The story was originally published in Mufti volume 60. Number 1. April 2020.

For more than 100 years the humble ANZAC biscuit has been a much-loved part of the Australian way of life. From sustaining our troops in World War One to filling today’s school lunchboxes, the simple oat recipe has been loved by generations. While the biscuit itself is a reasonably basic blend of oats, flour and syrup, the history of the Anzac biscuit is far richer.

The humble biscuit came to the fore in Australia when tins of the morsels were sent in care packages to troops on the frontlines of World War One by wives, mothers and girlfriends concerned about the food being supplied to “the boys”.

Known then as Soldiers or Army biscuits, they were nutritious but most importantly long-lasting and still edible after the many months at sea travelling to the various theatres of war. After the landing at Gallipoli that they became known as ANZAC biscuits.

Until recently, the true history of the ANZAC biscuit has remained relatively unknown, that was until culinary historian Allison Reynolds wrote ‘Anzac Biscuits: The Power and Spirit of An Everyday National Icon.’

Allison spent five years travelling through Australia, New Zealand and England examining war records, early Australian cookbooks and digging up hand-written recipes handed down through generations to write the definite story of the iconic Australian staple.

"When I went looking for information about the biscuits, I was amazed how little was known, especially because this biscuit is unique, I don’t know of any other food that has come out of the vagaries of war and is still made and loved today."

Allison Reynolds

The original biscuits which were made from a spartan blend of flour, sugar, salt and milk powder were hard and often eaten by the troops as a substitute for bread, or crumbled up and used as porridge.

Two soldiers pounding wholemeal biscuits into meal for making porridge. The biscuit was pounded with a shell and sifted through mosquito netting. The porridge made from this was the delicacy of the Anzac Army and was particularly esteemed when flavoured with condensed milk.
Two soldiers pounding wholemeal biscuits into meal for making porridge. The biscuit was pounded with a shell and sifted through mosquito netting. The porridge made from this was the delicacy of the Anzac Army and was particularly esteemed when flavoured with condensed milk.

The inspiration for the recipe can be traced back to Scotland where Oat cakes had been a staple of the Scots diet to ward off the extreme cold, long pre-dating the war. Over time, as our tastes changed and different ingredients such as golden syrup, coconut and even raisins became more readily available, the humble biscuit evolved.

Allison says it almost impossible for current generations to imagine how thrilled the troops, who were so far from home and living in desperate conditions, must’ve been to receive such a tin of biscuits from Australia.

“There is a sense of comfort that comes with them, soldiers would exchange the biscuits and take a momentary break from the challenges of the war.”

ANZAC Day Biscuit Recipe
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Such is the affection for ANZAC biscuits, the term is now protected under Australian law and cannot be used without permission from the government. Allison donates royalties from the sale of the book to the Australian War Widows Guild.

"This biscuit carries the spirit of the ANZACs"

Allison Reynolds

“It’s an everyday biscuit, but it is a commemorative biscuit to, not just baked for ANZAC Day but often on Remembrance Day as well. It carries a sense of camaraderie and nostalgia. It really represents all conflict, not just Gallipoli and World War One, but recent conflict too. People still send Anzac biscuits to family serving overseas today, there is something very special about receiving a treasured gift from home.”

Anzac Biscuits: The Power and Spirit of an Everyday National Icon by Allison Reynolds, is available from www.wakefieldpress.com.au