Saucepans used by Curtin family

There are nine pieces of well-worn aluminium cookware in the collection. This has been sold in Western Australia since at least 1903, although it was still a novelty in that year. A good range of aluminium frying pans, kettles and saucepans was on sale in 1912, and by the 1920s they were widely advertised. They were still promoted through the 1930s and the post-war years.

They were very common in Australian kitchens in 1941. In December that year, two Canberra cinemas wishing to help in the war effort promised that anyone donating an aluminium saucepan for recycling would be admitted free. Children responded by bringing in around 45 kilos of ‘old punctured saucepans, saucepans without handles, saucepans with dents—and a lot of saucepans that looked suspiciously new’.

The popularity of aluminium cookware continued during the post-war years and until the early 1980s, when research suggested (but did not prove) that aluminium was implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. There is only one non-aluminium saucepan (in steel, with a pristine enamel coating) in the collection. It seems that aluminium continued to be used in the Curtin kitchen.

Annie Needham used to make breakfast for the family. In the years before a gas stove was installed she would light the wood stove and prepare cereal and milk, and toast and tea. Elsie did all of the other cooking.

John Curtin Jr later reminisced about the family’s meals, 'We’d have roast lamb probably over the weekend. Then you’d have cold meat on Monday night with vegetables. Tuesday probably a braise. Wednesday … oh there’d be fish one day, probably towards the end of the week. Sausages another night I guess, chops, whatever. Usual run of things, vegies.'