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The Taste of Tasmania

June 20, 2011

France may have its terroir, but Tasmania also has a distinctive food-producing culture of its own. Much more humble than the celebrated fare of Provence and the Loire, perhaps, but uniquely Tasmanian.

It wasn’t something I was particularly aware of, when I first moved here, but it’s something I’ve come to appreciate deeply: the fact that, scattered all over this island, are all manner of providores, many of them extremely “boutique”, often small, family run operations. There’s nothing like driving somewhere in Tasmania and stopping by a crudely painted sign next to someone’s gate and picking something off a rickety card table – as often as not with nothing but an honesty box left beside it.

Some are peculiar to Tasmania – scallop pies, Leatherwood honey – but while many others may be found in, indeed have come from, other parts of the world, something about this “lonely, cold little island”, as Erroll Flynn (fondly) described it, imparts a fresh and unique quality to foods you might not even think to associate with Tasmania, such as wasabi, saffron or truffles.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share with you some of my personal favourites, and include a recipe that features it in some way.

I must admit, though, that my knowledge of Tasmania’s producers is far from encyclopaedic. In particular, everything south of Oatlands* is still pretty much a mystery to me. I’ve only lived here 6 years, so I’m still discovering things. For such a small place, Tasmania has a lot to discover.

Mole Creek, Tasmania

*This is a Tasmanian expression, referring to the “north-south” geographical/political/cultural divide of the island. The U.S.A. may have the Mason-Dixon line, the Australian Mainland may have the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry, but the rivalry between North and South, Launceston and Hobart, could give them all a run for its money. The town of Oatlands, although it’s geographically slightly closer to Hobart, is generally reckoned as the midway point of the North-South divide.

(Then there’s the West Coast – that’s almost another country unto itself …)

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2011 2:44 pm

    What great photos. We didn’t get down to Tasmania when we visited Melbourne, and I always thought it’d be so fun to see.

    • June 20, 2011 3:24 pm

      Yes, we’re quite isolated here. It’s amazing what a difference that stretch of water can make. For instance, my sister lives in Canberra, which is about the same distance from our home town (Geelong, near Melbourne), as northern Tasmania is. But I think it took her a while to understand why we didn’t travel back home as often as she did: it’s a lot easier when you can get there in a car, compared to having to fly or take a 9-hour ferry ride.

      The isolation has its good and bad. Mostly good, though.

  2. June 21, 2011 4:33 am

    Wow, what an adventure. I am looking forward to learning more about Tasmania from your posts to come. How did you come to live there? Living in Mauritius has had it’s fair share of challenges too and now that our time is up and we head home next week Tuesday, I wonder if I have learnt enough about the island and it’s people.
    🙂 Mandy

    • June 21, 2011 5:23 am

      My best friend moved here for work nearly 20 years ago, fell in love with the place and never went back. He was always badgering us to come over. Then, about 7 years ago, he sent me a job ad clipped from the Launceston paper. I was self-employed at the time, and coincidentally starting to consider going back to paid employment.

      Living on islands certainly has its challenges, doesn’t it? The isolation, as I said, has its good and bad points.

      One upside of Tasmania’s relative isolation and also of its geology, is that it has remained a largely rural place, with large tracts of wilderness.

  3. June 27, 2011 10:09 am

    Just jumped over here from Mandy’s blog and am glad I did! I’m always on the look out for another tasmanian blog to aid my dreams. We are heading there in 4 days and can’t wait for the holiday. Tasmanian food is superb, I got to sample some at the Taste Festival in January and as always blown away by the gorgeous quality.
    So, expect frequent blog lurking from me 🙂
    …and hope the little one is healing up ok.

    • June 27, 2011 2:21 pm

      I’ll have to give you some pointers on places to go – are you flying or boating in?

      If you’re here for a week or so, there’s the Chocolate Winterfest at Latrobe on July 11.

      • June 27, 2011 10:21 pm

        Flying in and based in Hobart, so just doing day trips from there. Unfortunately we’ll be gone by the 11th, but the chocolate winterfest sounds good.

      • June 28, 2011 1:03 am

        Well, you’ve found my weak spot: I don’t know a lot about the south of the state yet (see my reference to the north-south divide). I assume you’ll be heading north at some time, to visit Cradle Mountain and the like?

  4. July 1, 2011 10:23 am

    No probably not this time round. We’ve done Cradle Mountain before, and would dearly love to be headed back there, but will just be staying in the south west pocket this time. Head out tomorrow and the kids are just a little bit EXCITED.

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