Slow food at the edge of the world

SLOW Food Perth has launched a project to collect and collate from West Australians of diverse cultural backgrounds recipes at risk of loss so that these foods can be enjoyed by future generations of cooks and families.

Slow food at the edge of the world is the idea of Italian ex-patriate chef, Slow Food Perth committee member and Terra Madre 2006 participating chef Vincenzo Velletri.

‘Hundreds of recipes and food preparation methods brought to Australia by generations of immigrants and the ways in which they adapted them using local ingredients are at risk of being lost to us,’ says Vincenzo.

‘The food knowledge held by our parents, grandparents and their parents and by our Aboriginal people is part of Western Australia’s rich food heritage, but as we become a more homogeneous society those ideas and methods which our mothers and grandmothers used in their kitchens and in the bush to feed their families tend to become diluted or vanish altogether.

‘I hope that Slow food at the edge of the world will ensure that we preserve this knowledge for the future and enjoy its benefits.’

Slow Food Perth co-leader Pauline Tresise says that while versions of many original recipes are still used, others lie unnoticed in cookbooks put away in boxes or cupboards, or kept as part of an oral tradition.

‘West Australians have come from 200 countries across the globe, from Russia, China, Japan, Greece, Italy, Sudan, Denmark, South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Iran, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and many other places,’ says Pauline.

‘When they arrived here they had to adapt time-honoured family recipes by using often quite different ingredients in what was to them a new country at the edge of the world.

‘We hope the project might deliver information, for example, about whether the Italian families who settled at Kojonup in the early 1900s learned from the local Noongar people about trapping kangaroo and curing the meat for use in traditional Italian-style sausages.

‘The project seeks to capture this sort of knowledge, whether it has been written or is part of an oral tradition, so that as one generation raises another and we become more or less a seamless community, the cultural distinction of food knowledge from different countries and places is not weakened and potentially lost.’

Pauline says many people still use their grandmothers’ cook books or have them tucked away in a box in the shed or the pantry. Others memorise recipes.

‘With our great multicultural community, Slow Food Perth is asking people to dig into their kitchen cupboards and old boxes and their heads to retrieve old and not-so-old recipes so we can try to ensure that these family foods are not lost to future generations.

‘We are looking for the everyday and the extraordinary – recipes that have been central to the lives of so many families. With the pressures of fast food and fast life, the risk that these recipes will disappear is very real.’

Slow Food Perth has appealed to cultural groups to help in the search through the Ethnic Communities Council of Western Australia. Individuals are being asked to copy out or write recipes used by their forebears. Information about the source of a recipe or food preparation method is also being sought, and the ways in which original recipes have been adapted by later generations born and brought up in Western Australia.

‘We would like to gather as much information as possible about whose recipe it was, how it was used in their country or place of origin and how it has been used here, and whether it is still used by that family,’ Pauline says.

‘We plan to publish a book about the project and place the stories of the recipes’ origins and the recipes themselves on the web. The idea could also become a filmed documentary.’

Slow Food Perth co-leader Jamie Kronborg says Slow food at the edge of the world goes to the heart of Slow Food’s philosophy.

‘The project will preserve food knowledge for future generations, enhance awareness of food as the glue of community, and acknowledge and celebrate Western Australia’s cultural diversity,’ Jamie says.

‘West Australians speak 170 different languages and both of the parents of almost 650,000 of us – 35 per cent – were born overseas. This is one of the most culturally-diverse places on earth and Slow Food at the edge of the world will enhance recognition of food in this distinctive part of Australia and the way in which diverse food traditions have been shared and adapted across generations.’

Jamie says the Western Australian project could become the forerunner of a major Slow Food Australia venture once a national entity is formed.

More information
Pauline Tresise T 08 9381 4519
Vincenzo Velletri M 0417 943 211
Jamie Kronborg T 08 9293 1845

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