Greek cafés were a feature of Australian cities and country towns from the 1910s to the 1960s. Anglophile Australians, who knew the Greeks as dagos, were possessed of culinary imaginations that did not countenance the likes of olive oil, garlic, or lemon juice. As a result, Greek cafés catered to Australian tastes and became the social hubs of their communities. After establishing the diverse and evolving nature of food offered in Greek shops since their origins in the late nineteenth century – oyster saloons, cafés, fish shops, fruit shops, milk bars, snack bars, confectioneries – this article uses the concepts of “disgust” and “hunger” to offer new insights about food and identity in Australia’s Greek community and in the wider Australian culinary landscape. In particular, it applies Ghassan Hage’s work on nostalgia among Lebanese immigrants to the situation of Greek proprietors and reveals how memories of a lost homeland allowed café families to feel “at home” in Australia. In a land of “meat-n-three-veg,” a moussaka recipe the family had known for generations offered both a sense of identity and the comfort of familiarity, and Greek cafés, because they represented hope and opportunity, were familial spaces where feelings of nostalgia were affective building blocks with which Greeks engaged in homebuilding in a new land. And although their cafés did not serve Greek food, Greek proprietors and their families did eventually play a role in introducing the Australian palette to Mediterranean foods and foodways.
- © 2014 by The Regents of the University of California