals for dinner each day. This change was the direct result of women being removed from the world of work and thus increasingly financially dependent on men. Where once cooking was one of the least important household tasks, by the 1870s it had become the task upon which the happiness of the household depended. Domestic guides emphasise the close links between a well fed man and a happy food with the unwritten implication that food was more reliable than sex as a satisfier of men's appetities. And what was more important, cooking could be learnt. Thus Wilhelmina Rawson advised in 'The antipodean cookery book' (1895), 'Man must be cooked for. He'll do without shirt buttons, and he'll do without his slippers, but he will not do wihtout his dinner... The husband is a creature of appetite, believe me, and not to be approached upon any important matter, such as a new bonnet or a silk dress, on an empty stomach.'
Jellies had been popular since medieval times. Initially calves' feet were boiled up to make gelatine, later isinglass and aspic became available. However they were mainly the preserve of wealthier households where paid kitchen staff would attempt such fragile deserts. It was only in the late 1800s as food preparation became more elaborate that jelly moulds became common household items. Manufacturers produced an almost infinite range of patterns -- animals, flowers and geometric shapes -- in ceramic and tin. The jelly mould is thus a reminder of women's changing role in the home.
Wilhelmina Rawson, 'The antipodean cookery book and kitchen companion', George Robertson & Co, 1895