Christina Strahan – Mistress of the Culinary Art

By  Shirley Jurmann

Christina (known as Tina) was born in 1872 in Tambaroora/Hillend to parents who had immigrated from Germany. She married John Francis Strahan in 1900 in Sydney. In 1910 they purchased the property known as “The Orchards”, Mynora, which was lot 116 on the riverbank and across the creek from Joseph and John Flett Louttit’s properties. It had belonged to the Holden family. As the name of the property implies, they were orchardists, growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Often there was an excess of these and Christina learnt to preserve these in a very skillful way.

In March 1910 Christina boarded the “Hillmeads” in Moruya, taking with her for the South Coast Trophy exhibit at the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show, one of the best and largest collection of preserved bottled fruit, vegetables, meat and fish ever put together by any individual exhibitor on the South Coast. She also took a most attractive exhibit of bee’s wax and honey. (Shoalhaven Telegraph 23rd March 1910).

The Bega Budget of 30th March 1910 was also loud in praise of Mrs Strahan’s exhibit. It mentioned that as well as the usual fruit and vegetables Mrs Strahan had a large collection of meats, poultry, wild duck, hare, rabbit and seafood showing the possibilities that were to be found in the harvest of the sea. When interviewed Mrs Strahan said, “If we only had the railway, instead of a steamer about once a week, we would all make our fortunes. You don’t know what we can do in Moruya”. Men from the outback, after months of salt horse, smoked goat, damper, spotted dog and billy tea were heard to say they wished they could get some of this mouth-watering produce in the back blocks.

Mrs Strahan in her usual progressive style had a factory erected at the orchard in 1911. Her intention was to put the fruit produced to good account by preserving, jam making etc. She also intended to preserve fruit, meats, fish, game and all the other delicacies which had won her unbounded admiration at different shows. She hoped to supply large houses in Sydney with her wares.

In December 1911 The south Coast Times and Wollongong Argus had a report which said:

Our representative in London writes that he has been in attendance at the most important shows, where all kinds of preserved fruits have been exhibited, but he has seen nothing to beat the exhibits prepared by Mrs J.F. Strahan, of Mynora. He expresses the wish that he could display a selection of Mrs Strahan’s preserves etc. as indicating what an Australian woman, single-handed, can do on Australian soil.

In April 1912 the Moruya Examiner wrote:

On Sunday we had the pleasure of viewing a most beautiful display of preserves, the handiwork of that energetic and skillful lady, Mrs J Strachan, of Mynora. The collection, 250 jars, is for the South Coast exhibit in the District Trophy Competition at the Royal Sydney Show and includes the following: – Fruits: Peaches, plums, guava, rhubarb, nectarines, grapes, oranges, pears, apricots, figs, apples, pear and pineapple, quince, lemons, black and white cherries; fruits preserved without water, bottled 10 and 12 years; Vegetables: cauliflower, green beans, marrow, pumpkin, white turnips, celery, French beans, beetroot, parsnips, swede turnip, haricot beans, cabbage, carrots, tomato and asparagus; Fish: Schnapper, whiting, silver bream, jew, perch, black bream, mullet, lobster, oysters, garfish, salmon, trout, flounder, mussels, eels and prawns, and a collection of fish in tomato sauce. Mrs Strachan also intends exhibiting in the open classes, and then forwarding some of the choicest varieties for competition at the London Exhibition.

At the Royal Sydney Show in 1912 The South Coast won first prize for its exhibit which contained 34 varieties of maize, 52 varieties of cattle fodder, 38 varieties of wheat 25 varieties of oats, 25 varieties of barley, 67 varieties of potatoes, 43 varieties of apples. The Kameruka Estate supplied an excellent exhibit of dried fruit, together with a collection of apples suitable for export. Five varieties of tobacco were shown and eight of sugar cane. The exhibit of honey was very good as was the dairy produce and wool exhibit. The collection of preserves from Mrs Strahan of Mynora, Moruya constituted an exhibition in itself.

Her husband John died at Mynora in 1918, leaving his property to Christina. She then opened the “Shamrock” Tea Rooms in Vulcan Street where she was noted for her delicious cakes. She conducted the tea rooms successfully for many years. In 1921 she spent some weeks in hospital with an abscess on her arm and she was forced to sell her café. The advertisement in the Moruya Examiner of 24th September reads:

On the advice of my doctor I am reluctantly compelled to relinquish business. Therefore my up-to-date tearooms, confectionary, fruit and drinks establishment, known as the Shamrock Café which shows a quick and substantial turnover, is for sale. The shop is well furnished and is in a most central position. For particulars apply T. Strahan, Vulcan Street, Moruya.

The business was bought by Mr R Hilliers, chef at the Adelaide Hotel. Christina moved to Sydney and later the North Coast. She died in 1925 in Manilla.

Christina Strahan married John Strahan in 1900, in 1910 they purchased Lot 116 on the riverbank in Moruya
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One response to “Christina Strahan – Mistress of the Culinary Art”

  1. David Foster Avatar
    David Foster

    Hi Shirley. I’m pretty sure you taught me at the MPS. Is the Mynora estate where there used to be an old house on the road to south heads. It was on the hill on the right where there is now a development. I think the Rugs used to live in the hose when we were at school.

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