Australian food has made a significant leap from 1788 to today – From Captain Cook to the celebrity chef and from dukkah to tucker. The nutritionist Nicole Senior looks at the development of Australia to become a modern, multicultural nation of food.
What’s Australian Food?
A Cook’s Journey
The First Fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788 with a few basic items, such as flour, sugar butter, rice, beef, and pork, hoping to cultivate food once they arrived. However, when they arrived, they realized that the soil surrounding Sydney Harbour was so poor they headed to the west of Parramatta to set up farms. They also traded their humble food items for bush tucker supplied by the local Aborigines. However, the European palate was not able to handle the unfamiliar food well, and they relied on the food that arrived by ship. The staple food item was flour food, often made into loaves or dampers. The meat was preserved in salt and apple worm-infused, while tea was the drink preferred (apart from the rum that was frequently abused).
A few of our early explorations, who were determined to stick to the ship-based diets, were actually responsible for their survival due to their native Aboriginal people who provided them with food. Research on those who ate the ancient Aboriginal hunter-gatherer diet has shown that it was very nutritious. Today, bush food items such as wattleseed lemon myrtle and lilly pilly, as well as quondong, are popular, appearing on menus in restaurants all over the world.
British and Irish eating habits greatly influenced early Australian cuisine up until the 1950s. For the majority of Australians, it was a reminder of home. Our meat-and-three-vegetable dinner regime, hearty puddings, and fondness for tea and beer came from our Anglo-Celtic forebears.
The rise of Australia to prosperity in the early 1900s is described as riding on the back of sheep’s hindquarters because the exports of farms drove the economy of Australia. Australia was a country with a long rural culture, despite people moving to cities. Eating meat was an integral part of living in the countryside. Australian dining tables were often dominated by huge portions of meat that were the principal component of a dinner. It is now known that for a balanced diet, vegetables, grains, and legumes should be given an equal amount on the table rather than meat.
Multicultural melting pot
Asian cuisine was introduced into Australia in an era of gold mining in the 1890s in the 1800s when Chinese prospectors craved the familiar tastes of home. For many Chinese people, opening a restaurant became a more financially attractive option than panning for gold. However, the true culture-based food revolution took place after World War II when Australia allowed European immigration. Nowadays, we’re pretty blasé about everything from ordering pizza or having garlic bread to picking from a wide variety of European food items at the supermarket or deli.
The 1980s saw a rise in the number of Asian immigrants, and almost every suburb and town has an Asian, Chinese, and Thai restaurant. The melting pot of different nationalities in Australia has resulted in an incredible variety of food options.
The increasing number of women in the workforce between the years 1960 and 1970 brought major changes to the dinner table of the family. Shopping and cooking meals from scratch was no longer feasible, and convenience food was a necessity. Everything from frozen veggies to complete frozen meals were staples in kitchens. The boom in economic prosperity during the 1980s meant that more of us could dine out regularly. “Convenience” has been a constant trend in the food industry, and we dine more and more often every year.
Before the post-war European immigration, the Australian’s favorite hot drink was tea. The new arrivals were, however, looking for the rich espresso coffee that they had at home. Nowadays, instant coffee has become a staple of the pantry, with espresso beans easily available. In Italy, the cappuccino is usually a breakfast beverage; however, in Australia, we enjoy it anytime.
The revolution in wellness
A growing epidemic of obesity has drawn the attention of people to their diet and lifestyle more than ever. Food is expected to allow them to live longer, fight common illnesses, look and feel better, and enjoy life to the fullest. Functional foods, also known as those that provide health benefits apart from their nutritional content, are likely to increase in popularity. This includes spreads of plant sterol that help lower cholesterol, along with probiotic drinks (such as Yakult) to improve digestion.
Our food and our health future
Australia has a wealth of clean and green (very minimal or zero levels of residues of chemicals from agriculture) foods of a wide diversity. However, as a species, we still suffer from numerous food-related illnesses that are preventable. Healthy food choices are readily available; however, for a lot of us, when we are trying to manage working and life, the best choice for health is often not the most convenient choice. Our lives have drastically changed, and staying physically active can be a conscious choice rather than something that occurs in the natural course of things. The health of the future depends on us all making health a top priority and making healthy choices whenever possible.
Traditional Australian food
The Anzac biscuit
ANZAC (Australia as well as New Zealand Army Corps) biscuits were developed to provide soldiers with a nutritious boost in World War I. It was the Anzac biscuit. It was designed to endure long sea voyages.
The chocolate and coconut cake-like delights were named for Lord Lamington, who was the Governor of Queensland between 1895 and 1901 and wore a homburg hat that looked like cake. Yes, that the name was actually his…
While certain New Zealanders claim the dish as being theirs, Australian Chef Herbert Sasche is believed to have invented it to commemorate his year 1935 Australian trip with Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
A long-lasting passion for meat, fantastic weather, and outdoor activities puts the barbecue on our list of favorite cooking methods. And it provides a boost to producers of novelty aprons for men.
The popular spread was created in 1923 by Melbourne science professor Dr Cyril Callister as a way to utilize the leftover yeast from the beer-making process. After some initial reservations, Australians soon took the paste that resembles tar to heart.
While it is a product with British origins, we’ve taken the meat pie to be our own. To reflect our current lifestyle, our modern pie has been developed to meet stricter standards of lower saturated fat, salt, and kilojoules.
What is the typical Australian cuisine?
Nowadays, the average Australian food will likely be influenced by different cuisines around the globe, with Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean flavors being the most sought-after. If it’s stir-fry noodles, Indian stew, burritos, or falafel, you’ll find it on the menus of the majority of Australian homes.