CO.AS.IT. Italian Australian culture series on line. Talk #4.

From Suspect Outsider to Model Migrant: The Transformation of Natale Italiano and Perfect Cheese. A talk with Dr Tania Cammarano

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In 1930, when Natale Italiano and his wife Maria founded the Perfect Cheese Company in their rented North Melbourne backyard, cheese in Australia was synonymous with cheddar. This meant that only the city’s small Italian population was interested in buying the ricotta and pecorino the couple produced. Fast forward to the 1970s and Italiano was being featured by the Australian Government as a poster boy for migrant success. His once ignored cheeses were celebrated as innovative and worthy of imitation. This talk will explore how Italiano and his company went from a small, obscure, even illegal, business, hawking suspiciously exotic cheese to a foreign, marginalised people to a thriving company celebrated by mainstream Australia and regarded by officialdom as a local producer to be protected from foreign competition. By using a range of primary sources, specifically letters, dairy licence hearings, and other material produced by the Victorian Department of Agriculture, this presentation will challenge the narrative of how Australia’s food culture changed by focusing not on how the receiving culture “discovered” Italian food but on the entrepreneurial energy and transcultural skills of migrants like the Italianos who were instrumental in that change.

Dr Tania Cammarano is a lecturer in the food studies program at William Angliss Institute in Melbourne. Her research is focused on the history of Italian food in Australia and she has presented various aspects of this research at conferences in both Italy and Australia. Prior to embarking on an academic career, she wrote about food for News Limited and Australian Associated Press, and was the founding editor of food and recipe website, Tania has also taught food writing as part of the Graduate Program in Food Studies at the University of Adelaide.

Image courtesy Tania Cammarano.