'Going native' a bit hard to swallow for Aussies
Monday, 11 August 2008
Australian native foods are a hit with tourists, but locals are far less enthused about eating kangaroo, emu and crocodile meat, according to a report from a University of Adelaide gastronomy graduate.
Jessica Ramsden, who recently graduated with a Le Cordon Bleu Masters of Arts in Gastronomy, says there's a difference between experiencing something unique (once) and putting it on the weekly shopping list.
"Although native flavours are starting to appear in chutneys, sauces and spice blends, you won't find crocodile meat in the cold cabinet or lemon myrtle on the spice rack, let alone fresh Warrigal greens or Kakadu plums alongside the salad mix and Packham pears," Jessica says.
This is partly as a result of the industry's small scale, but also reflects the lack of 'cultural infrastructure' that makes Thai or French cuisine (for example) so popular - oodles of exotic tourism destinations, local restaurants, cookbooks and ready supplies of ingredients to try at home.
"Food preferences are also the result of habit," Jessica adds. "Research shows that we gravitate to flavours that taste the most familiar. With such conservative palates, Australians are not going to embrace challenging new native flavours."
But this could all change in coming years, with recent research from CSIRO showing the health benefits of native foods, and more environmentally aware consumers choosing foods that are more sustainable to produce and make a positive difference to communities.
"Native foods tick all the boxes of these emerging consumer trends," she says.
"CSIRO is discovering that some native foods have high levels of antioxidants, building on the 1990s research that found Kakadu plums have the highest fruit source of Vitamin C in the world.
"Native foods are tapping into an emerging groundswell of more adventurous eating in Australia and in the future, saltbush lamb, lemon myrtle pasta and wattle seed ice-cream might become as 'Aussie' as meat pies, lamingtons and vegemite," Jessica says.
Based in Melbourne, Jessica part of an international cohort of students who have completed the Le Cordon Bleu Master of Arts in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide this year. It is the only program of its kind in the world which can be completed entirely online.
"I loved every bit of the Gastronomy course, but it was the issues and challenges facing the food industry which most intrigued me, career-wise, hence my move from Austrade to Heinz after completing my thesis."
Masters of Gastronomy graduate
Mobile: 0434 305 337
Professor Barbara Santich
Head of Graduate Program in Gastronomy
School of History and Politics
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5615
Mobile: 0412 671 058
Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762