Vanessa Pike-Russell
I saw a link on Northern Illawarra about the first days of SBS and a video showing people celebrating the multicultural nature of Australia. It makes me smile to see such community and sharing of cultures and coming together to celebrate living in such a lovely place that we are fortunate to call home.

l love that I come from a big family that has a rich multicultural basis. It widened my perspective, especially with regard to food and helped me to explore and become adventurous and try new things. My friends in primary school and high school came from all over the world and it was like they brought part of the world to my doorstep. I learned smatterings of Greek and Italian, later Cantonese and Tagalog (Phillipines. ) I was invited into their homes and experienced cuisines and cultural events that helped to shape who I am today. This was in the days before food shows like Italian Safari and Global Village. Before Masterchef and Jamie Oliver. I still feel blessed to be made welcome and included and tutored in world cuisine.

Attending the birthday parties of my friends and family was always an eye-opener. Tables lined with foods, most of which I had never seen or tried before. Delicioius Greek moussaka, lamb cooked on a spit,  souvlaki and variations of baklava which is still a firm favourite today; a neighbour's birthday including home-made foods including Turkish pide (like pizza but folded in to make a () shape, felafel (made from chick peas) and meze (like an antipasto platter with dips, cheese, bread and accompaniments.

I am so fortunate to have been exposed to such a wide range of cuisines and watch people like my cousin's Grandmother, Mrs. Dressino who cooked everything with love, straight from the heart.

Then there was my Chinese Uncle who worked for a local restaurant and would cook traditional Chinese food with a flip of his wok and the flames rising beneath it. All the strange tastes and smells, ingredients that we have now become at home with but back then were new and exotic. I remember watching him cook Char Sui pork and prawn crackers thought it was magical. A tiny little disk became a huge plate-sized cracker. It was like watching a magician at work. Everything tasted so delicious, with flavours of star anise, hoi sin, dark soy and fish sauce before they became popular in mainstream grocery stores.

I remember trips up to Sydney where my aunt Jeanette would cook Polish food such as stuffed cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, stuffed capsicums and goulash for her husband and family. The smells of pickled cabbage and the taste of polish ogorki cucumbers and paprika still trigger fond memories today. I could go on and on.
I love the multicultural nature of the Illawarra and hope to continue my journey and share some of the time-honoured recipes before they are lost to our generation. If you have some recipes and photos that you would like to share please email me at

As Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said,  

"the discovery of a new dish does more for the
happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.

I just found out today that Mrs Dressino passed away recently and more than ever I want to dedicate my love of food to the special people that coloured my life with food, fun and laughter. You will be missed, Luigia. Memories of spending time with you will be forever close to my heart.

Please join me at Tutti in Piazza and celebrate Italia day in Wollongong Mall June 5th, 2010.

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