Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Australian Regional Food - Bush Tucker and the Australian Aborigines.

Aboriginal botanist Warren Whitfield teaches students from Atlanta (US) Emory University about Aboriginal fire-stick management practices and how this affected vegetation. The trees in the background are: Melaleuca leucadendra The Weeping Tea Tree, Paper Bark Tree. Why do these trees have hard flammable leaves and what did Aboriginal people use this plant for?

In recent years there has been growing interest in Australia in traditional Aboriginal life, in the way they managed the country, in the life they led and the foods they ate. When the Europeans first arrived, they too, supplemented the European style diet with local foods. As the country became more urbanised this interest died, in part because of greater availability of other foods, in part because Australian food and animals had not been (apparently) cultivated, domesticated and were less readily available to a growing population.

I say apparently because the Aborigines had developed quite sophisticated ways of managing the country. Here I was fascinated to discover when reviewing the anthropological literature for my history honours work all those years ago (I was part of what was I think Australia's first Australian pre-history class in 1966 at the University of New England) that the Aborigines had actually worked significantly less hours than Europeans had too.

So I plan to look at bush tucker as part of my Regional Australia food series. As a first step for those who are interested, you might like to start here, a Queensland school site on bush tucker.


Anonymous said...

Jim, I welcome your future reports on indigenous ingredients.

However, might I suggest that there is a huge distinction between bush tucker and authentic Australian ingredients in today's culinary world: Bush tucker covers the food resources of the 600 Aboriginal nations pre-invasion by the English and would include around 2000 different food items from the plant kingdom and perhaps 200 animal and insect foods.

By comparison, since the 1980s when I began my work on commercialising bushfoods, a considered selection of indigenous foods have joined global food resources as Australia's contribution to world food. It could be viewed as the modern leg of the ancient spice trades which led exploration and development of the planet over the last 500 years.

Fortunately, we now have over two dozen authentic Australian ingredients forming a backbone of food resources for creative chefs to innovate and develop our own cuisine. Culinary tourism, regional biodiversity and national economy all benefit from this opportunity and your research and input in promoting the concept or the ingredients are most welcome.

Please refer to my site for more information on the modern native food industry.

Jim Belshaw said...

Vic, I take the force of your comment and like your site. What phrase should I really use as a common tag? Australian ingredients seems to me to be too narrow as a main tag, Australian native foods has an issue with the meaning of the word native.

Perhaps there is not a clear answer re a single tag. In any case, I can certainly pick up and promote your themes.

Keith said...

I would love to learn more about bush foods in the New England area, especially around here in Armidale. Most of the wild food information covers Queensland and the Territory, where there appears to be far more bush foods available.
Regards, Keith.

Jim Belshaw said...

You know, Keith, I really don't know. There is a bit of general stuff around; maybe it's a question of seeing what applies to the Tablelands.

Keith said...

I don't see a problem with "native foods", if the foods that natives eat is what we are talking about. I would like to know more about native foods in the New England area, finding out about foods in Qld & the Territory is not a problem, but here there is scant information.