Living in Kuwait, life was very pampered!
We had an amazing array of cuisines at our beckoning. Even impromptu get-togethers were easily managed with a simple phone call. Not to mention home deliveries where every meal is brought to your doorstep most times for no extra charge.
The leisurely life however, was accompanied with a feeling of insecurity a sense of foreboding that came with living in a country that did not offer citizenship or the liberty of owning your home. Once the kids came along, we were also looking for a good education system that was not exclusive or one with a hefty price tag.
Moving to Australia
Australia, ticked all the boxes for us when it came to raising a family. Our move to Australia, especially as parents can certainly be classified as a life changing experience in a lot of ways. Little did we know the impact the move to this beautiful country would have on our food habits. Not only our eating habits, but the way we perceived food and where it comes from.
Our first stop, Alice Springs – has always been a great conversation starter. Fondly known as the ‘heart’ of Australia because of its location also the red center due to the red soil that is found there. Alice Springs is infamous for its dry conditions. This of course, suited my family as we were moving from Middle East with quite similar weather sans the dust storms that Kuwait is now famous for.
Cooking At Home
Our first meal in our very own home, overlooking the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges was a simple canned soup and some bread. I was introduced to a new contraption called an electric cooktop which had coils/ similar to the mosquito repellent that I had seen growing up. It is great for stir fries but was a challenge to simmer a curry, make a roti or the famous masala chai. God forbid the chai ever boiled over. The cleaning was yet another chore.
While thankfully, the western culture does not exactly encourage drop in visits we did have a few occasions where I had to quickly put on my thinking hat and improvise.
We quickly found out that our options for dining out were quite limited. In terms of the choices which are mostly the fast food. The price tag of most of the dishes clearly implied we were much better cooking at home. Thus started our food discovery.
Luckily numerous blogs and Youtube videos came to the rescue. While an enthusiastic cook for the occasional potlucks and meals in Kuwait, it was a different ball game to cook every single meal from scratch right at home and on an electric cook top none the less.
Team Effort in Cooking
But you know what ? I started enjoying it. Our new friends were very appreciative of the beautiful food. Samosas were quite aptly rechristened ‘mystery bags’ and our famous ‘neer dosas’ from Karnataka were adopted with quite a zeal. We were surprised at the number of Aussies who are vegetarians. I developed a new respect for the wide variety of vegetarian food that India is so famous for.
Baking cookies, cakes and slices now became a team effort and we enjoyed the additional family time that came with it .. The first rainbow cake we made and the delight the kids had stirring the colour into the batter. The thrilled reactions to the first slice that they cut in. Birthdays now became a project, and the demands for castle cake, a teddy bear picnic cake and the likes started pouring in.
Enjoying Community in Austraila
My fondest memory of our very first Indian community get together in Alice Springs is how we were welcomed warmly among a group of complete strangers. I was promptly introduced to the ladies in the kitchen and lo and behold found myself with a rolling pin in hand rolling out the rotis for the group assembled.
While we had enjoyed the schnitzel, fish and chips and roasts our Indian palate knew we were missing the savory snacks, street food and dosa chutneys.
Before I knew it, I could pull off a Jimmy’s Masterchef butter chicken recipe, a dal makhani and a mean aloo gobhi. While parties back in India meant the hosts slaved or catered for the event from dawn to dusk, I loved the ‘bring a plate to share’ culture that Australia is famous for.
Many hands do make light work, not to mention a great array of dishes to enjoy.
Making treats at home also meant the kids were aware of the amount of work that went in. They were quite keen to learn how to cook traditional recipes especially the ones they were partial to. We were glad we were setting an example for the kids by now in their teen years to make healthy food choices independently.
Going Green for our Food
The solitude of living in the Outback also meant we paid more for the fresh food that was shipped interstate. I was quite aware of food wastage and ensured each scrap of food was either used or composted.
We started backyard gardening which can be a challenge especially if you are renting. Our very first investment being a curry leaf plant because no Indian household is complete without it. Coriander leaves came next and now we have quite a beautiful array of fruits and veggies in our backyard, albeit still quite a long way to go.
Food Adventures with the Kids
While I would not call myself very adventurous in terms of food, my husband and son love trying out new things. Before we knew it, we were sampling the likes of crocodile, duck and kangaroo meat that Australia is famous for. I learnt how making pancakes and scones with butter milk took them to that extra level of yumminess.
The Rogan josh and Butter Chicken are the two most popular Indian curries the Aussies know oh and the chicken tikka of course! Asian cuisine is quite popular in Australia and Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese food are also sought after.
Sausage sizzle is the go to rescue for backyard parties. The ‘barbie’ aka the traditional barbecue, a much sought after appliance for an aussie bloke etc. are now words in our repertoire. My husband is always game and quite a pro at chucking a steak on the barbie and my kids always game for a sizzle if we are out and about.
Seven years later, and living in Brisbane now we are thankful to this great country for the new outlook it has given us towards food, farming and agriculture.