The sausage sizzle

With Tasting Australia upon us, we can once again consider that ongoing and highly contentious debate: does Australia have a national dish? In her history of Australia’s gastronomic heritage, Bold Palates, Barbara Santich makes a case for the barbecue, more specifically the humble sausage sizzle. Howzat for gourmet?


The sausage sizzle is a uniquely Australian variant of the barbecue and almost by definition a public event—no one would ever invite friends to a sausage sizzle at home, even if identical food were cooked and eaten. It can be set up anywhere, from the beach to the supermarket car park, to feed large numbers of people cheaply, free from the annoyance of smoke. The ingredients and equipment are absolutely basic: a large hotplate, typically gas heated, plus a vast supply of sausages, sliced onions, sliced white bread and unlimited tomato sauce. Offering mustard, barbecue sauce and other nods to gastronomic fashion is considered to lift the status, but only by a notch. Although this style of barbecue—sausages cooked on a hotplate, wrapped in bread and doused in sauce—was familiar in earlier years, the particular term seems to have come to prominence around 1980, and in the past three decades sausage sizzles have proliferated like rabbits.

Keith Barlow, Princess Alexandra at a barbecue. Australian Women’s Weekly , 30 September 1959

On any weekend, all around Australia, tens of thousands of sausages will be sizzling and spitting for hundreds of worthy causes, as well as celebrating community camaraderie. To choose a day at random . . . let’s say Sunday, 2 August 2009, which also happens to have been National Tree Day, an ideal occasion to reward volunteers all over the country, in cities and suburbs and small country towns, with a free lunch. At the same time church and school groups and a miscellany of sporting fraternities are raising money for their own needs. The sausage sizzle is the simple, egalitarian communion that all know and share.

The sausage sizzle might be seen as catering to mass tastes at the lowest common level, but this collective appeal is in fact its forte— casual passers-by finding the seductive scent of sausages and fried onions irresistible. And like any simple culinary classic, it lends itself to countless variations—even soy sausages fit the standard formula. At the 2010 Writers’ Week in Adelaide, the refreshment tent offered a sophisticated and more expensive version with kranskys plus the usual onions and selection of sauces on a slice of wholemeal bread and, though they didn’t displace Vietnamese cold rolls in the popularity stakes, the kranskys proved their worth over six days of readings, debates and tall tales.

Mark Thomas/CIA , Advertisement for Australia DayJanuary 2010

The barbecue similarly has universal appeal, its versatility for all occasions matched only by its adaptability to all cultures and cuisines. Grilled meats—or fish, or poultry—are a feature of most cuisines, often as street food: Malaysian satays and Indonesian satés, Japanese yakitori, Turkish and Afghani kebabs, Greek souvlaki, Italian grigliata mista, Lebanese meshwi. The barbecue spreads its arms and welcomes them all on its multicultural table. Perhaps this is the single most important reason for the Australian barbecue to be regarded as a national symbol.

But there is more to Australian cuisine than barbecues. Find out here.

Here’s to a lovely Book Market weekend

And what a weekend it was.

People everywhere, delicious sausages (have I mentioned how much I like sausage sizzles?), bargains galore, author signings and readings – but the best part was all the people who came out to celebrate with us.

We feel like we’ve met a little more of the neighbourhood now – and like we’ve been welcomed with open arms. Thanks so much, guys. It’s so lovely getting to know you all. And for all our old friends who made the trek across town: thanks so much for coming, because it was bloody lovely to see you all too!

And for those of you who were with us when the heavens opened on Saturday afternoon – wasn’t it spectacular?! We made a mad dash to get all books, people and sausages inside. I am very relieved to say that not a single sausage was ruined by rain. The books and people seemed to come out of it okay, too.


Come one, come all!

Book Market customers

Looking for the perfect book for mums/dads/siblings/niblings (now isn’t that a great word?)

Our fearless leader on sales duty

Our fearless leader on sales duty.

Book Market author schedule

A big thanks to all the Wakefield authors who came along – we’re all WP family. And the readings were fantastic!

Book Market sausage sizzle

Clinton and Neil, sausage sizzlers extraordinaires. These guys kept me well fed for the duration.

Thanks so much for coming out, y’all! Here’s to Book Market 2015!