By: Sadia Kashif, Sensational Taste Tour Guide
I belong to the nation where food is the heartbeat for everyone. Most of the time in our daily routine is spent on either thinking about what to cook, or preparing and eating food. We give presents to each other at weddings and birthday parties that are all about food. Things like cooking pots, dinner sets, blenders, sandwich makers, grilling pans and more.
I come from a family that eats five to six meals a day, including three proper big meals, two tea times and and a snack time. Yes, I belong to Pakistan, which is often called a “curry nation.” My food fears started by watching Hollywood movies, where the characters come home, open a tin of baked beans from the cupboard and start eating. Or they just take out some raw carrots or an apple from the fridge and start chewing. My idea of food in western countries was that it was all either raw food or processed food.
As our move to Australia grew closer, my food fears were stronger than ever. What would I eat there? Would I only eat raw veggies and baked beans? Or only salads and fruits? Would only processed foods like cornflakes be in my stomach’s future? My fears and questions were increasing and my mind was at breaking point. I was under so much food stress.
I used to close my eyes and picture spicy and hot Biryani, butter chicken, fried chicken and samosas to calm and capture my imagination.
When we were at Lahore International Airport, waiting for our flight to Sydney, my heart was beating differently when I asked my husband, “What are we gonna eat there?”
His face was completely blank. “I have no idea. Maybe we can’t eat whatever we eat here.”
I wanted reassurance. I wanted to be told I could find anything I wanted. I wanted to hear, “Honey, you will get your Biryani or Haleem or Nan, and everything you that you wish to eat.”
Instead my husband said, “Smoked salmon or sprouts or baked beans or lentils…all of these are food.”
“I can’t eat raw fish!” I wanted to cry.
“You have to. No choice…either eat raw or starve.” He was smiling, but also serious. I took a deep breath.
“Have something to eat at the airport,” he offered to us, generously, as if it would be the last food in our fate. We had dinner and I tried to fill my tummy as much as I could. I said to myself, “This means the next good food of my choosing will have to be when I return to Pakistan.”
Smoked salmon was the main dish served on the flight with salad and dinner rolls.
“This is raw, look at its pink colour,” I said to my husband.
“But, it is very tasty.” He took a salmon chunk with his fork and ate it with so much interest. I left my serve of smoked salmon for him too and started wondering if I could get any food of my choosing when I landed? Rice, fish, aalu buijia, or at least roti and nan?
“I may not get ready-to-eat food, at least I could get the spices or ingredients to cook something myself. I am a good cook.” I convinced myself.
Sydney was the land welcoming us, bright, shining, full of life and lights, the metropolitan, the biggest city in Australia.
“You know, Mum, we have an Opera House and a Harbour Bridge in Sydney,” my son told me on our way to a friend’s house from the airport.
“But do we have a Biryani house here?” My heart had more questions. When we arrived at our friend’s apartment, on the dining table I saw Masala chicken and beef pullao served with Lebanese bread and salad. That was the moment I really felt at peace. “This means we can cook these here. It is possible. YES, it is possible,” I was telling myself, suddenly filled with so much excitement, joy, and relief.” After the traditional Pakistani dinner, I had my favourite “chai” made with the same leaves that I like.
On our second day in Sydney, while living in Lakemba, we had a chance to visit Haldon Street. It was the Holy month of Ramadan and Haldon Street was decorated as a bride. Food businesses had their stalls on the street, embellished with LED lights. The aroma of BBQ charcoal chicken flowed everywhere and Nasheed (Arabic music) was being played in the shops. There were overwhelming celebrations for Ramadan and Lakemba was glowing.
That moment was amazing for me. The feeling of being welcomed in a new country as a newly arrived migrant in the Holy month, with diverse food cuisines from around the globe. I saw Lebanese, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Indonesian, Malaysian, Bangladeshi, Middle Eastern and other varieties of delicious foods. Halal food signs were displayed on the shop around us, so Halal meat was available, along with the spices, lentils, tea leaves, basmati rice, and all the products I had loved all of my life.
I fell in love with Lakemba and Sydney in that moment. It felt like home. I have never missed any food since then from Pakistan and here I can eat almost everything I love.
This was Sydney, a foodie’s heaven. It’s a place that is home to lots of diverse cultures living together with peace and love, where people are accepted, welcomed, and cherished.
I was part of this wonderful community to share my cultural experiences, rich cuisines, and my love for food.
I was here to know about and taste food from all around the world.