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Food & identity – theme overview

Use this theme overview to support your teaching of the Food & identity inquiry unit.

Food plays a critical role in the cultural identity of any nation and its citizens. It defines us.

The traditions and rituals that we partake in every day and on special occasions often have a meal at their centre. Home cooking and the generational handing down of food knowledge – Indigenous, Anglo-Saxon or that of any other culture – are essential to understanding ourselves.

Post-war immigration especially has had a significant impact on Victoria's culinary landscape. Southern Europeans are largely responsible for the dried-fruit industry and the modernisation of the fishing industry. Italians also brought their passion for coffee, pasta and wine, while Eastern Europeans introduced a dizzying array of produce via Continental delicatessens.

Since the 1970s, the strong influence of Asian migrants from countries such as Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and India have contributed to the ever-growing flavours of Victoria, while those who have more recently arrived from central and North Africa have introduced new and exciting tastes to our welcoming palates.

Meanwhile, America continues to play a massive, if unhealthy, role in Victoria's passion for takeaway food.

Uniquely Victorian products such as Kraft Vegemite, MacRobertson chocolates, Rosella tomato sauce and Victoria Bitter beer have been a familiar and iconic part of our culinary tradition, bedrock to our gastronomical evolution. The well-known saying 'you are what you eat' has never been more relevant than it is today. Victoria is a cornucopia of ethnicities and it is this wonderful cultural melee that gives us our adventurous, varied sense of taste.