Australia is famous for many things: its beaches, its wildlife, its weather — but perhaps most notably, for its food.
From meat pies to prawns and pavlovas, these simple staples have earned their place not just in our diets, but in our hearts.
And while the origins of some of these "Aussie" foods lie elsewhere, we've proudly adopted them as our own. Because that's what Australia does: Brings folks together around a good ol' fashioned sausage sizzle.
Here we explore the backstory of some of the best, and most-loved, Aussie bites of all time.
Legend has it that, inspired by the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova during her 1926 and 1929 tours of Australia, chef Herbert Sachse of Perth's Hotel Esplanade created a dessert that was as light as the ballerina herself. With its wispy meringue base, smothered in a layer of freshly whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit and tangy passionfruit pulp, it's no wonder the humble 'pav' has firmly cemented itself as an icon of modern Australia's food culture. However, the origins of the icon remain hotly contested with New Zealand claiming that their cookbooks have older versions of the light, summer dessert. To this day, it remains one of the great debates.
The great Aussie meat pie, though a cultural icon, was not developed here, but it has long held pride of place in the affections of Australians both young and old. First records of the Aussie meat pie come from early colonial days, when they were sold by vendors from street-carts – most famously by the Flying Pieman whose athletic feats are the stuff of legend. Nowadays meat pies are everywhere, found in sports club canteens, service stations and gourmet bakeries. The meat and gravy filled, flaky pastry case has earned its place in Australian culture, and the 'Official Great Aussie Pie Competition' has been a national event since 1990.
Forget France, you've only got to go so far as Tasmania to find some of the world's best cheese. With similar geographical and latitudinal markers to France's Normandy region, a Czech refugee named Milan made Tasmania his home in 1956 and started producing delicious, creamy and hearty soft cheese, including Camembert and Brie, using the finest quality Tassie milk. These days Tasmanian Heritage is the benchmark of great Australian cheese and a great excuse for a catch up with your mates over crackers and Brie or tuck into caramelised leek and brie tarts.
Contrary to what our 1980s tourism ads would have the rest of the world believe (thank you, Paul Hogan), no Aussie has ever thrown a "shrimp" on the barbie. However, technicalities aside, Australia does boast a tasty selection of fresh seafood, with our prawn species some of the best in the world. King, Tiger and Banana prawns are a Christmas-time staple and all-year treat. Whether they're thrown on the barbie or served up in grandma's prawn cocktail, prawns are an Australian classic.
Given Australia's love of the outdoors and our amazing weather, it was inevitable that the sausage sizzle, Australia's answer to the US weiner roast and a mainstay of community fundraising, was born. And what better way to serve a sizzled snag but in a sausage sanga? As simple as a single slice of bread folded over a sauce-drenched sausage, it's become a classic lunchtime meal for Australians and reflects our love of slang. Authorities even tailored infrastructure to suit our palette - introducing public barbecues to many parks and reserves from the 1970s – so that sausage sizzles can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere.
There are many versions of the lamington's origin, and it is still in dispute whether it was in Australia or New Zealand that sponge cake was first dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in desiccated coconut. One legend has it that Lord Lamington of Queensland was served the treat by his personal chef in 1900. Upon tasting this new delicacy, he requested it be named after him. Today the lamington can be found in every true-blue Australian bakery and features in almost every CWA (Country Women's Association) recipe book, where it may well have first appeared - in times when waste was frowned upon - as a way of using up imperfect or stale sponge cake.
Brought to you by Tasmanian Heritage. The Pure Taste from Tasmania.
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