Foodways Melbourne Research

Even before we landed in Melbourne, people started talking to us about its remarkable food culture. In the airplane taxiing to the terminal, our flight attendant gave us passionate recommendations for our brunch the next day; in the taxi home, the driver told us about his favorite brunch. The following morning, our Uber driver contested the flight attendant’s advice–as we were en route to the recommended meal. So it is not surprising that the research phase for Foodways Melbourne came to focus on narrative–that is to say the ways that people talk about food.


One of our most memorable early meals was delicious pho on Victoria Street, where we overheard these three firefighters planning a week’s worth of lunches.

To remind you, each of the Foodways iterations has a theme and three non-sequential channels or components.


Moreover, because the attitude of Melbournians towards their own food culture was so distinctly self-congratulatory, we focused our research on the question:

What does it mean to say that Melbourne is the food capital1 of Australia (or of the Southern Hemisphere, the world)?


Throughout our six months in Melbourne, we asked everyone we met about their foodways. We had important help from students in several of our teaching opportunities to develop these questions. Here are some of the kind of questions we asked:

Most of the responses is collated as raw text in this document. Many were tweeted on @spatcode with the tag #FoodwaysMelbourne.

Some favorites:

Unless you’re into eating and drinking, there’s no reason to visit Melbourne.

In Melbourne, if a restaurant is not good, it doesn’t last.

If you smell it and you like it, then go in and eat it.

I have a camel burger once a year.

There’s no one place to go for Lebanese food unless your mama cooks.

It used to be about pies. It’s all changed. It’s not really Aussie anymore.

Everyone’s just happy because they’re having brunch

Restaurants try to do as much in house as they can–cure their own meats, roast their own coffee…

I eat 4 or 5 times before 11am.

You can do fine dining or you can do food trucks.

I’m the daughter of a butcher so we ate lots of meat when I was young.

At the fire station, each person has a signature dish.

Every Tuesday, we read the restaurant recommendations in the newspaper and follow those leads.

The whole coffee thing–it’s like a religion.

It’s very European here. You meet up outside, not at home. You always go out to socialize.

We go to old school pubs because they are kid friendly.

Coffee is the ritual we all connect with. You can’t really say, let’s catch up for mineral water; it’s not a cozy thing.

Tuna bake is my specialty. My boyfriend loves it.

In Target Centre in Chinatown, there’s a place that sells noodles that we normally go to when we’re homesick for Singapore.

For breakfast, I make chia seed pudding with almond, coconut, cardamon, maple syrup, and vanilla.

People have higher expectations because of the master chef effect. Television makes people expect quality.

The food at our staff canteen is really good.

Sustainability and organic consciousness is high in Melbourne because of our close proximity to farms.

Lots of wine growers use organic principles but can’t be stuffed getting certified.

8-9 years ago the vegan scene was very punk/cyclist–then we hit ‘peak vegan’ and it kind of dropped off.

If you want a raw vegan sugar-free cake, I can think of six places…

Australians believe in good food, good wine, and surfing.

Healthfood culture and junk food culture exist side by side here–donuts and burgers and also super-clean stuff–the same people

I like pumpkin but it’s too much; they put it in everything: salad, soups, sandwiches, pasta, pizzas.

Lettuce should not be put in the toaster.

A coffee snob is someone who can find no pleasure anywhere.

The problem with tea in Melbourne is that it comes in a tea bag. For people who like tea, this is a frustration.

Melbourne’s food culture is completely wanky; the biggest load of wank I have seen.

Any food in a tourist area is pretty much crap–inauthentic and overpriced.

My family Christmas eve foods are fresh oysters and fresh cherries.

I expect any place I go to have decent food at a decent price.

I like to eat breakfast for dinner.

I use coffee shops to remove myself from the internet and focus on the creative process.

In a Chinese family, there are strict rules; you have to serve everyone else before yourself.

I only eat one main meal each 24 hours–really late at night before I go to bed.

I like to reinterpret the foods I grew up with (Egyptian/Mediterranean) like my vegan halva or molakhia with kangaroo.

I am a slave to condiments. My fridge is filled with mustards, chutneys, jams, pickles, etc.

I eat two squares of chocolate, alone, at 3 PM everyday.

In true Iranian style, I sprinkle salt on a cucumber and eat it whole like a bananna.

I know from waiting tables that “farm to table” is perhaps more ideology than truth.

Pretty much the majority of my money goes to food, and I feel really happy.

The smell of prawns invokes my grandmother.

Climate change makes me change my assumptions about the abundance of food.

I used to steal food from my parents.

One of the most critical moments in my life is going to my daughter’s house and seeing on the table things that I had cooked for her as a child.

On days when I’m really missing mum I’ll cook her food.

I’m the fifth generation of professional cooks in my family.

Other people’s good food stories make me really really sad; I don’t have a good relationship with food.


These foodways were subsequently used to make 300 unique sashes for the Foodways Melbourne Procession (which is the subject of the next post).


One thought on “Foodways Melbourne Research

  1. Pingback: Foodways Melbourne Wrap-Up | Spatula & Barcode

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