Savouring the Taste of Culture
There’s a common saying that that “no-one does national days like MACS.” This is not an understatement. MACS celebrates national days in grand style. https://www.macs.org.au/enriching-cultural-identity-at-macs/ Staff and volunteers drawn from the 61 different cultures are committed to make these happen. And another thing is that on national days, sumptuous national meals are offered, depending on the national day. From the huge range of days celebrated, it could Lithuanian, Serbian or Hungarian or other, and these foods change from year to year. The Italian and Greek national days at MACS are great examples of menu offerings.
On Italian National Day lunch, there’s Lasagna or Spaghetti Bolognese as a first choice followed by a dessert of Tiramisu . All this tempts the MACS’ national day reveler. The cuisine certainly measures up to the reputation of ‘ la cucina’. It’s in keeping with the many Italian dishes, which are based on simple, quality ingredients like cheese, pasta, eggplant, olives and olive oil.
On the other hand, the National Greek Day menu this year was: Pasticcio or Greek Lasagna or Greek Lamb Casserole. Pasticcio is a traditional Greek dish with layers of lamb mince, pasta, topped off with a golden cheesy béchamel sauce on the top. Greek Lamb casserole has traditional ingredients–lamb, olives, feta, olive oil, rosemary, white wine — all part of the staple diet of the Greek Culture. And for those who could find room after the lavish servings of mains, were offered Galaktoboureko (or traditional Greek custard pie drowned in scented syrup)—made with filo pastry, and a custard of semolina, milk and eggs.
Then there are the afternoon teas in the Chapel on national days. There may be a decorated cake such as one in Italian colours and cut up in front of the residents and devoured by all.
But the importance of how MACS’ residents connect with their own culture through their traditional food can’t be underestimated. It’s apart from the focus on food with age and consumer status considerations. But at the end of the day, professional food service and buying premium casserole meat for general consumption is not the yellow brick road to cultural sensitivity.
At MACS it’s a remembering on national days that traditional cuisine is something passed down from one generation to the next; an expression of embracing heritage through a culture’s food, a symbol of pride and in some instances meeting the hankering for a resident’s old country.
On an individual level, we don’t forget what we ate when we were growing up, eating the food of our cultures. When we remember this, we might associate food from our childhood with warm and fuzzy feelings of the good memories as it connects us to our families. And Australia day is always celebrated at MACS. A downing of lamingtons and meat pies follows an unabashed bout of thong throwing.
It may well be the case that traditional home style cooking in residential aged care facilities is what older people want. And it’s quite clear that the timeworn way of dishing up poor nosh has long gone.
But, at MACS, it’s about food still working as a portal into culture. MACS’ menus involve residents in organizing their individual choices e.g. stuffed cabbage rolls for Croatian residents, other residents from different cultures may opt for Kransky sausages. Moulded cultural foods for those who need textured diets, can be included even.
And who knows, if we are looking for the next big thing in a cultural sense, we might head towards serving Scottish haggis (sheep’s stomach stuffed with oatmeal and offal). Or in the true Spanish tradition, happily putting 12 grapes into our mouths one at a time at each chime of the clock at midnight.
Chai B Le, What Food Tells us about Culture, 2017,
MACS Cultural Diversity Report 31 Dec 2017
Natasha Egan, Food trends in aged care, 2013,
Various contributors, Culture: Top 10 Reasons Why Culture is so Important August 17, 2016 https://www.importantindia.com/23863/culture-top-10-reasons-why-culture-is-so-important/