Food Traditions of Australia and New Zealand

Jul 21, 2021 at History Free Essays

Historic Food Traditions of Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are the countries the cultural heritage of which combined traditions of the native people and the values of Europe and Asia. Due to the fact that Australia was a British colony, its culture, cuisine, and food tradition were deeply impacted by the British and Irish migrants who taught aboriginal inhabitants to prepare different dishes and traits. The significant influence on Australian cuisine had multicultural migration and globalization, which introduced the peculiarities of Mediterranean and Asian cultures. Similarly, the food traditions of New Zealand were impacted by ethic migrations and British colonization. The indigenous people called Maori, whose food traditions developed from Polynesian culture, borrowed many features of cuisine from Pakeha (West Europeans who came to New Zealand). Later, the New Zealand cuisine was impacted by American and Asian culinary traditions. Therefore, the food tradition of the country was enriched by the dishes made of potatoes, sugar, pork, wheat, mutton, etc. One of the most famous traditional dishes of New Zealand is colonial goose. Interestingly, this dish was made of the meat of lamb because of the expensiveness and lack of the goose meat. The history of this dish emphasizes the enormous impact of the European values and cuisine on the food traditions of New Zealand.

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Australia and New Zealand are countries with significant cultural background and history. The cultures of both countries were enormously shaped by the Europeans who came to colonize Southeast Asia. Before the arrival of the colonists, the food traditions of Australia were highly primitive. With arrival of British people, the cuisine of Australia was enriched with new recipes and methods of cooking. In comparison, before the arrival of British colonists, the cuisine of New Zealand was impacted by the Polynesian people called Maori, who came to the country before Europeans. Their food traditions were deeply connected to religion. Moreover, Maori cuisine included cooking the food in the earth ovens. With colonization of New Zealand by Europeans, the cuisine of the country acquired new meals, such as colonial goose. The history of this dish depicts the impact of the European values on the food tradition of New Zealand, so the citizens of the country highly appreciate it. Thus, even though Australia and New Zealand had their indigenous food cultures, they were changed by European traditions and cooking styles. Besides, in the mid-20th century, the waves of immigration and globalization also affected the food tradition of both countries. Therefore, Australia and New Zealand have become the countries the cuisines of which are significantly diverse and include the features of Asian, American, Mediterranean, Chinese, etc. culinary traditions.

Cultural Background of Australia

Before the colonization of Australia by Europeans, the culture of the country consisted of the cultures of different indigenous peoples. They did not have joint community, lived in small tribes, and had their own traditions, religion, and rituals. The Australian aborigines are considered one of the most ancient peoples inhabiting the Earth. It is believed that the first people arrived in Australia on boats from Southeast Asia (Eriksson, Hastie, & Roberts, 2014, p. 78). At the time of discovery of the continent by Europeans, there lived up to a million aborigines. Each tribe had a spiritual connection with a particular piece of land, but they actively traveled, seeking water and food, and traded. Despite the diversity of the habitat, which varied from internal deserts and tropical forests to snowy mountains, all aborigines believed in the eternal magical realm of the Time of Creation (Dreamtime) (Eriksson et al., 2014, p. 90). According to an aboriginal myth, totemic spiritual ancestors of people developed all spheres of life during the creation of the world. Another unifying feature of these tribes concerns their historic food traditions. It means that aborigines were mainly hunters and gatherers, and their diet, which was called ‘Bush Tucker,’ consisted of the regional representatives of unique flora and fauna of (Eriksson et al., 2014, p. 97). The indigenous people did not have any specific or sacred meals; the ‘Bush Tucker’ diet included the meat of kangaroo, emu, and wallaby. In addition, they consumed lizards, snakes, berries, and fruits. Due to the fact that aborigines did not have any cooking techniques, the meat was prepped directly on the campfire. Considering the information presented above, one can state that before the arrival of colonists, the indigenous people of Australia did not have cuisine in its traditional sense.

