Australian food does not exist: Stephanie Alexander
The internationally celebrated food icon and MasterChef Australia judge Stephanie Alexander believes that cooking is therapeutic. Well-known author of several cookbooks that are considered a Bible for cooking enthusiasts in Australia, Alexander has left his mark as an educator who promotes Pleasant Food Education in 2000 schools in Australia. Recently, on a tour of India, he told us about his love for food, his culinary initiatives and what he likes most about Indian cuisine. Excerpts
How did the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program change you as a person?
I think the most important thing he did for me was to familiarize me with the operation of the elementary schools! It has been a long time since I was in school and there are limits to what you can achieve when trying to introduce an intervention in a school, so I realized all those limits. I was also pleased to see the enthusiasm of the youth and how they responded to the program.
Your cookbooks are almost like a Bible for lovers of Australian food and cuisine. Don't you think they should also be promoted in India, considering the absence of much information here about Australian food? I would love to have my cookbooks promoted in India and I would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to take it on! I feel that the Cooks Companion is quite applicable to any English-speaking chef anywhere in the world and is a great introduction to dishes that are not only Anglo-Saxon, there are dishes that show worldwide influence. Of course, you can always get my app, The Cooks Companion, from the app store. Reproduce exactly every word in the book.
Apart from the reason for being clean and healthy, why do you think it is important to cook your own food?
I think the reason to cook your own food is because it gives you great pleasure, produces the best flavors if you use fresh and seasonal ingredients well chosen and I suppose for me it is a personal pride, I am proud of the way I can prepare fast food and easily and I am proud of the pleasure it gives to other people.
Tell us some less known aspects of Australian food. What is your favorite dish?
I always feel that I have to say that there is no Australian food. We are a nation of migrants and our food reflects so many different influences and that is their strength, but it makes it difficult to describe in a collective sense. I think the least known aspect of Australian food is its diversity: Thai, Lebanese, Japanese, Indian, Afghan, whatever, it is there. Actually, I don't have a favorite dish: I love going to restaurants to experience a cuisine that I don't know very well and be surprised by what I find.
What is a normal Australian meal like? What differentiates Australian food from other kitchens?
It is very difficult to describe a regular Australian meal due to our diversity, but in most families there is still a tradition of home cooking. Home cooking is still alive and well in Australia, in my opinion, there is too much prepared food and take away food, but the average family still cooks at home several times a week.
Its Foundation is working with 1800 Schools for a Pleasant Food Education. Can you define pleasant foods for us and how the program works?
In reality, there are more than 2000 schools and that includes a considerable number of early education centers or kindergartens. The way we describe our program is that, although it is educational, it should be fun. I really believe that if you are trying to change someone's attitudes or behavior, you will never succeed if you try to scare them or give them negative messages. But if you take them with you on the trip and you say this is how you prepare this beautiful piece of food and let it get to work, that's a pleasant food education for me.
How popular is Indian food in Australia? What is your favorite Indian dish?
Indian food is very popular in Australia, particularly among students who take friends who are not Indians, so more and more people are gradually being introduced to the community. My favorite Indian dishes are the various vegetable curries and the flatbreads that I love, as well as the delicious chutneys and side dishes.