Since the time of "the land before avocado" Sydney food has evolved from meat and three veg on the table at 6pm, to our eating out and cafe culture, and to eating in with Uber eats.
But where are we heading next Sydney?
Plant Based Menus
Once vegetarians and vegans sat on the outer rim of society. It was a 'hippy' choice made mostly for humanitarian or spiritual reasons, sometimes for health, often offering unimaginative options when eating out. Increasingly we seeing increased awareness of the cost to our land and seas in consuming huge amounts of meat poultry and fish. While one option in food sustainability is eating smaller and easily replenished food sources such as insects, a new band of food followers have embraced plant based dishes. And at last venues are offering creative delicious vegetarian plates for the tasting. Many menus are now wholly plant based. It's the top trend that we are loving. Bring it on 2019.
Continuing on in our increased awareness of the need to care for our planet, the war on food waste will receive even more vital attention this year. At the forefront, organisations such as OzHarvest Australia's leading food rescue charity, are doing their awesome thing. Restaurant and cafe kitchens have always been waste aware - it makes commercial sense to make the most out of all that they buy: stocks from scraps, use different cuts or parts of vegetables for difference dishes. We're bringing it home with smarter home shopping and cooking, reuse through composting and worm farms, and best practice recycling. We're also thinking about our use of plastic, with venues moving to paper or no straws instead of plastic, and us demanding it. Plus a shift to vegetable based compostable materials for take-away coffee cups and food containers.
Shopping With Baskets
In our move to personal responsibility for reducing (even eliminating) packaging, 2018 saw the introduction of pay for plastic carry bags. Like some of us weren't always carrying our own shopping baskets already. Disappointingly, though this may just be displacement use of plastic for some. Step it up people and take personal responsibility. Insist on reduced plastic packaging on food purchases. By example, there's no reason for a cucumber to be wrapped in plastic (except for the convenience of the supermarket with a place for the bar code). At home, eliminate plastic in food storage (use plates over bowls as containers, or silicon wraps).
And while we're at it, let's ditch the home delivery eat ins and its petrol, as well as the plastic, if you have a social conscience are really interested in making a sustainable difference in the world. If you didn't know, the delivery portals don't leave much dosh for the venue proprietors either - so eating in the restaurant or walking for take away instead of using a delivery service may just be sustainable in other ways too. Keep Sydney Open could be not just about hours, but also about making sure we have venues already doing it tough retain a fair portion of payment for each dish. And while we're on the subject...
Be Prepared To Pay
In years gone by we've seen boasts about cheap food options, especially in eating out. Let's face it. It may be false economy. Quality produce costs bucks. And if you want access to top restaurants with crafted and creative dishes, there is a cost to that skilled labour that should be paid for. Even if it is just through a return to special occasion dining, get rid of the grudge on the shoulder (if you have one), and the moths in your wallet (if you have those), and help Sydney return to a reputation for fine dining by being prepared to pay (and pay more) even if it's only occasionally. Then top restaurants can afford to do business, to pay fairly to farmers and artisan producers, and the up and coming next generation of chefs.
Once upon a time Sydney drank instant Nescafe and didn't know what a cappuccino was. You couldn't buy an avocado at the shops. True. Then from the early 90s, we learnt about sushi before we had trains. At the same time our tastes expanded as the first Thai and Vietnamese restaurants were opened. The next step in our culinary evolution was understanding regional. Like not just Italian food, but Sicilian. Or not just Indian, try food from the northern valley of Kashmir.
Diversity is awesomely good for us in many ways, but deliciously so in food. So this year is the year of adventure, of hopping a train to Liverpool or Auburn and chowing down to try something new.
For 2019 best practice of all of five of these evolutions, we recommend Parliament on King with vegan and vegetarian dishes from their country of origin, and the true definition of social eating.
Image of WaazWaan Kashmiri restaurant Crows Nest.
(Thanks to Richard Glover in the use of the title of his latest book The Land Before Avocado in this introduction - for his funny and frank look at the way Australia used to be see our recommended summer reading list)