By Jacqui Newling
The 22nd Symposium of Australian Gastronomy (SAG22) kicked off with a twilight reception on Friday November 16 at the historic Elizabeth Farm, with the generous support of Sydney Living Museums, which manages the site as a museum.
Built on Burramattagal land in Darug Country, Elizabeth Farm is Australia’s oldest surviving colonial homestead, established in 1793 by the Macarthur family. Like many other entrepreneurial colonists, the Macarthurs created a dynasty built on agriculture and commercial industries including dairying, meat, grain, wine, wool production and whaling. Elizabeth Farm is also home to Australia’s earliest olive tree, planted near the house around 1805. While highly significant to Australia’s colonial history, these enterprises are out of place in the traditional environment and the reception’s focus was on Aboriginal culture and foodways, and the effects of colonisation. Burramattagul food and other resources were usurped by British colonisers from 1788 for sustenance, survival and commercial gain. The Parramatta River was a source of eels, oysters and ducks and Darug people created a landscape that was ideal for kangaroo hunting and cultivating native yams.
Darug Elder, Uncle Greg Sims gave the Welcome to Country and spoke in Darug language, which resonated strongly with the 90+ symposiasts, their guests and SAG22 volunteers and co-sponsors. Elizabeth Farm representative Dave Key gave a contextual introduction to the property and the Macarthur’s influence on early colony as part of the welcoming speeches. Registration took place in the 1820s kitchen and the house was opened for a private viewing during the evening.
The reception and its menu of oysters, eel, duck and kangaroo, native fruits and greens take inspiration from the traditional custodians of this place. Eels particularly played a key role in the interpretation – in Darug language Burramatta (from which the Parramatta’s name is derived) means ‘where eels lie down’. Fred’s Bush Tucker demonstrated the traditional technique of wrapping eels in Gymea leaves and paperbark before roasting them on coals, and serving them straight off the fire. The eels had been caught in the Hawkesbury River at Ebenezer and purged at Wiseman’s Ferry the previous day, by fisherman Paul Aquilina. Smoked Silver Lakes eel was served in canapés and made into pies by Ryan Broomfield, who also prepared duck pies for the event. Delegates also enjoyed Wallis Lake oysters generously provided by John Susman of Fishtales and freshly shucked in situ by the highly engaging Steve Hodges. Simon Evans from Caveau created salads of wild bitter greens, roasted kangaroo and yams, served with bok-wheat rolls infused with native seeds and seasonings by Cesare Saleme of Providence Bakery.
Italian varietals produced by winemaker James Manners and viticulturalist Colin Millott from First Ridge Wines in Mudgee were a wonderful example of the ‘out of place’ being in the right place. Similarly, Brookie’s Byron Slow Gin making English-style ‘Sloe’ gin with native Davidson plums in subtropical rainforest in northern New South Wales.
We were also very fortunate to have the assistance of Hospitality Management students from Kenvale College to help with setup, food and beverage service.
For many people, this was their first taste of Parramatta. Elizabeth Farm and the other heritage places across Parramatta that featured in the four day program gave all symposiasts, including Sydney-siders, a strong sense of place and cultural meaning, past and present.