I have lately taken to the social media platform of Twitter and have thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of speech it brings and the wealth of information that flows around the world, right into my iPad! Naturally my opinions have been made and in turn people have responded, mainly in respectful and measured terms. However every now and again, the “great idiot of the world” replies to one of your comments. A reply came to me just last week in response to an article about the state of refugees and those seeking asylum in our country. He wrote stating that he wished “they would all go back to their countries and take their f’ing culture with them!”. I and several others responded to him and then promptly blocked the Twit so as never to see his ignorance again. In short my reply was – no you Knobhead…. I’d like you to go back to your country and take your culture of genocide, disease, unemployment, and poor education with you……that’s right we are all visitors to these shores! Yes it was difficult to get that into 140 characters as per the Twitter guidelines, but I think he got my message.
This little exchange got me thinking about what sort of country Australia would be without the beautiful and diverse array of cultures we have welcomed. Certainly I would probably be 20kgs lighter, but imagine the wonderful foods we would be missing from our diets! Think of our shopping lists and how boring they would be without the Italian delis, the Asian supermarkets, the Middle Eastern Spice Shops, the French Patisseries…the list goes on. It also got me thinking about my time growing up in Ryde with my brother, before our mother remarried. We were living in some pretty grim apartments which on the surface looked in disrepair and probably housed some fairly dodgy individuals. Except ….when you scratched beneath the surface it was also home to some of Sydney’s first wave of Lebanese and Vietnamese migrants, who brought with them the strange and exotic ingredients of their respective countries and cooked the most amazing food! My mother who was a cook before her time, embraced these new arrivals and their recipes. To this day, mum loves the dips and salads of the Middle East and the freshness of flavours from Vietnam. Needless to say, my brother and I never went hungry and were always invited to join the tribes of kids for lunch with their families. These early days I’m sure have shaped my taste buds and the desire to eat well with good ingredients. This is the type of food I love to eat now, dishes brimming with flavour and intoxicating aromas, to be shared with family and friends.
And so…….. with some cold weather descending on Newcastle this weekend, my mind turned to making something warm and yummy for dinner. I had some BBQ lamb chops to use up and instead of throwing them on the iconic Aussie BBQ, I thought bugger that, its “Tagine time” for these little beauties. I pulled out a book I had bought last year at the op shop – Claudia Roden’s “Tamarind & Saffron, recipes from the Middle East”.
It seems Claudia’s cook books revolutionised Western cultures to the food of the Middle East in the 1970’s, so it seemed fitting that I use her recipe for a simple Lamb and Apricot Tagine as a base for my take on something similar. You can find my recipe here and how I used the Ras-el-Hanout I’d previously purchased from My Souk Drawer in Newcastle. Serve it up with a pile of Cous Cous and some greens. This is a very teenage friendly dish and can make 8 lamb chops go the distance!
To the Great Idiots of the world I say this – you can keep your meat and three vege!! I’ll stick with the wonderful food and cultures that surround me, and embrace the people that through sometimes difficult means brought them to this amazing country. As an after thought, I suspect my Twitter friend is a regular at his local kebab shop…..bags me tell him its owned by Mohammed and his family!