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Tracking Italians through food
Old 9th April 2011, 03:20 PM   #1
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Default Tracking Italians through food

Dr Jo Kijas (left) consultant historian at New Italy museum complex, chef Americo Melchior and Dr Adele Wessell senior lecturer in history at Southern Cross University will be at the launch of the New Italy cookbook project on Sunday.

THEY say historians can read history anywhere and a new project designed to track Italian settlement on the Northern Rivers through food should have history buffs salivating.

The project is appealing to descendants of Italian migrants for handed down family recipes and associated anecdotes for a cookbook designed to celebrate the Italian influence on food production and consumption in the region.
Project leaders Adele Wessell,senior lecturer in history at Southern Cross University and associate fellow at the National Museum of Australia, and Jo Kijas, consultant historian and community development worker at New Italy Museum, are launching the project this Sunday at the museum from 10am to coincide with Anniversary Day.

Anniversary Day commemorates the Sydney landing of the survivors of the Marquis de Rays immigration scam in 1881 – where more than 300 men, women and children from Veneto in Italy were stranded on the barren east coast of Papua New Guinea after being lured from poverty to the opportunity of a “tropical paradise”.

With the assistance of the NSW Government, survivors were welcomed to Australia but had to settle in regional NSW, leading many to Woodburn where they named their new adopted home New Italy.

Dr Wessell says food and history have a powerful connection in the local context because Italian mig-rants came from a culture where the importance of food and family are deeply intertwined.

“Despite the pressure to assimilate, Italians brought their foods and cooking with them and adapted them to local conditions so there is a lot of history captured in those changes,” Dr Wessell said.

“Spaghetti is now one of the most popular dishes in Australia.

“By collecting these recipes we can build an understanding of food traditions and how they communicate cultural heritage.”

The aim of the project is to create a cookbook, collect stories, develop an exhibition at the New Italy Museum, develop educational materials for schools, facilitate cooking demonstrations and collect food mementos.
Dr Kijas said the New Italy Museum already had a considerable collection of recipes which museum volunteers were currently digitising while they collected further recipes and stories.

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