This coming weekend, on Australia Day, 26 January, join with your family and friends and celebrate the cultures of our pioneers, including our Indigenous society, and enjoy some of the best food in the world.
By Jeremy Ryland
We are all very lucky to live in Australia. We are relatively insulated from the violence, instabilities, politics and other woes in other parts of the world and we have one of the best food cultures on the planet. Great chefs. Fabulous fresh produce. Terrific wines. We live in the best country in the world – a multicultural society free of many of the problems in other parts. Sure, there are tensions and issues, but overall, we still live in the Lucky Country.
Australia day, 26 January, through 200 years or more of debate and controversy has remained the traditional Australian celebratory day since that date in January 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip, at Port Jackson in present-day Sydney, took “formal possession of the Colony of New South Wales”. The fledgling colony very soon began to mark the anniversary of 26 January 1788 with formal dinners and informal celebrations.
Australia Day has evolved over the years from a small holiday in NSW to a major national celebration. Though it has often been criticised, it remains the most inclusive celebration of a national day in Australia, expressing our national diversity, which has become such an important part of the Australian national character. And it is important to maintain such traditions as they are part of our history – and without history, we lose our identity. We cannot rewrite history, but we can celebrate the achievements since.
On Australia Day we celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. This is a community day. A day to focus on our evolving nation. It’s the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It’s the day to celebrate our people, our land, our diversity and our history, including the rich and resilient spirituality of our Indigenous cultures. Whilst many Indigenous Australians may feel alienated, they too are part of Australia’s modern identity and culture. It’s the day to celebrate our freedom and democracy and a fair go for all. It’s the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future, and join together as one vibrant nation. We are one, we are Australian.
And of course, the best way to celebrate is with a Feast. We use feasts – large and small – to celebrate many occasions. Feasts bring people together. The sharing of food is an important social symbol in the everyday life of all cultures. So whether it’s a picnic by the beach, a barbeque at home or a fancy dinner out, celebrate Australia Day with some fabulous Aussie cuisine.
Australia exhibits a global cuisine, borrowing styles, techniques and recipes from around the world. Australia’s cooking is exciting, dynamic and growing – perhaps as a result of not having a long cultural history. Australia does not seek to retain a traditional regional character, as for example Italy, so is free to experiment and create new fusion recipes.
Cuisines and food styles evolve. Our Indigenous forebears enjoyed a wide and varied diet that is being revived today. The early settlers brought with them sheep, wheat and many other foods from their homelands. The Chinese brought Asian influences to Australia during the 1800s gold rushes. Following the Second World War in the 1950s, immigration from Italy, Greece, Lebanon, and other countries imported a multitude of different flavours, cooking techniques and ideas about eating. Later immigration from Vietnam, Cambodia, India and other countries has seen more flavours introduced so that modern Australian cuisine is strongly influenced by its rich multiculturalism.
Restaurants now serve highly imaginative meals, combining ingredients and flavours from a range of backgrounds. And more recently, interest in Indigenous produce and traditional bush tucker foods such as quandong, lemon myrtle, wattle-seed, kangaroo, wallaby, and emu have made their way onto restaurant menus.
Food often associated with Australia includes meat pies, prawn cocktails, the Chiko Roll, the Golden Gaytime (ice cream), lamingtons, Violet Crumble, Tim Tam, Vegemite and, more recently, the avocado. But these are just products that are unique to our tastes – like hakarl (fermented shark from Iceland), whale meat (Japan), casu marzu (rotten cheese from Italy) and 100-year eggs (China). Aussie cuisine is much more than this.
Aussie cuisine can be defined as “a fresh, light, vibrant and innovative cuisine; featuring the diversity of Australian inland and coastal produce and reflecting our relaxed outdoor lifestyle.” Aussie cuisine is the food of our pioneers: the original indigenous society, British convicts and colonists, Chinese gold hunters, European refugee migrants, Asian refugee migrants, other displaced migrants and people who just want to be here. Aussie cuisine is a blend of cultures, borrowing styles, techniques and recipes from around the world and adapting them to our regional climates, local produce and varied tastes.
As the most culturally diverse nation in the developed world, consider what it means to be an Aussie as you drive your European car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, then travel home, via a German supermarket to grab an Indian curry or perhaps a Thai salad or a Turkish kebab takeaway, paid for with a US credit card, on the way to sit on your Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV whilst drinking South American coffee from a Swiss machine and talking on your Korean mobile phone.
So this coming weekend, on Australia Day, 26 January, join with your family and friends and celebrate the cultures of our pioneers, including our Indigenous society, and enjoy some of the best food in the world.
We look forward to encouraging and advancing Australia Fare - Aussie cuisine!