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Bold Palates

 

Bold-PalatesIf there is one person in Australia with the gravitas to write a book such as this, it is Barbara Santich. An internationally renowned food historian, she is the author of six books, including the award-winning Looking for Flavour which is now a set text for gastronomy courses in Australia and new Zealand.

Old photographs, historic posters, engravings, ads and news clippings add to a book which is rich in careful research and - dare we say it - deep affection for a country so often maligned for its reputedly dour 'meat and three veg' culinary history.

While it is comfortable now to discount the early kitchens of Australia, attributing most of our current food prominence to immigrant dishes, Santich shines a light on pioneer tables, allowing readers to almost taste the sometimes strange flavours (wild local game, bush tucker included) and wonder at the courage and innovation needed to feed large families safely and well in such an alien environment.

From this book we learn why our barbies are so quintessentially Aussie; where pumpkin scones came from; likewise pavlova, meat pies, lamingtons and Vegemite. But this author goes way beyond the expected icons.

She takes us on picnics, reminds us that bandicoot was once on the menu, and traces the history of a nation's love affair with lamb, albeit one that began as mutton.

If you are Australian, then you need to have this book. It should be in the goodie bag of every newly-naturalised citizen, and required reading in schools.

Santich states in her introduction "this openness to new ingredients and flavours, this willingness to experiment and discover new taste experiences, remains a characteristic and defining feature of Australian food culture."

Her book, by encouraging us to look back at Australia's gastronomic heritage, allows us to have well-placed pride in our national table's past, and bold confidence in its future.

- Sally Hammond

Bold Palates - Australia's Gastronomic Heritage, by Barbara Santich, Wakefield Press 2012, hardcover, illustrated, ISBN 978 1 74305 093 1 (hbk.) RRP: A$49.95.

 

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