What constitutes “Australian” cuisine; where did it come from and how does it add to our culture?
Australia has a forever-expanding food scene, embraced and modified since colonisation and developed as part of a multi-cultural society. The influx of migrants from Europe and America during the gold rushes in 1850’s carried in novel flavours and new ingredients. Experimentation began and Australian food started to be defined by the changes brought about by fresh styles of cooking especially Mediterranean, Asian, Indian and African.
We have progressed from native bush tucker to British inspired Sunday roast, sausage rolls and meat with mash. But it didn’t stop there! We are now best know for a fusion of flavours and cultures bringing a unique perspective to our plate. In fact, as we take inspiration from cultures around the world, our cuisine is continually referred to as a melting pot; a little bit of everything creating a unique taste sensation!
Resultantly, we are no longer limited to ginger beer, lamingtons, vegemite, damper, game meat and prawns. Instead, we now find tandoori pizza, green curry baked barramundi and lemon grass prawns sprouting the menus of local cafes. And whilst our first take away stalls were meat pies, pasties and coffee, just around the corner we can now grab sushi, Thai, frozen yoghurt, falafel wraps and staples from European delis. The options are limitless and constantly evolving changing our palate forever!
One of my favourite aspects of Australian cuisine is the focus on local and seasonal produce. Restaurant menus are dictated by what’s in season and our green grocer shelves are lined with the best nature has to offer. Similarly, Australia is famous for its seafood mostly due to the clean waters surrounding the country. If we aren’t throwing a shrimp on the BBQ we are baking barramundi with fresh parsley from the garden. Considering seafood is rich in minerals and a healthy source of lean protein our access to fresh seafood is doing us justice!
Our social foodie landscape…
Australian’s make food social, food forms a huge part of our social landscape and we bond over food. Partly due to our good weather, we make the most of what this country has to give, from picnics in the park, backyard BBQ’s or long lunches on wooden verandas. That being said, we no longer picnic with pies and potato, our picnic menus are influenced by our fusion cuisine. This sees picnic baskets stocked with the likes of greek salad, sushi platters, pasta salads and reuben sandwiches. Similarly, as Australian’s are social beans our café culture has hit new heights. We are incredibly lucky to be able to walk around the corner and find a heavenly cup of fresh espresso. Our business meetings are fuelled with coffee and catch-ups with friends warmed by a strong brew.
Our love of food and health…
Undoubtedly, Australian’s love food; not only for taste but also the act of cooking and watching. Cooking shows dominate our TV screens at night and chefs are our new celebrities. We admire people who can cook steak to order and turn out perfectly raised muffins. Our social media is sprawled with snaps of culinary creations, which creates a sharing pot of ideas and inspires our individual relationship with food. I predict this will continue strongly into the future and continue to influence our relationship with food.
Our call for local and seasonal produce has also seen an expansion of farmer’s markets. Currently popping up nation wide and being available not just on weekends but throughout the week. We are opting to shop local and are pickier with our food. We now talk to farmers instead of reading labels. Our food choices are increasingly inspired by health and ensuring we are feeding our families with the most nutrient rich and delicious produce is our focus.
As our social landscape continues to adapt and diversify our food landscape will too. I am excited to see what the future has in store for Australian cuisine and as we continue to have health, creativity and sustainability in the forefront of our mind, the possibilities are limitless!
To celebrate the uniqueness of modern Australian cuisine, enjoy my recipe for Kangaroo meatballs with native herbs, the perfect BBQ companion!
Wells, K. (2015). ‘Australian Food and Drink.’ [online]. Australian Government. Available at: http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-food-and-drink