Greek cafés were a feature of Australian cities and country towns from the 1910s to the 1960s. Anglophile Australians, who knew the Greeks as dagos, were possessed of culinary imaginations that did not countenance the likes of olive oil, garlic, or lemon juice. As a result, Greek cafés catered to Australian tastes and became the social hubs of their communities. After establishing the diverse and evolving nature of food offered in Greek shops since their origins in the late nineteenth century – oyster saloons, cafés, fish shops, fruit shops, milk bars, snack bars, confectioneries – this article uses the concepts of “disgust” and “hunger” to offer new insights about food and identity in Australia’s Greek community and in the wider Australian culinary landscape. In particular, it applies Ghassan Hage’s work on nostalgia among Lebanese immigrants to the situation of Greek proprietors and reveals how memories of a lost homeland allowed café families to feel “at home” in Australia. In a land of “meat-n-three-veg,” a moussaka recipe the family had known for generations offered both a sense of identity and the comfort of familiarity, and Greek cafés, because they represented hope and opportunity, were familial spaces where feelings of nostalgia were affective building blocks with which Greeks engaged in homebuilding in a new land. And although their cafés did not serve Greek food, Greek proprietors and their families did eventually play a role in introducing the Australian palette to Mediterranean foods and foodways.
From Oysters to Olives at the Olympia Café: Greek Migrants and Australian Foodways
Dr. Toni Risson’s research interests focus on popular culture, in particular, food studies. This provides opportunities to explore topics as diverse as cookbooks, Greek migrants, shops, children’s birthday cakes, and beer. Toni’s doctoral thesis on children’s consumption of lollies identifies key Australian confectioners and reveals hitherto unexplored aspects of Australian children’s culture. After the publication of Aphroditeand the Mixed Grill: Greek Cafés in Twentieth-Century Australia (2007), she has developed an enduring interest in the singularly Australian phenomenon known as the Greek café, which extends here to Greek/Australian food cultures beyond the café space.
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Toni Risson; From Oysters to Olives at the Olympia Café: Greek Migrants and Australian Foodways. Gastronomica 1 May 2014; 14 (2): 5–15. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2014.14.2.5
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