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A Taste of Harmony – conversations about food and culture

Nothing encapsulates the essence of community and family more than food. The foods we cook in our homes tell the stories of our ancestors; they keep us connected to our histories and through sharing they have the ability to bring us all together.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 1 in 4 Australians were born overseas. Half of all Australians have at least one parent who was born overseas and almost 1 in 5 Australians speak a language other than English at home. We also live in a country with one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world. Prior to colonization, the land we call Australia was made up of over 500 nations, who spoke more than 250 languages including 800 dialects. Cultural diversity is the spice of life
In Australia. 

A taste of Harmony is an annual initiative in which Australian workplaces recognise and celebrate cultural diversity at work. This initiative aims to bring co-workers together and to discover and learn more about each other’s cultural heritage. The hope is that through the process of sharing stories and food we can enhance cultural understanding, workplace community cohesion and, as the name suggests, promote harmony.

In the spirit of this endeavor, we have been sharing some culturally representative treats, displaying delicious recipes, and encouraging conversation about culture by providing talking cards and quizzes downloaded from the A Taste of Harmony website. We are also encouraging our staff to recognise their cultural heritage by placing a marker on one of the three large
wall maps that will remain on
display indefinitely. 

We are also delighted to be able to share the culturally significant dishes of some of our staff members and the stories behind them.

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Patient Transport Officer Anna Naismith, whose cultural heritage is Swedish, shares some fond memories and a few of her favorite dishes.

I moved to Australia in 2004 after meeting my husband in Scotland. 

When I was little, I used to love watching my mum and grandmother cook. There are a lot of dishes that come to mind that I connect with my family. 

My grandfather was a fisherman, so we always had fresh fish when visiting my grandparents. My favorites were the oven baked side of salmon with a creme fraiche, dill and white fish with roe sauce, and also small whitefish that we put on the barbecue and ate alongside breakfast. 

In Autumn teams of hunters have a week to hunt a quota of moose, and we would spend a few evenings as a family trimming, mincing and cutting up the meat, and then freezing it for the rest of the year. 

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Moose Bolognese and moose steaks are delicious!

I could go on, cinnamon buns, saffron buns, glögg (mulled wine), and many other dishes are close to my heart. 

I think cultural heritage is so important because it gives us a sense of belonging to more than one place, celebrating it also allows us to share each other’s experiences, food, and traditions. I think Australia is wonderful for its multicultural diversity. 

Lisa Zhang is Finance Manager at NPT and shares some of her food and culture journey.

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I was born in Chongqing South West China and came to
Australia in 1999 to study a Bachelor of Commerce. I am the only child, my father dreamed of a very bright future for me, so my life was very much focused on study. I never actually learned to cook when growing up with my family in Chongqing. My Grandmother helped to raise me from a very young age,
and I hold her very dear to
my heart. 

My Grandmother didn’t teach me to cook as I really had no interest at that stage, I was actually taught to cook by many different landlords in Australia who had also emigrated from China and with whom I lived with while I studied my degree in Sydney. Before this, I mostly lived on peanut butter sandwiches. I was taught to make spicy chicken stir fry with black fungi. This dish reminded me of home, my family, and traditional Chongqing food. I still cook this dish regularly, sometimes I make a traditional
Hot Pot. 

I love the cultural diversity of Australia because it gives us so much yummy food choice. You can try so many cuisines without ever traveling anywhere, it is so enjoyable to learn about other people’s cultures and their traditional foods. Sharing cultural diversity through food helps people to open up to one another, to laugh together. It breaks down barriers and reminds us that we are all human. You don’t even need to speak the same language when you are speaking the language of food.

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Patient Transport Officer Dina Dizon shares her favorite dish and some of her family heritage.

“The Philippines is divided into three island groups, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. My mother is from Cagayan de Oro (Mindanao region), and my father is from Bulacan (Luzon). I grew up in a culture that is a mix of East and West, because of colonial influences. Our dishes have indigenous ingredients that have evolved overtime. My family has a strong Christian faith, which made us resilient despite challenges. We love to eat, aside from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we have snacks in between. When we celebrate festivities, we invite our families and friends over and feast on the food. 

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One of the recipes that caught my attention at every feast is the “Rellenong Bangus” or Stuffed Milkfish. This is a very labor-intensive dish; you have to debone the fish carefully as there are lots of bones embedded in its flesh. Milkfish is said to be our national fish, but most people would only eat the belly and leave the rest. This makes Rellenong Bangus a perfect solution for people to be able to eat the whole fish.
This dish is usually served during special occasions such as fiesta, birthdays, Christmas, and New Year. 

I can still recall seeing my mother preparing it for hours, for it to be eaten in only minutes! My mother has passed down this recipe to me and my siblings. Preparing this dish brings back childhood memories, it reminds me of our culture as Filipinos, and allows me to be able to preserve and love my culture. The preparation of a dish like this, that takes so much of your time, really shows the love you hold for those that you are serving.

Traditionally, Rellenong Bangus is a dish stuffed with minced milkfish meat, onion, garlic, peas, raisins, and spices. Now there are several varieties of the dish. 

Celebrating cultural diversity is important to me because it cultivates knowledge and appreciation of our differences. This promotes respect and harmony, as well as creativity in the workplace. It also discourages racism and stereotyping.”

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