The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.
What is Australian food? Is there even such a thing? These are questions I’ve been asked so many times, and I admit to finding them incredibly frustrating. It doesn’t help that the answers are not simple ones.
This week in the United States, Phaidon released a 432-page answer in the form of “Australia: The Cookbook” ($49.95, 65 Australian dollars) by chef and cookbook author Ross Dobson. The book was released in Australia on March 30 and it goes a long way toward clarifying the definition of Australian food, for both an international audience and Australians themselves.
Indeed, if (or, more certainly, when) I’m asked that question again, I may point the questioner to the first two chapters of the book, the first titled ‘A brief introduction to Australian cuisine,’ and the second is an essay on Indigenous food by Jody H. Orcher, an Ularai Barkandji woman and director of Wariku Bushfood Infusions.
In the first chapter, Dobson goes into great detail chronicling the three main periods of Australian food: the tens of thousands of years before colonization; the 150-or-so years in which Anglo colonists mainly cooked to satisfy a craving for the foods of England; and the period since the 1950s, when immigration has vastly changed the way Australians eat.
restaurant in Sydney, Lankan Filling Station, I reviewed in 2019).
The conversation, which you can still watch online, covered many questions that I have been grappling with for years, in particular: what is the meaning of the term “authenticity” in a country like Australia? Carey, who’s mother is Sri Lankan, talked about cooking Sri Lankan food at her current restaurant. While it’s the first time in her career she’s felt her food is authentic to her own life and experience, it’s also the first time she has been subject to criticism over the so-called authenticity (or lack thereof) of her food.
Now on to this week’s stories: