As a teenager growing up in Australia, my Italian heritage didn’t always sit comfortably with me. Back then the things we did as a family, like making homemade passata and pork sausages, made me feel ‘different’. Our customs weren’t seen as ‘Australian’ so I didn’t always feel comfortable inviting my friends over to share the experience.
But we’ve come a long way since. Today, the customs I grew up wishing away are now widely accepted – sought after and celebrated, even. Having a diverse culture is something people have grown to appreciate and admire.
For me, working with and getting to know people from different cultures has made me more considerate of the fact that people might think differently to me. This can be challenging, but if embraced, can give our own ideas perspective and help shape a more worldly outlook beyond our own cultural limitations.
This openness and acceptance is something I see everywhere in Australia today.
I was recently at a function talking to another Italian girl about the biscuits my family always made at Christmas time. We bonded over the fact that both our families had that same tradition, and reminisced about our childhoods with food. Someone sitting with us joined in the conversation and said she always wished she were Italian.
If only I had heard this when I was growing up!
This acceptance has allowed different cultures to continue their traditions with pride, pass them on to generations to come, and share them with others. It’s this melting pot of food customs that has helped make Australia such an interesting and delicious place to live today.
Looking back now, one of my fondest memories growing up as a child was sitting on the kitchen bench, ‘helping’ my Mum as she made her legendary sponge cakes. She would douse them with liqueur and fill them with custard before decorating with rich buttercream. Her cakes marked so many special occasions.
Mum would always make an extra sponge cake just for me, which I would eat plain, straight from the oven. The smell of vanilla and custard powder always takes me back to her kitchen.
Food can really connect us to people, time and places. It binds generations and keeps families connected to their history.
I love cooking Italian style for my friends – allowing them to experience ‘the shared’ table, which is what I think Italian food is all about.
At a time when we’re more likely than ever to work and spend time with people from different backgrounds and cultures, sharing our stories through food opens up a world of opportunity to genuinely learn about each other and build understanding with people from all over the world.
Liliana Battle is a food writer, author and chef, whose mission is to share her love of Italian food, and continue the legacy of her family’s recipes. Find out more about Liliana and her cookbooks here: