Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Comfort me with questions

I finished the long weekend a little subdued after three afternoons of neighbours riding trailbikes around and around the back paddock until my head was buzzing in tandem. It didn’t help to read David Malouf’s statement in the Weekend Review that until you have a body of work, “the second novel rather than the first,” that “your being a writer is more an aspiration than a fact.”

I regained some equanimity making comfort food. Comfort food tends to be that of your childhood. Mine is ma po tofu and jasmine rice; my partner likes the simplicity of risotto. While I was chopping vegetables and heating the wok, I wondered to what comfort food migrants in the Rosewood Scrub turned. After all, arriving here was a time of great stress, everything was unfamiliar, even the food.

Many areas with concentrations of migrants have strong ethnic food traditions. Almost every city in Australia has a Chinatown. There’s Sydney’s Cabramatta and Fairfield for almost any kind of Asian food. South Australia has Hahndorf and the Adelaide Hills. Stanthorpe still has its Italian food and produce shops. Marburg has …?

Aside from Schulte’s Meat Tavern at Plainlands, which specialises in wurst, there don’t appear to be visible culinary signs of the area’s Germanic roots. Why are areas of South Australia so visibly German today and not this area? Even the recently concluded show doesn’t have any distinct German influence in its competition and display classes (although this year there was a German-themed quilting contest with a fine quilt complete with three-dimensional wurst and pretzels!).

What factors influence continuing cultural identity? Does it have to do with the kind of migrant attracted to Queensland or perhaps the area from which the migrants came? What about the agents in Germany? Did different agents use different methods of recruitment which resulted in cultural differences among migrants in Australia? Does it have something to do with intolerance of difference in rural Queensland? Or something else entirely?

All these unanswered questions make me feel right at home again. Here’s to research, to aspiration and to writing.

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