For the final day of the Performance Studies international conference, Spatula&Barcode recruited thirty Melbournians to offer small group introductions to Melbourne’s food culture. Each host took 2-5 conference attendees on a two-hour excursion. Hosts and attendees were matched to accommodate dietary preferences, budget and mobility. The “walks” took visitors away from the conference and included both meals and conversations. Some were primarily social, while others included more performative elements. Some meals were in restaurants while others were in homes or in parks. Some groups stayed close to the university while others traveled distances across the city.
Below is a selection of the walk summaries based on the electronic documentation we received from both hosts and guests.
The concept of the food walk was great,and I think a wonderful way to get local and international people together. My walk had a shaky beginning with a couple of quite stressed, jet lagged and very tired people. Nevertheless, we were blessed with good food and the sunshine was very much appreciated by the group. The lunch menu at “Wild Timor Cafe” was simple but delicious. The cafe is situated next door to a library and community centre in an historic building which was one of the first schools built in Carlton. The cafe itself is a social enterprise and the profits from sales go towards helping projects such as building schools in east Timor. This gave me a chance to talk a little about Australia’s history with East Timor. I explained a little about my social practise to the participants and they were interested to know how my work was affected by he uncertainty of world politics and economics. As we were all from western countries it seemed we had a lot of common experiences. The staff at the cafe were very accommodating, even giving us free Portuguese tarts as a welcome gesture. The tarts, as well as being delicious, fitted nicely with reflections on the history of East Timor, (and my practice concerned with food and cultural memory), which was once under Portuguese control.
I have been going to Crossways Food for Life – the Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant – for about twenty years. Apart from the fact that it’s All You Can Eat for $7.95, what I love about it is that it offers a space within a space. Whenever I need a break from my life I walk down Swanston St. for a hearty, comforting, home-cooked meal served by hands filled with love, and devotion. I sit amidst Hindu iconography and have conversations at the communal table with people I would otherwise never meet – like that young paramedic who was telling me stories of what it’s like to respond to emergency situations over pineapple halva. When I was invited to be a Foodwalks Host my first thought was sharing Crossways, this hidden gem in urban Melbourne. And, underlying that thought was growing up in South Asia and the intertwined relationship between food, and spirituality. So it was within this ‘climate’ that we journeyed to the Hare Krishna’s, and sat at the communal table to eat together and talk about various ways in which we continue to find struggle, and joy in food, and with our bodies. Interrupting our conversation was the sound of the bell, rung many, many times. Not that we minded, something about the continuous ring of a temple bell that takes us all to another way of eating, of becoming – where words and ideas are not the most important thing to consume, rather the spaces in-between.
The Melbourne University Community Garden, where we tasted a homemade beer (or limoncello a friend made) with some olives gathered and preserved in Coburg. We talked about what we’re allergic to and the other reasons we do and don’t eat certain things.
We walked to the Flagstaff gardens on the edge of Melbourne CBD. Along the way we ate dried apple (picked from roadside trees in the Otways earlier in the year) and dehydrated plum leather (from Asher’s backyard tree), and talked about food preservation, surplus, transportation and waste.
At the Gardens, we sat under the flagstaff and at Pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke soup – with pumpkins which had been saved from the rubbish by Open Table, and Jerusalem artichokes which had been grown in Asher’s backyard. We talked about the original function of the flagpole, as a signal to ships entering the bay, and the colonial food practices that have come to Australia – and the many animals and plants brought on these boats. With our soup, we ate Vietnamese bread rolls, which themselves were a version of the French baguette, and came to Australia with Vietnamese migration.
We wandered through the Market to see the various sides; tourism and trade – the sounds and smells, and the Market Lane Coffee shop.
We walked back to the University and in the sixth floor of the John Medley building and experienced an ordinary moment of food from Asher’s day to day life. We drank a cup of coffee, freshly roasted by Asher, and ate banana with backyard honey from Asher and Pippa’s hive in Coburg. We talked here about everyday eating, convenience, and hospitality.
AWA MOMTAZIAN took Alys Longley, Christina Houghton, Malin Palani to an Ethiopian Eatery in Footscray.
CERI HANN took Annette Arlander, Camila Marambio, and Carla Macchiavello to Friends of the Earth in Fitzroy.
The food walk was great. Our guide took us to a small place called Earth Food or something like that, with a lovely vegetarian lunch. What I most remember was our conversations in the group, ranging from the appreciation of craft to the ethical problems with air travel to the end of the world biennial in Patagonia. We all received three small souvenirs from our guide, demonstrations of or tools for fantasy, if you wish: a small red dice, with a corner cut out, a small piece of aluminium with the engraved text VALUE and a small glass pearl that was scrubbed against the pavement to create a mark, a private cloud to look through.
