For most of Australia, the ability to visit Melbourne to enjoy the food, culture, and the ambiance that comes when the city is in full flow has been closed due to lockdowns and the unceasing pandemic. Heavily impacted by these closures are the restaurants and businesses that rely on foot traffic and tourism to stay afloat. For Melbournites and visitors alike, the energy that buzzes in a Melbourne café or restaurant is like no other in Australia, with each plate being drenched in history and culture, causing a vibrance that makes Melbourne the city that it is.
It’s that culture, ambiance, and ultimately, the food, that absolutely leaps off the page in Broadsheet’s new cookbook, Home Made, a collaborative effort that features 80 varied recipes from some of Melbourne’s best chefs, restaurants, and cooks. Sumptuous photos of plated meals, or the chefs in action, line the pages of this hefty tome, with personal narratives informing the recipe that they’ve included, adding a level of humanity that the food often delivers itself, with each bite adding another layer to the story that’s been created. An occasional glimpse of a chef preparing a meal in their restaurant immediately brings to mind the orchestra of the kitchen, the clattering, sizzling, and cooking chatter creating a unique symphony of food and delight.
Online recipe blogs have copped understandable flack for filling our screens with thousands of words about what the recipe means to the writer, ultimately leading to a pile of waffle that gives our scrolling finger a little more work to do as we search for the recipe we came to read. Home Made rejects that notion, eschewing the piffle, removing the fat, and cutting straight to the meat of the recipe. Instead of some romanticised tale about the recipe, Home Made embraces why we visit restaurants and cafés to begin with, and with each recipe, we’re reminded of the human element of cooking.
The recipes themselves initially appear daunting and overwhelming as you flip through the pages, with attached images showcasing a variety of meticulous meals, amongst a wealth of photos that are best described as ‘rustic’, but the reality is, there’s an impressive level of hand-holding going on here, walking you through how best to prepare each dish. It’s not patronising either, instead there’s a real desire from each chef/restaurant to bring a little bit of Melbourne into your home. Additionally, you’re given encouragement and guidance as to how best to organise your kitchen, an aspect that we all could use as we try to rediscover our inner-Marie Kondo. One of the most useful aspects is a guide on whether those costly kitchen tools are actually worthwhile investing in or not – I immediately scratched some of the ‘wish list’ items off my list after seeing that I’d barely be using them.
Cooking can be a communal effort, as shown with recipes catering for families or partners to create together. I was particularly impressed by the recipes that encourage younger kids to get into the kitchen to help out, introducing them to techniques and flavour profiles that aren’t just the type that they get from licking the spoon after their parents bake a cake. Dishes like wraps and dumplings give a foundation for kids to learn and grow as budding cooks.
It’s within these recipes and the stories that I found myself unexpectedly being moved as a read Home Made. Yep, in the year 2021, I didn’t have ‘sitting in my lounge room shedding a tear over a cookbook’ on my bingo card, but sure enough, that’s what happened when I cracked open my review copy. Pre-pandemic, I would visit Melbourne once a year, walking through the streets and discovering a new restaurant to lose myself in. Many of my food memories come from Melbourne, like the time I waited an hour to get a Halal Snack Pack from CBD Kebabs, getting to see person after person walk away in a haze of aromas of garlic sauce, chips, and various meats. Or, the time I visited Mörk Chocolate and became transformed by a mind-altering chocolate experience that still gives me tingles. And I can’t ever forget the time I visited Pellligrini’s, suited up after visiting the AFCA Awards, and losing myself in a sea of pasta, exuberant Italians, and Chinotto.
These venues are made memorable because of the food, the people who cook them, and the patrons, and for something that feels so personal, so transient, so in the moment, it seems almost impossible to capture that same energy in a cookbook. Yet, here we are, with Home Made working as a genuine love letter to Melbourne, its food, and its people. This is a book written with love, dedication, compassion, and a heaping of optimism as well for the Melbourne community, leaning into the understanding of the unifying and healing nature of food. It pokes at a nostalgia that we all have for being together, celebrating family events, or even just having a casual dinner with your close friends, and most importantly, the feeling we get when we eat great food.
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