Heirloom connections

Diving headlong into the first issue of Ciao for the year, we happen to coincide with Australia Day. For some, this day represents proud patriotism and for others a sense of sadness for the original owners of this land.

Rather than getting distracted by the temporary tattoos and beachside snagfests, perhaps we should think about our own tribe and the sense of pride we feel for belonging to it. Sharing a meal with your people is a wonderful way to share a sense of belonging to each other, as well as pass on a story or two. Over the years, I’ve bared witness to loud, giant gatherings of friends, neighbours and their incredible families, some related by blood and other by choice.

My Syrian sisters Sharon and Carol Salloum, owners of Darlinghurst’s Almond Bar, regularly host amazing family backyard barbecue stylings in Granville, full of thumping Arabic pop, the air thick with the smoke of grilling skewers of chicken as well as lamb koftes, on the barbecue as well as more dips than there is bread in the world to mop it up.

Growing up, my neighbours, the Poulos family, invited my family to every birth, holiday and celebration to partake in whole-roasted spit roasted lamb, toothsome and rich with rosemary and garlic, working it off with furious circle dancing, followed by flaky, golden triangles of baklava to sweeten the celebration.

Heirloom recipes, especially the ones that aren’t written anywhere and just need to be known in the head – and the heart – are the connection we have to our past generations and the lives they led. We almost all have a favourite dish our mother, father, or perhaps a grandparent made for us in our youth that brings us back there every time we smell it being made, or taste it again after a long time.

Mine happens to be Hainanese chicken rice, with it’s rich, flavoursome rice, tender chicken and gingery shallot relish, a dish passed down by my Singaporean mother from hers. It remains the dish I crave the most when times are tough.

So this Australia Day, might I suggest that instead of simply throwing another snag on the barbecue, that you perhaps consider using it as a reason to celebrate your tribe through cooking together the food that connects you, and perhaps passing on a food tradition or two to the next generation.

Melissa Leong, www.fooderati.com.au