***Before I begin this blog, please take a second to note the fact that my two previous blog titles reference two works of Shakespeare (Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet). I have to say I was impressed when I discovered this, as it was completely unintentional, and I was just naming them the first natural thing that came to mind. By the way this makes me cultured, NOT a dork... Maybe a nerd.***
Now, back to the issue at hand- my mother, who has apparently been following Salley's Zambia blog diligently, asked me today if I had even thought about what kind of food they have in Australia. It had crossed my mind, I will admit, briefly, but I figured if I found it all completely inedible, they will have American chains everywhere. This, mind you, will be an absolute last resort. I feel like some of the excitement and adventure of this trip will be the "when in Rome" aspect, and I will try to become as native as possible (at least as native as one can be carrying around all their belongings on their back.) My mother suggested that maybe they had mainly English food. I shuddered and protested- English food! No way, those freakish, medieval inspired, gray-ish, meat-ish, gravy-ish based dishes with strange consistencies, colors, and odors. I mean, I've never been to England, and admittedly, never eaten real English food, but their reputation for their food is almost as bad as their dentistry. I decided to consult the modern encyclopedia of everything- Wikipedia. Imagine my horror at the first picture on the website:
A MEAT PIE!!!! And not even a remotely appetizing-looking one. But, my trusty Wikipedia assures me that although English and Irish dishes were most prominently eaten in the past, modern Australia cuisine has resulted from globalization. Mediterranean and Asian influences have taken hold, and "Modern Australian" has become an umbrella term for a variety of food available at most restaurants. So yes, meat pie and fish and chips will still be readily available, but it will not be overwhelmingly English dining. I can say I am excited that seafood appears to be widely available and common, which is understandable with the numerous ports and fishing industry.
And tell me this doesn't look absolutely delicious. It's called a Pavlova. It's a traditional and iconic meringue-based dessert named after a dancer. It has hard meringue crust in the bottom, a whipped, creamy custard like center, topped with fruit such as kiwi and berries. It's pretty well known is both Australia and New Zealand. I will make it my mission to search this out and consume it before I return to America.
One of the meals I am most intrigued about consuming is Kangaroo. Some people have said to me "Awww, how can you eat a Kangaroo? They are so cute." But I explain to them that down there, kangaroos are like deer. Very few people here have problems with people eating deer. Why? Because deer are a nuisance. They are way overpopulated, which can become a problem not only for food sources for their survival, but can also become a dangerous obstacle on highways, especially during mating season. Kangaroo in Australia is not like chicken or beef in it's wide spread use, but it is not uncommon to see kangaroo meat on grocery store aisles. A certain quota of Kangaroos are allowed to be commercially hunted each year to keep populations down, which have been known to grown out of control and encroach on land of farmers. Kangaroo is produced only from free ranging wild animals living on land owned by people and unlike other meats, is not produced by organized farming. The meat is also high in protein and low in fat, making it a healthy alternative to other meats.
And lastly, you can't have Australia without Veggimite!
Yes, this picture is less than appetizing, but I am willing to give it a whirl. I mean, millions of Australians can't be wrong, right? This oddly colored spread is made from yeast extract, or pretty much the leftovers from brewing beer, and some vegetables and spice additives. It is a huge source of pride for Australians. In fact, when Kraft recently tried to change the name, it resulted in wide-spread panicking, riots, and mass confusion. Ok, not riots, but people were very upset, and Kraft quickly reversed their decision. There was even a rumor for a while that Vegemite had been banned from America by George W. Bush and people were being encourage to write the White House in protest. I have to admit that before this Wiki article, my knowledge of Vegemite didn't extend much further that the fact that it existed, and that was only because of my hours of listening to the Men at Work song Down Under. Oh, my 80's mix.
So yes, I will not be going hungry in Australia. I am only more encouraged by this article to try all the things that Australia has to offer, in cuisine and beyond.
*Credit given to Wikipedia's "Australian Cuisine" article for the pictures and information.*