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Impact of the European Expansion on Native Food Traditions of Australia

Without any doubts, colonization of Australia by British and Irish people made a crucial impact on the development of the culture and establishment of the cuisine, which united native food with the European ways of cooking. Since the First Fleet arrived to the shores of Australia, the native food tradition started to change (Eriksson et al., 2014, p. 66). The colonists brought the basic food supplies, such as butter, rice, beef, sugar, etc. The settlers found many difficulties in setting the diet since the diet of aborigines significantly differed from the food the English used to eat at home. During the first year of colonization, the cuisine of the colonists was poor. It included salted meat, bread, and tea. Therefore, they started to cultivate the soil and established farming, which included rearing cattle. As a result, beef and lamb became the irreplaceable elements of Australian cuisine. During the British colonial period, the cuisine of Australia acquired the Anglo-Celtic recipes and cooking methods, which still are popular in Australia (Eriksson et al., 2014, p. 80). Thus, it could be stated that original cuisine of Australia was developed by Europeans, who used the natural resources of the country to establish agriculture and farming.

Impact of Globalization and Immigration on Australian Cuisine

Despite the fact that initial and basic influence on the development of Australian cuisine had British cuisine brought to Australia by the first settlers, the local food traditions were also impacted by the cooking methods of other peoples. With new waves of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, Australian cuisine was enriched by the traditions of Asian and Mediterranean cuisines (Newton, 2016, p. 117). The Asian and East Asian countries, primarily China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam had the greatest influence on the development of culinary traditions of Australia. Due to a mixture of traditions of immigrants that arrived in Australia in the 1950s-60s, Australian cuisine became very similar to the so-called ‘Mediterranean cuisine,’ which is a mixture of Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan and Italian cuisines (Newton, 2016, p. 121). Therefore, Australians started to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a large number of fresh products with a low content of salt and fat. To date, under the influence of globalization, Australian cuisine remains significantly international. For instance, one can find restaurants and shops offering halal and kosher dishes and products. Restaurants that combine the traditions of various cuisines from around the world and adapt traditional recipes for modern cuisine are often labeled as Modern Australian. Besides, British dishes are still extremely popular in the segment of fast food (for example, fish and chips). Thus, under the impact of multi-ethnic immigration and rapid globalization, the cuisine of Australia has acquired many unusual dishes and traits, which also include the elements of ‘Bush Tucker.’ These are witchetty grubs, anzac biscuits, pea and ham soup, dumper, lamb leg roast, iced vovo, etc. (Newton, 2016, p. 129). Such diversity of the dishes shows that Australian cuisine united the culinary traditions from the whole world.

Cultural Background of New Zealand

In the formation of the culture of New Zealand, a great role played the legacy and traditions of Maori, who came to New Zealand from Polynesia. The indigenous population of the Polynesian islands for many centuries did not even have a written language, but due to this fact, the art of carving on bone or wood extraordinarily developed (Veart, 2013, p. 153). With the help of these crafts, the Maori passed information to their descendants and retained their skills and traditions. Interestingly, Maori had a ritual of cannibalism. They usually ate prisoners of war or enemies they killed because there was a belief that one could get the strength of eaten enemy through eating them. The Maori culture is very ancient and has many rituals. One of the most famous rituals is the tattoo of the body and face (Veart, 2013, p. 151). Maori warriors, who made tattoos, gave a secret meaning to the drawing. The tattoo revealed the victories and achievements of each warrior. Analysis of the information about the cultural background of New Zealand suggests that the origins of the New Zealand cuisine came from the food traditions of Maori.

Cuisine of Maori

The traditional Maori diet was characterized by a small variety of foods containing significant amount of dietary fiber and protein, but little fat compared to the modern European cuisine (Veart, 2013, p. 143). The Maori ancestors who came to the islands of New Zealand brought such products as sweet potato, yams, taro, brussoneti and Cordyline fruticosa (Veart, 2013, p. 148). The basis of the Maori diet included ferns and their rhizomes, leaves and seeds of palm trees, leaf plants (in particular, scabies), mushrooms, berries, fruits, and seeds. For cooking, Maori used a separate room. The main method of cooking was baking in an earth oven. Many food products that were part of the usual diet of Maori had medicinal properties and were enriched with vitamins. One of the most famous dishes of Maori cuisine was toroi, shellfish cooked with Sonchus asper (Veart, 2013, p. 124). Thus, it is obvious that cuisine of Maori were the basis of the contemporary New Zealand cuisine. However, as in the case of Australian cuisine, the crucial impact on New Zealand culinary traditions had the arrival of Europeans to the country.

