The first photo shows a couple of guests at my friends Paul and Ieva’s place, engaging in the favourite activity of all Sydneysiders – eating. Tomorrow I will be leaving my native city, but
as a farewell I’d like to share a few impressions of the endlessly diverse and tasty ways in which this giant melting pot simmers away.
Picture number 2 is from a café which despite an uninspiring name, “Bar Sport,” has been keeping tummies happy for years in Leichhardt where my dad lives and I’ve been staying these past few weeks. The philosophy of life of the postwar Italian influx can be strongly felt at this earlier opener, where the locals cheer the soccer on the TV in a mix of Italian and Aussie English, chug espressos and feast on floury sugary treats. If I have to choose how I die, let it be from a heart attack overindulging on the “Nutella Bombas” shown in cross-section in the third pic.
That’s breakfast taken care of. For lunch and dinner, within two minutes’ walk of “Bar Sport” there are Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese eateries as well as a hybrid called “Mekong” doing Singaporean laksas, Malaysian curries and more. For the carniverous there’s a Brazilian BBQ joint, as well as a good old-fashioned fish ‘n’ chip shop. There’s an “Irish” pub (though it doesn’t seem to differ in the slightest from your typical Aussie one) and a small bakery doing sausage rolls and meat pies, served by an Asian family who judging by their early-stage English haven’t been here long.
I get why my dad chooses to live here, because as well as being proud of his Latvian heritage, he’s a tragic cosmopolitan. But if you’ve only been to Leichhardt, you’ve only scratched the surface of Sydney’s culinary kaleidoscope with its mini Lebanons, Greeces, Portugals and Spains, African enclaves and countless and diverse Chinese restaurants – a country of a billion souls has more than just a single “national” cuisine. Sydney’s Latvian Hall is surrounded by dozens of Korean places – frankfurters and potato salad or kimchi for lunch?
5 million people call Sydney home, of whom 40% were born in another country, and if rates of immigration continue at their present pace, this stat will soon be over half. The most amazing thing is that this extremely mixed company gets along if not perfectly – two give two examples, Islamic terrorism has not left Australia untouched, and aboriginal people continue to suffer from serious inequality – then I a generally friendly spirit. Maybe it’s due to this being a rich country, and there’s a slice of the good life to go around for everyone.
Also, it must be said that apart from the food, mainstream Australian culture doesn’t seem to absorb much of the literature or music let alone religious beliefs of the newcomers. The result may be a bit dull, but perhaps there are enough inflamed passions in the world and a bit of Australian laid-back apathy is the way ahead in this increasingly crowded and interconnected world.
Life is too short to argue – let’s just have lunch.