The Travelling Table returns to serve up a plate of history

Inspired by the matriarchs of his Italian family, Vic Pisani’s dream of a pop-up ‘nonna restaurant’ has evolved into an intimate celebration of Australian migration and diverse culinary traditions.

“It started as a bit of a personal passion project,” Travelling Table founder and co-director Pisani tells The Adelaide Review.  “It started as a pop up ‘nonna restaurant’ concept that I wanted to produce to reconnect with my own cultural heritage – I come from an Italian background. A lot of my grandmas and aunties, they were all part of that first wave of post-war migration from Europe, and unfortunately as they’ve passed away, that connection to our culture is disappearing with them for the first generation that was born here.”

“Food for me, and for all kids of first-generation migrant families, is the element that connects children, families and other people to our cultural heritage.”  A festival veteran and program manager of WOMADelaide’s Planet Talks series, Pisani realised his predicament was common to many first-generation children of migrant parents. Soon the project took on a greater scope to explore successive waves of 20th century migration to South Australia, and how each has enriched the state. “We thought, ‘why don’t we do it in a chronological exploration?’, and brought the Migration Museum on board to talk about how we could approach it.”

Some of the Filipino favourites on offer (Photo: Saige Prime)
Some of the Filipino favourites on offer (Photo: Saige Prime)

The result focuses on three major waves of migration in the 20th century, from the post-war influx of European migrants from 1940-1960 to the Asian migration of the 70s and 80s, and then Middle Eastern and African migrants from the 90s to today. Each iteration of The Travelling Table will celebrate three migrant communities from one of those periods, and with Europe forming the focus of its inaugural 2018 event, this year the focus shifts to Asia.

“This year we’re featuring three Asian cultures that have been part of that period from the 70s and 80s, with Filipino, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan communities. They’re all vastly different in terms of their migration stories, and their food as well, but what we’ve been doing is working with the matriarchs of each community to help us curate, cook and share their family recipes and culture.”

The ‘family recipe’ is a key word across the weekend’s festivities. “We are doing three dinners and three cooking workshops – it’s not a restaurant dinner. It’s all based on the idea of having our communities and matriarchs share their family through the recipes. They’re giving us access to recipes that their kids and grandkids have grown up with, that they’ve brought with them to Australia and are a real snapshot not only of their migration stories but their lives back home.

“The other great thing I obviously they’re family recipes that generally cater to their family which might be five to ten people. We’re partnering them with our head chef Alana Brabin (Lyndoch Hill) who will scale up what they do to a 130-seat restaurant.”

Vietnamese, Sri Lankan and Filipino migrant cultures will all be celebrated at this year’s Travelling Table (Photo: Saige Prime)

In addition to the food itself, each course will feature members of the community take to the stage to walk diners through the staples and delicacies being served up. “They’ll tell you what it is, how to eat it and personal stories about the food itself and where it came from.

“You’re getting more than a meal, you’re getting a plate of history.”

The Travelling Table
Unley Town Hall
June 6 – 9
thetravellingtable.net

Header image:
Jack Fenby

Adelaide In-depth

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