Tuesday, April 23

Nicole Taylor: A Familiar South, A World Away

When Souths collide: U.S. Southern and Aboriginal Australian cookbooks at Melbourne's Books for Cooks bookstore. Photo by Nicole Taylor.

SFA guest blogger Nicole Taylor is Brooklyn-based writer and radio host with Georgia roots. 

Familiarity is something I seek when traveling to a foreign space—a coffee bar with aromas identical to my favorite skinny latte, or a breakfast sandwich with the exact biscuit crumb of the defunct Katherine's Kitchen. At this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, I met chefs from Australia, of course, but also from cities like Charleston, Lima, and Honolulu. In conversations where chefs took the time to detail the earth-to-plate journey of their ingredients, I was reminded of the work of Dr. George Washington Carver. Mostly, I was drawn to the native lifestyle in Australia. It mirrors my South—hospitality, rich agricultural history, and race-related complexities.

Photo of Aunty Carolyn Briggs by Daniel Mahon for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

During my visit, Aunty Carolyn Briggs, an elder of the Boon Wurrung people, told me, "I'm trying to help people reclaim and remember aboriginal people's stories of food." If the white-tablecloth chefs evoked Carver, my interview with Briggs reminded me of the writings of Zora Neale Hurston. Her words were balanced with memories of her mother and mentions of wattleseed, native pepper, macadamia nuts, lemon myrtle, and natural springs. The first people of Melbourne's foodways are more than kangaroo and crocodile (certain groups don't dare eat such proteins). As a daughter of Dixie, I sometimes struggle to explain that heirloom platters aren’t always covered in fried chicken. Ten thousand miles away, cultural food ambassadors are celebrating and welcoming visitors to their South—just like us.

Interested in hearing more about the connections between bush and Southern food?  Listen to Hot Grease episode 141 on Heritage Radio Network.