Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today my office hosted a Harmony lunch.

Our Diversity Department (pause for anticipatory rolling of eyes) has been sending out conflicting messages about Harmony lunches. On the one hand, they are superannuated exercises in paternalistic tokenism. On the other, they are vital celebrations of multiculturalism. We can't seem to get a definitive ruling from them. But they did send us the materials for the Harmony lunch, so we went ahead with it. Maybe they just had a lot of Harmony sloganed tablecloths that they needed to clear out of the storeroom to make way for the latest fad in mandated diversity.

In any case, there was food involved, and the Diversity Department knows that food is for multiculturalism what half-naked starlets are for PETA. Everyone was asked to bring an offering of food that reflected his or her cultural heritage.

This was easy for some of the people in our office. The staffmember born in Poland brought potato pancakes. The staffmember born in England brought cheddar cheese, crusty bread and Branston Pickle. But what about me? I was born in Australia. My parents were born in Australia. All of my grandparents were born in Australia. You have to go back to the reign of Queen Victoria, when "radio" was a charming theory and people still believed in miasma and phrenology, to find members of my family who were born elsewhere. To claim that I have any connection with their various countries of origin more than a century after they themselves left them is absurd.

So I had to come up with an "Australian" dish. The dirty little secret of multiculturalism is that diverse societies are not condusive to national dishes, music, dress or other forms of social expression, and that any traditional cultural practices of the pre-multicultural era that do manage to survive are regarded as hopelessly shameful and vulgar. To the sort of people who organise Harmony lunches, an Aussie meat pie is basically a symbol of racism.

After wracking my brains, I eventually came up with the humble pumpkin scone. It's a dowdy, unfashionable little treat, but it's inextricably linked with the Country Women's Association, Queensland and Flo Bjelke-Petersen, and by extension, solid old Australian values. I whipped up a batch this morning before work, and served them with Australian butter and my mum's homemade mulberry jam.

Interestingly enough, at the end of the Harmony lunch there was still leftover sushi and samosas, but the only things left on my plate of pumpkin scones were crumbs. That little twinge in my heart is either indigestion or the pangs of patriotism.


Anonymous Emma said...

Oooh,they look lovely, any chance of the recipe? My daughter's school had a Harmony Day lunch also, the only plate of stuff I could think of for her to take was lamingtons, which are a pain to make and seemed such a silly cliche anyway; I am afraid to say I did nothing (luckily it was optional).

7:08 PM  

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