Impact of Europeans on the Development of the Cuisine of New Zealand

Maori called Europeans Pakeha and borrowed from them a large number of culinary traditions and recipes. At the beginning of the British colonization of the islands, the settlers used the products of their homeland. Soon, they started producing them in New Zealand. For example, they made beer or tea from local ingredients. One of the innovations of the settlers was the dish called colonial goose. Interestingly, geese were not used in cooking it; instead, the dish was prepared by baking lamb. Thus, the cuisine of New Zealand was enriched with wheat flour, pork, lamb, goat and chicken, potatoes, corn, pumpkin, carrots, and cabbage. The basis of the ration was pork, soybean and potatoes. After mastering the European products, a new dish called ‘boil-up’ appeared. It was cooked by stewing the pork bones with meat, soybeans and potatoes. The meal was served with dumplings made of water and flour. The corn brought by Europeans led to appearance of several new dishes, such as corn porridge with soda (k?nga pungarehu) and dessert from boiled mashed potatoes and corn porridge (k?nga waru). With the usage of wheat flour, the Maori created three varieties of bread. The combination of European culinary traditions and the Maori cuisine were the basis for the further development of New Zealand food traditions.

Other Factors that Contributed to the Formation of Modern New Zealand Cuisine

Until the 1960s, New Zealand cuisine had been influenced by British cuisine. However, with the development of aviation, French, Italian, Indian, Chinese and other culinary trends began to penetrate the New Zealand cuisine (Leach, 2010, p. 93). The flow of emigrants from Asia made a huge contribution to the gastronomy of this country. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Malay restaurants were created. Sushi, Thai pate, and macaroni became popular in the country and were eagerly adopted by New Zealanders. Today, in New Zealand, there is a wide range of shops, supermarkets, wholesale food bases, cafes, restaurants and all kinds of eateries. For instance, in Wellington, there are more food points per capita than in New York. In the central part of the capital, there are more than 300 different cafes and restaurants (Leach, 2010, p. 94). In New Zealand, there is an extensive network of fast food outlets similar to the United States, Britain or Australia. However, many families use their own products in the preparation of the food as the home cooking in New Zealand is highly popular. Hence, it is obvious that the cuisine of New Zealand, as well as Australian cuisine, was mainly impacted by colonization, immigration, and globalization. The main meals and dishes of the New Zealand cuisine are the combination of native food traditions and cuisines from the whole world.

Significance of the Dish Colonial Goose

As it was mentioned above, colonial goose was the dish invented by the British settlers. They wanted to recreate famous dishes and meals of their homeland and poultry had to be used in many of them, but they faced an obstacle as the fauna of New Zealand lacked geese and chickens (Friend, 2014, p. 79). Conversely, mutton and lamb was cheap and available for them. Therefore, clever and inventive British cooks removed the bone from the lamb’s joint and stuffed it with honey and apricots, sewed the meat together and baked for several hours in the oven. As a result, the baked leg of lamb looked like baked goose. With the development of the cuisine, other elements were added to the stuffing (Friend, 2014, p. 79). The presented dish was considered classic, and was served in few restaurants at midwinter festivities in New Zealand. Thus, the history of creation of recipe of colonial goose emphasizes the enormous impact of European culinary traditions on the New Zealand cuisine, and this is why it is so significant for New Zealanders.


To conclude, the cuisine of Australian and New Zealand was significantly shaped by the culinary traditions of Europe and the whole world. Their cuisine combined native food traditions with the features of Asian, American, Chinese, Italian, etc. cuisine. The analysis of the cultural background of Australia shows that indigenous people did not have specific cuisine, but rather they were hunters and gatherers, who prepared food directly on the campfire. Conversely, the native peoples of New Zealand had highly developed society and their cuisine was deeply connected to religion and included specific dishes, such as toroi. However, despite these differences between the culinary traditions of the countries, their cuisine was impacted by the waves of multi-ethnic immigration and globalization. As a result, the cuisine of Australia, as well as food tradition of New Zealand, adapted to the meals and cooking methods of other peoples. Thus, such dishes as colonial goose became the part of the national cuisine of these countries. The example of recipe of colonial goose emphasizes that colonization had the determinative impact on the formation of historic food traditions of Australia and New Zealand.

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