We went to Pellegrini’s and sat in the kitchen while the chef took our order and served it to us almost immediately. We then went to the Spring Street Grocer that has a walk in Cheese fridge, local & imported cheese, we then ate dessert which was homemade gelato from the grocer. We walked to Croft Alley where it is full of graffiti and street art followed by a drink at Section 8 one of Melbourne’s most famous bars.
Elizabeth and I met Denise and took a lovely walk on a finally sunny day through the cemetery to her house. We were thrilled to get out of the conference setting for a while and see a bit of Melbourne and loved meandering through the cemetery. Denise explained different histories of the populations of Melbourne and we remarked how we’d been through a selection of predominately Italian names and that people were grouped together. We talked about the indigenous communities and the long histories of displacement as we walked. As we arrived at her house we met up with Anna and Helena and Denise proceeded to serve a warming vegetable soup, some great fresh bread and we all chatted and enjoyed each other’s company before having to tram back to the conference.
The foodwalk was a real pleasure–to meet people I hadn’t known, to walk, to see the city, to hear of Denise’s experiences and see a bit of her life.
As someone who grew up in Melb, the “walk” bit of the foodwalks was a relatively minor element for me. Still, I was introduced to an alley with hip-hop graffiti which I didn’t know about (great spread there) and we ate in a Chinese place in those small alleys just off from Flinders St station and the south of Swanson end of Flinders Lane. The dumplings were indeed outstanding and the company good and convivial (I discovered my fellow “walker” was a bird enthusiast). So it was a great way to spend lunchtime in a place I almost certainly would not have found myself.
I had a lovely time on a foodwalk with a young man named Jack. He read us an excerpt from a play he’s writing that is based on his dreams, and our lunch featured cheese because apparently eating cheese at night gives you more vivid dreams. The weather was perfect. After reading to us on the sidewalk we strolled to the Queen Vic markets where we bought cheese, bread and greens, then went to Jack’s house to make toasties on his sandwich press. They were delicious! After eating we read another excerpt from his play, this time together, the three of us taking turns to each read a line.
Even though I lived in Melbourne for 10 years I deeply appreciated the hospitality and welcome that this event set up. To be graciously welcomed into someone’s home without pretension, in all the home’s gracious humility – it was very earthy and real while also something very special.
Marija and Gareth shared the very popular and utterly Instagrammable Pana chocolate desserts (our Australian cities tend to develop these kinds of ‘cult’ foods…) with us in a public space they’ve very fond of (was it the garden out the front of the city library?). Marija also shared her interest in city spaces where people could reflect and ‘just be’ without needing to purchase anything, and i think her food walk tried to reflect the way that she experiences the city. During the food walk, Marija and Gareth asked questions that prompted us to thinking about our connection to food — lighthearted questions, such as memories of special foods you had as a child, or what your signature dish is now. Through this gentle conversation starting, we found out that a group member used pawpaw, scooped of its seeds, as an edible bowl for savoury soups.
Key themes from this walk were: food as interpersonal connection (Gareth and Marija bonded over their love for Pana chocolate and are good friends with many chocolatiers in Melbourne), food as creative experimentation and and out-of-the-box thinking, and food as nourishment for the body.
MICK DOUGLAS cooked for Lucia Monge with his camp stove.
it was a very delicious experience, really. we, maaike, loo zihan and myself, were led by morgan on a walk straight downtown. it was good to chat on the way, and see her engage with the city she lives in, giving us some really nice insights. we arrived at the vegetarian chinese place that she picked, somewhat famished it is called gong de lin, which translates, if i remember from loo zihan’s translation, into something that speaks of eating, ethics, and forest. the place specializes in mock-meat. it was great to try different dishes, the blend of the spices seriously amazing in the spicy tofu, and also the black pepper mock meat was wonderful. we also ordered a kind of bitter melon with beans dish. which i was really thrilled to try As with food when it is good, it was also facilitating a somewhat gentle way of speaking with each other, which, for a group whom at least i did not know anyone in before, went really nicely. it was almost a bit of a pity that we had to rush back to catch up with the closing panels. so, yes, another occasion where my first visit to australia proved amazing quality of food. ridiculous in fact. makes me want to go back
I had the privilege of taking out four delegates to lunch at Pope Joan in Brunswick East (and got to share the experience with my Uni student daughter.) With delegates from Denmark, Canada and Japan, we talked and laughed about food memories (our academic from Japan has disposed of a rice cooker due to his love of German sourdough bread!) We discussed the growing interest in local, seasonal sustainable food and the voice (or lack of voice) of indigenous people in our countries. We talked about affordability of good food for the poor and of course the unique role the arts have in shaping culture. It was fun and deep and everyone seemed at ease and keen to connect and share. All this over some local craft beers and wholesome seasonal food!