I was born in Georgia, but my grandparents came from Russia. I was seven when we arrived in Australia. I didn’t speak much English and felt like a real outsider. But when I finally found my voice, I fell in love with the language. When it came to finding a job I chose to be an English teacher. It’s a funny leap to make from not knowing a language to teaching it to others. When I went back to Georgia I realised how important it was to speak Russian as no one spoke English. It’s also helped me learn other languages. I guess all those years of Russian school on Sundays really paid off!
Georgia is a tapestry of cultures and food as it is on the border of Asia, the Middle East and Europe. People have so many layers. I am not just one thing. I’d describe myself as an Eastern European Jew. At our table we have Russian, Georgian and Jewish dishes. My great uncle wrote a cook book about Jewish food in the Soviet Union in the 1980s so it’s nice to follow the family tradition. I remember my first job in the kitchen. I was only five years old, but it’s still my only job when my father is cooking. It doesn’t matter what I say, he’ll just insist I ‘watch the eggplant, make sure it doesn’t burn.’
Everyone loves delicious food, and it’s a great way for people to connect. It’s very easy when you first meet a person to notice their differences but when you sit down and eat together, you’ll notice similarities in both food and culture. Even though you might feel awkward bringing something different in your lunch box, in the long run that’s what’s going to make you special. People will want you to cook it for them, rather than stare and say, ‘wow that’s a weird looking rissole!’
Listen to Alice’s story: