How Times Have Changed

Written by Michelle Robinson

Welcome to Life Chat. I hope that you’re having a great month, despite the chilly weather.

I was reflecting last night that winter has been the perfect opportunity to explore some tummy and heart warming foods in place of the salads I favoured in summer. Is there anything as nurturing on a cold night as a tasty lasagna, a spicy curry, a casserole brimming with veges and pulses, a tongue tingling laksa…? I could go on but I’m sure your taste buds understand my question.

How my opportunities to enjoy food have changed since I grew up in the country town of Childers during the 1960s and 70s.

Once or twice a year, my parents took my brother and me to the restaurant which was adjacent to a local motel, for ‘Chinese’. The special occasion might have been a family birthday or to celebrate family who were visiting, but these events were a novelty. Each visit to the restaurant was predictable. My parents knew what they liked and ordered those dishes time and again. Mum loved honey prawns and chicken with cashews. Dad always favoured sweet dishes like Mongolian lamb and battered sweet and sour pork. A large serving of fried rice was guaranteed.

That was as exotic as my exposure to multicultural cuisine was until I moved to Brisbane to attend university in 1976. In Brisbane, and especially on campus, a world full of different cultures opened before my eyes. It was wonderful.

Moving forward in time to the present day, I am glad that kids are being immersed in the richness of multicultural experiences. At the kindergarten my granddaughter attended last year, parents who were born in countries other than Australia were invited to bring traditional food for sharing. Naturally, the teachers discussed options beforehand to make sure the food was appropriate for allergy sufferers and the age group. However, this aspect of the program created interest for the children as well as a better understanding of people who originated from backgrounds different from their own. They learned about the ingredients of the foods offered and were able to taste what their classmates typically ate at home.

At the same kindergarten, the after-school program offered afternoon tea. One day when I enquired, Emelia told me in a matter-of-fact voice that she’d had curried chicken and rice. I’m not sure how I would have responded to an afternoon tea of curry as a five-year-old, but my granddaughter didn’t blink.

I am glad that times have changed since I was young. Opportunities to gain a glimpse into cultures and traditions that are different from our own are now available to most of us. When it comes down to it, we Australians may come from diverse backgrounds, but the blood that courses through all our veins is the same colour. My hope is that with a greater understanding of each other, compassion, respect and wisdom may follow.

Have a wonderful month.

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