In Anthea Cannon’s lovely spread in the Maryrbinong Leader on Consider The Sauce and Footscray Food Blog, I was quoted as saying: “The Good Food Guide used to be my bible but not one Footscray place is in there.”
Truth is, it’s been more than a decade since I bought a copy – we may as well live a on different planets.
Of course, there’s a very good reason The Age Good Food Guide ignores Footscray completely and more or less ignores the rest of the west, too – the food styles (and prices!) it covers simply don’t exist in meaningful numbers in our part of the world.
Some years ago, the Age coverage of cheap eats was sloughed off to … Cheap Eats, which I presume has a fair number of Footscray eateries and heaps more from the greater west.
I’m ignorant on that matter, too, as it’s likewise been years since I looked at a copy. It’s worthy and no doubt valuable to those who buy it. But when you’re on the ground and regularly out on the food hunt, as we are, I’d find it very surprising if it could enlighten us on a westie food place of which we’d never before heard. Even if that does sound smug!
But these issues got me thinking about mainstream media coverage of food culture, people and places in Melbourne’s greater western suburbs in general.
The heavyweight formal reviewers for both Melbourne’s daily newspapers, Stephen Downes and Larissa Dubecki, have little or no reason to set foot in the west. Sometimes they surprise, but mostly their interests lie elsewhere – geographically, philosophically and financially.
Nina Rousseau recently covered the marvellous Los Latinos in Epicure’s Unexplored Territory column.
But even though I loathe MasterChef, I reckon The Cravat did a better job of injecting diversity and variety into that space.
Rousseau mostly seem to gravitate towards just-so cafes and the like.
More recently, Lauren/Ms Baklover has got a few good western shots into the small Under $10 section that appears on the same page each week. And good for her, too!
That leaves the weekend papers.
The Herald Sun on Saturday carries, as part of its food spread, a section in which hot-shot places are chosen to represent various parts of the city – including the west.
The Age Extra regularly carries “list” features – “Where to get the best canoli”, for instance, or “Melbourne’s best places for lizard turnovers”. The west gets a run quite often there, too.
And between them and the Sunday papers, there are various nooks and crannies, celebrity profiles and so on that provide scope for our region to get some of the limelight.
I can’t help but feel, though, that often where Melbourne’s west does rate a mention, the coverage is only for form’s sake.
And that the authors/compilers perhaps haven’t even set foot in the western places they dutifully include.
This is surprising for several reasons.
One is the rampant growth of the city’s western regions.
Another, especially in the case of the Herald Sun, is the area’s solid blue-collar credentials. You’d think the “people’s paper” would endeavour to get out and about a bit more in the west, no?
Interestingly, but perhaps not all that relevantly, the Herald Sun’s journos remain based at Southgate, but the paper is printed in the shadows of the Westgate Bridge. The Age scribes are based at Docklands and the paper is printed at Tullamarine.
In any case, I have compiled the following list of eateries that between them seem to have constituted a large slab of coverage accorded western suburbs food coverage in recent years.
Many of them are very fine indeed; one and perhaps more, though, I believe to be over-rated.
Moreover, a handful are obvious choices for the likes of Downes and Dubecki, in that they deliver fine dining – or aspire to it – and prices to match.
But I also sense a close-to-deadline “Quick, quick – I need a western suburbs place! I know – Cafe Fidama!” about it.
But the bottom line is they have all received coverage, sometimes a LOT of coverage, while rest of the west goes unnoticed, unseen and mostly unloved.
And not just in the papers, either, but also online.
Have I missed anyplace obvious?