You’re reading this because you’re probably wondering – what the hell is The Melting Pot anyway? Well, it’s the first major crowdsourced cookbook for Australia, with an emphasis on the multicultural recipes of our best home cooks and their personal stories connecting them to those dishes.
Yes, that’s a bit of a mouthful, and what does it all mean, exactly? Basically, the website is a community for Australian home cooks to post family recipes online, elevating other recipes by choosing their favourites (you’ll probably have noticed those omnipresent Facebook ‘Like’ buttons), and interact with like-minded cooks. The top recipes will be tested by me and The Melting Pot team, and the best will be immortalised in a professionally produced cookbook, to be published in 2013 by Murdoch Books.
This website is for you – it’s your community. It’s a place where you get to share your family’s greatest heirloom recipe, whether you regularly cook it yourself, or merely race to eat it at your mum’s or keep it in a dusty book penned by your great half-uncle. Whatever it is, it’s your heritage, your culture, and it says something about your own traditions. If your house was burning and you could only preserve one family recipe, that would be the one I’d encourage you to share. On the other hand, keep the house, and let us experience each other’s cultures by the food on our respective plates.
It may strike some Aussies odd that a born-and-bred American would have the audacity to attempt to compile a crowdsourced cookbook about multicultural Australian food. I mean really, doesn’t Australia have enough bloody Yanks already corrupting its culture with crap TV and artery-clogging fast food restaurants?
To the land of plenty I offer a first line of defence – I’ll soon be a true-blue Aussie myself, one of the newest in a long line of new Australians. That Australia keeps adding people like me is what makes this country such an amazing place to live, and to eat. It’s where the familiar – in our society and in our kitchens – is ever-changing and evolving, from indigenous Australians to First Fleeters, Chinese labourers to Japanese pearl divers, Italian restaurateurs to Holocaust survivors, Ethiopian immigrants to yes, even wayward food-obsessed New Yorkers. And with each wave, Australia’s food credentials grow ever wider.
I have one word to describe today’s Aussie cuisine: mash-up, that IT term for separate elements combined to create something entirely new. That pretty much sums up what we do here in Australia with food: take some Chinese flavours, mix them with French techniques and add some home-grown produce. And while naming conventions can change quicker than Lady Gaga outfits – fusion, world food, mod Oz, contemporary Australian, etc – the main thing is that each time our familiar foods collide with new waves of ethnic eats, we produce something original.
To write about Australian cooking today requires an absence of preconceptions about what Australian food is, or more exactly, what it used to be. Our comfort food is no longer just lamingtons, fish & chips, spag bol, meat-and-two-veg or barbecued prawns – even as I love each and every one of them. No, these days Lebanese kibbeh, Chinese pork buns, Greek souvlaki, Portuguese tarts, duck ragu and Thai massaman curry are just as much Aussie staples as a meat pie.
So why is this project different from every other Australian food website and cookbook that’s out there? Well, we have plenty of outlets for highlighting our ever-growing roster of celebrity chefs, and equal measures that highlight our fantastic array of produce and how to cook it. The Melting Pot isn’t either – our aim is to reach deeply into our collective cooking community of Australians, from unheralded home cooks to small local eateries and neighbourhood food heroes.
What these recipes collectively represent is the kind of cooking we do when we want to comfort ourselves. These aren’t limited to traditional dishes, but rather the kinds of things we flock to when we have food cravings, or when it’s cold outside, when close friends are over for a relaxed meal, when we’re tired and want nourishment. For me, this is the best kind of cooking. I’ve never had a dish at a fine-dining restaurant that has brought me the same euphoria as a beautiful steaming bowl of pho, a juicy roast Greek lamb, or a decadent Austrian jaeger schnitzel. I’m sure I’m not alone.
All the best, from my kitchen to yours,
Author and Recipe Whisperer, The Melting Pot
Michael Shafran is an established food and travel journalist based in Sydney, who swapped his native New York for Australia 11 years ago. When he’s not curating recipes for The Melting Pot, he’s uncovering Sydney’s hottest new restaurants for Agenda City, contributing to delicious, MasterChef Magazine, Cuisine, OutThere and other well-regarded food and travel publications, and reviewing for The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, Good Cafe Guide and Everyday Eats Guide. If that wasn’t enough, Michael is also Chief Epicurial Officer of top-rated Australian food blog, Gosstronomy.com, and has been named among the globe’s top 100 food Twitters.
His last time being chained to a desk was as Mobile Product Manager for Lonely Planet, where from 2008 to 2009 he devised ways for travellers to access location-aware information from their phones. He previously dedicated two years of his life as chief sub-editor of delicious, and for hungry geeks across Australia also launched the nationwide yourRestaurants and yourBars website and mobile guides during his tenure as Head of Restaurants & Bars for HWW.
Michael is represented by Australia’s oldest and largest literary agency, Curtis Brown Australia.
Our Chief Executive Interns
Allie Meyer (pictured, right) is a journalism student on the verge of finishing her degree at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). After growing up on America’s East Coast, she briefly lived in Washington, DC, and Rome, Italy, and now calls Sydney home. She can bake a mean batch of cupcakes, has figured out how to make bland student meals into something special (or, well, at least more appetising), and is trying to perfect her sushi-making skills. She’s only just begun her food journalism career, but she’s already contributing to several websites, including The Melting Pot. She’s also teamed up with a friend to launch her most recent project, Urban Feast, a guide to eating and drinking through Sydney on a student’s budget, and also publishes her own food blog, The Frosting on the Cake.
Noshing, food media and living by the motto, “Life is short. Eat dessert first”, is what it’s all about for The Melting Pot’s Jenna Chaitowitz. With a background in public relations and journalism, she’s worked at various food media companies and written for such food and lifestyle publications as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Good Food Guide website, and The Wine Society magazine. Jenna loves discovering the latest restaurants and bars around Sydney, and while she appreciates the decadence of fine dining and eight-course degustations, she believes there’s nothing more delicious than an authentic, fuss-free dish from a hole-in-the-wall haunt. Jenna’s happily sampled cuisines from Europe and the Middle East, and she looks forward to heading back overseas to discover more weird and wonderful treats.