Australian Cuisine and Recipes
Information about Australian Cooking and
Cooking by Country - June 2005
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Australia is situated on the continent of
Oceania between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. It is the
largest island in the world with a huge coastline of 25,760 km. The
climate is arid to semiarid - temperate in south and east but tropical
in north and the country’s terrain is mainly low plateau with deserts
and fertile plain in southeast.
Cooking wise Australia is probably best known throughout the world for
its barbecues, but the last 20 years or so has witnessed a turning point
in Australian cooking in the form of Pacific Rim cuisine.
times and Influences on Australian Cooking
Archaeological evidence shows that the early
inhabitants, Aborigines, had settled across most of Australia at least
30,000 years ago. These peoples lead a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence,
moving around with the changing of the seasons to take advantage of the natural
foodstuffs which made up their daily diets. This consisted of animal meat and
offal, honey, insects such as witchetty grubs, some marine life plus seasonal
vegetation. They did not use pots or pans and much of the food they ate
raw although they sometimes roasted or baked foods. Little seasoning was used.
The Chinese were the first explorers to arrive
however it wasn't until the 17th Century when the first Europeans arrived with
Britain finally colonising the country in the 18th Century.
The early culinary history of Australia is not a
happy one. The first settlers from England mainly consisted of convicts
and their guards with Britain utilising their new colony to ease their ever
growing problem with overcrowded prisons especially in London. It should be
remembered that most of them were city people with no agricultural experience.
Not only was this was to make their lives very hard in what seemed to them a a
barren and inhospitable land but unlike many other colonists through
history, most of the Europeans failed to learn from the natives.
The seeds and
seedlings which were carried over from Europe failed due to the climate and poor
soil conditions and even the livestock which was taken over either didn't fare
well in the harsh environment or escaped into the bush never to be seen again.
The fact is that many people starved in the first 10 years of colonisation.
The gold rush in the 1850s saw the arrival of
other immigrants including many Chinese and although there were even Chinese
restaurants in parts of Australia at the time, the Asian influence on
everyday cooking wasn't to occur until much later. Until the last 20 years
or so, colonial Australian cooking was a relatively bland and
uninteresting affair generally consisting of "meat and 3 veg" with
little in the way of additional seasoning.
Day Australian Cuisine
Just after World War II the influx of hundreds of
thousands of immigrants from the Mediterranean including Greeks, Italians and
Lebanese saw the first steps in creating today's eclectic cuisine. They brought
their native culinary habits, foods and seasonings and improvements made
in refrigeration and transport lead to the spreading of these new foods
throughout the country and onto the tables of ordinary people.
Although some would say that the easing of the
White Australian Policy wasn't a major factor in the development of
everyday Australian cooking, arguing that there has been a Chinese community
there since the 1850s, the fact that it's only in the last 20 years that
the cuisine has blossomed into what it is now, does point to it being a major
contributor - perhaps more by virtue of the change in the attitudes
of the white populace to foreigners and their ways.