Culinary travel is associated with overseas destinations but Australians are discovering delectable experiences in their own backyard.

Culinary travel has long been associated with exotic overseas destinations but with the world the way it is, Australians are discovering delectable and enlightening experiences in their own backyard.

Embarking on a food tour is not just about filling your belly and tantalising your tastebuds, it is a way of gaining greater understanding of an area and its history through immersion and discovery.

Food and tourism marketing specialist Holly Galbraith said the industry was being forced to diversify with more experiences on offer following a resurgence in domestic travel.

“Through this pandemic, people definitely have that growing interest in where their food is coming from,” Galbraith says. “We’ve become really hyper-local, so not only are we wanting to support producers, operators or farmers from Australia, we want to support them from certain areas that have become meaningful to us. We’re seeing a real growing interest in Aussies wanting to go and visit farmers and meet the actual farmers.”

Galbraith says another growing trend in food tourism is a desire from domestic travellers to embark on authentic indigenous experiences.

“When people are looking for food tours, one reason is they want a sense of place, they want to hear stories about a place and food can help do that. You can get to know a place through a lot of ways, understanding the indigenous history of the place is one of them and Australians have finally realised they don’t need to go to the Northern Territory to have an authentic indigenous food experience. It’s not that people are going very far to have these experiences, tapping into their local community or local indigenous people.”

Online guide to experiencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia, connects travellers seeking indigenous experiences in every state of Australia.

From pot to plate encounters where you catch your own mud crab with a local indigenous guide while learning their culture’s stories from the river, to bush tucker walks where you discover the area’s edible roots, seeds, plants and nuts, there are experiences to suit all appetites.

Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler is the operator of Bundyi Cultural Tours and runs immersive indigenous experiences in the Riverina in southern NSW.

During his tours, you can look, smell, touch and open your understanding to his ancient country and culture.

“Primarily, when you’re talking about bush tucker, it’s been practised in the area for more than 65,000 years but not just as tucker, also as medicine,” Saddler says. “There has been no one found anywhere in the universe older than our culture. All my stories are orally passed down to me so I get to take people on a very immersive experience where they constantly stop, smell, touch, taste and explore to teach and educate.”

He says as food is a powerful conduit for cultural understanding, these tours help to change how many people have viewed history.

“A lot of Australians still believe that my people were nomadic and hunters and gatherers. It’s getting the mindset around domestic tourism that we were here for a very long time and we have skills not just in bush tucker but in responsible farming and cool fire burning to encourage new growth. We never primarily ate a lot of meat, meat was mostly for ceremony. Maybe 15 per cent of our diet was meat and the rest was fish, plants, some grubs and yams. We don’t need to eat all the kangaroos because we have crops here with weir systems so we don’t need to worry about drought.”

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