Friday, April 25, 2014

History Lesson

Today is ANZAC day** in Australia.  A tradition for Australians is to make ANZAC for/on ANZAC Day.  So far as I remember (correct me if I'm wrong, Mum), I've never made ANZAC biscuits on ANZAC Day.  I've made plenty of the biscuits, but just never for or on the special day.  Today I decided to change all that.  I thought it would be lovely to start making these each year with Little Spring.  She's always loved helping me in the kitchen and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity, seeing as how easy the biscuits are to make.

As I hadn't planned to make them, I hoped that I would have all of the ingredients in the house.  I was pretty sure I would as the ingredients are all basic/common ones in Australian households.  My heart soared each time I found the next ingredient, until I'd found them all!

While the butter softened, I decided to research the history behind the biscuit.  All I knew of the biscuit is that it was name after our Australian and New Zealand soldiers from WWI.  But why?  I was curious and I love my history! (side note: I hated history in high school; I was never any good at it and it just didn't grab my attention.  I'm sad that I didn't like it because now I just love learning about history!)

Thanks to the trusty internet, I was able to discover the story behind the ANZAC biscuit...

So, apparently the army issued the soldiers of WWI with biscuits called ANZAC tiles or ANZAC wafers.  They were a version of "hard tack" which is a bread substitute that has a long shelf life, and as the name suggests, very hard.  These are not to be confused with the ANZAC biscuits that have become a household name in Australia!

These  hard tack biscuits were so hard and durable, that the soldiers found uses for them aside from actually eating them (I don't blame them... they sound pretty unappetising!).  The soldiers wrote messages on the biscuits and sent them to family and friends!  They were also known to use them as a paint canvas, creatively decorated to become photo frames and even became Christmas cards!

So, with a not-so-appealing- option for the soldiers, the wives back home came up with the ANZAC biscuit.  The ingredients were chosen as they don't spoil easy (hence why there are no eggs in the biscuit) and therefore travelled well on the Naval transport, which was long and had only limited refrigeration.

In typical Australian/New Zealand style, the Aussies and Kiwis (New Zealanders) still disagree as to who actually came up with the recipe.  It joins all good arguments between the countries (for example: who invented pavlova, who can claim Phar Lap and Russell Crowe (although, depending on who you talk to about the latter, I don't think either want to claim him!).  At the end of the day, who cares?  It's a delicious treat and whether the recipe came from Australia or NZ, I don't think the soldiers eating them cared too much either!

And that is the history of the ANZAC biscuit.  As Little Spring and I made them today, I felt a connection with history.  I'm glad to know the story and will always remember this whenever I am making them.

(sources: Wikipedia, Australia War Memorial)

For those of you who are keen to make them, here is my Nana's recipe, which appears to be the most common/popular version (today's ones turned out chewy... another big Australian debate - do you prefer your ANZAC biscuits chewy or hard?!):


1 cup plain flour
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup coconut
½ cup butter/margarine
2 Tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp water


1. Mix together flour, sugar, oats and coconut

2. Melt in saucepan butter and syrup
3. Mix together soda and water.  Add to saucepan.
(The baking soda must have been a bit old... it didn't all fizz up like it normally does (my favourite part!)

4. Pour saucepan contents into dry ingredients and mix together.

5. Drop teaspoons of mixture on to greased tray, allowing room to spread.
(I actually rolled the mixture into balls as the consistency wasn't right for 'dropping')

6.  Bake in 180oC oven until firm.

** If you were interested in continuing the history lesson, read on to find out what ANZAC day is (I put this information in here for any non-Australians/New Zealanders reading this as I would hope that the Aussies and Kiwis will already know this important part of our history!).

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  ANZAC day commemorates the 25th April 1915, when the Australian and NZ forces landed on Gallipoli during WWI.  They were there for months and many lives were lost and 25th April became an important date in history, being remembered each year from 1916.  ANZAC day has since come to mark a day for remembering all of our soldiers who have fought/are fighting, not just for the ANZACs in 1915.  If you would like to read further, I suggest heading over the the Australian War Memorial website.  Even I discovered some things I didn't know! 

 (Source: unknown)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.