Any Melburnian knows that the Brunswick/Fitzroy area is the place to live and breathe in if you’re just too trendily hip for society. Brunswick St is unique in its eclectic mix of dining options, craft shops, quirky shops and its inhabitants who are too hipster for life
It was quite interesting to walk down the “less cool” side of Brunswick St (south of Johnston St). There was still a wide variety of cuisine available: Italian, Spanish, Mexican, a confused halal Italian pizzeria, African, a French bistro and an assortment of cafes. High-brow diners beware, there is no haute cuisine in sight, which is good for me, because most things were relatively inexpensive! Clearly, the people who frequent Brunswick St are used to inexpensive, good quality, food (with vegan options of course).
Taking in all the smells of coffee, hearty food, old clothes, the questionable nose-wrinkling scents, and seeing all the not quite perfect fixtures in restaurants and shops gave the street a natural yet trendy vibe. The variety of people (who were mostly so nice!) and shopfronts made the street welcoming and exciting simultaneously. Despite not completely identifying culturally with the street, I felt included and also tempted to buy and taste more than my bank balance allowed!
I can now see how migrant cuisine has impacted the street and how varied the foodscape is. We happened across a host of restaurants trying to take a cool/innovative slant on a cuisine, like Smith and Daughters, with a clearly non-Spanish name, yet serving an entirely Spanish/Latin American menu, and those searching for an “authentic essence in a cuisine [which] doesn’t exist”1 because of the constant evolution of cuisine!
1Heldke, L., 2003. Exotic appetites. New York and London: Routledge.
Sometimes, I just crave something salty. Luckily for me, one of Catalonia’s most well-known traditional dishes, Esqueixada, has that fresh, salty, oniony and tomatoey flavour that makes me oh so happy.
Esqueixada, meaning “torn” or “shredded”, is one of Catalonia’s favourite warm weather dishes, a homely dish enjoyed in many waterfront restaurants in the Spanish region. The salad dish is made up of yummy shredded salt cod, tomatoes, onions, vinegar, salt and sometimes bell peppers and olives. Esqueixada’s simplicity is so different from the molecularised foods emerging from Catalonia’s “boom gastronómico” but that’s where its beauty lies.
The salad makes use of the Catalan staple salt cod, an homage to its Mediterranean coastline and love of fish, as well as tomatoes, brought from the New World by Spain’s own Columbus. The use of such key ingredients encapsulates the way in which Catalan cuisine weaves together its rich culture and history and how it’s an “inheritance from and tribute to all the civilizations that have ruled Europe since Imperial Roman times”.1
I’ve never seen this dish plated up in Melbourne and would definitely not classify it as haute cuisine. Outside of Catalonia and even Spain, the only difference with the dish concerns the availability of ingredients. Salt cod is not too popular in most parts of the world, and thus when making the dish, the cod would have to be cured and salted at home. I did come across some Ferran Adrii inspired versions of the dish however, demonstrating how the traditional, home-style cooking of the region is being modernized.
Prior to studying Catalan cuisine, I wouldn’t have even considered the significance behind such a simple salad!
1L’any del menjar, cuina i gastronomia, p. 20.