Ashlee and Sophia (Best friends)
Growing up with few luxuries, good food was at the heart of happy family life for these two from Cabramatta in Sydney’s west.
“We didn’t have much, not a lot of money, but my parents always made sure we had good, wholesome food,” says Sophia. “We really couldn’t have much else but there was always a fresh cooked meal every day. It was the one way they could nourish and show us love.”
Food, says Sophia, also has the ability to transport you back in time. “You can remember what the weather was, what you wore when you ate something. I remember these polka dot MC Hammer pants I was wearing, it was raining and my mum made this particular dish,” she says.
Sophia’s family is from Cambodia and Ashlee’s from Vietnam. They grew up in Sydney’s hub of South East Asian life, Cabramatta. The girls have been best friends since they sat next to each other on their first day of kindergarten.
Sophia, 29, is now doing a communications degree at Griffith University, while Ashlee, 28, is involved in blogging and photography.
Ashlee has been married for five years to American born Matthew, while Sophia is “single and ready to mingle”. But she admits she and her “crazy hilarious” friend have a bond that’s hard to come between.
“With any great partnership it’s the yin and the yang. Like I always say to Ashlee, I swear we’re like the Olsen twins. We just know what the other is gonna do or think. We definitely have this connection that is cosmic.
“Ash and I are true to ourselves,” she adds. “We get an idea in our mind and we follow it through and if it pans out great; if it doesn’t, well, that’s life. We’re fearless.”
Adds Ashlee: “My friends would say I’m very straightforward and honest. I don’t sugarcoat things. I don’t see the point in making people feel better and not having them get the message.”
The girls love to throw dinner parties together and say their style of cooking is distinctly Australian. “We’re Australian girls at the end of the day and when you think about Australian cuisine, it encompasses everything from Asian to French,” says Sophia.
Plus Ashlee loves to cook American for her husband. “I love to make corn bread. A bit of Spanish and Mediterranean. I like to cook everything. I try to mix it up.”
And they say the beauty of living in Cabramatta is the availability of great produce. “Cabramatta has cleaned up so well, it’s a tourist destination,” says Ashlee. “There are food tours. But the myth has stuck to the name and it annoys me. The drug problems were in the ‘90s. The people of Cabramatta have come so far. We’d like people to see us and understand that.”