The Aboriginal culture is one of the earth’s oldest. What did these indigenous people eat to survive over 60,000 years in the harsh climate of Australia? Australian author John Newton explores this subject in his book “The Oldest Foods on Earth.”
His own curiosity got piqued when he tried kangaroo for the first time. It dawned on him that it was actually the first time he had ever knowingly consumed a native Australian food. That moment led to his interest in, and advocacy for local, traditional foods.
Today, John shares with us some of the stories behind his books, which describe the history of traditional foods and recipes, along with resources for finding these foods. He also discusses our penchant for foreign “super foods” over foods closer to home, insights into the complicated relationship between indigenous people in Australia and European Australians, and the growing movement to embrace indigenous food worldwide.
Highlights from the conversation include:
- How European Australian settlers ignored native foods for approximately 230 years and used European agricultural practices that are not ideal for Australia
- That many early European explorers got sick or even died because they refused to ask the indigenous people how they were preparing foods
- Why we should all try to incorporate foods native to the place we live into our diet
- Why exotic “super foods” can be mistakenly perceived as superior to native “super foods”
- That native Australian foods can be extremely nutrient dense
- The kakadu plum is the richest source of antioxidants in nature, offering 900x more vitamin C than blueberries
- How a kangaroo meal in 1993 inspired John’s interest in foods native to his country
- That John’s latest book, “Cooking with the Oldest Foods on Earth” includes sources, resources, & simple home recipes using indigenous Australian foods
- That indigenous foods in Northern Australia include fusions with Chinese and Indonesian cuisine
- John’s favorite indigenous recipes, which include a special turtle dish that you can only get in Arnhem Land.
- Insights into the complex relationship between Aboriginal people and European Australians.
- The fact that there is a growing movement to embrace indigenous foods in Australia.
The Oldest Foods on Earth: A History of Australian Native Foods with Recipes: https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/oldest-new-ingredients-earth/
Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie
The Oldest Foods on Earth: Australian Native Foods Recipes and Sources: https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/oldest-foods-earth-abridged-version/