Sunday, 3 December 2017

Australian Culture (Mostly the Food)

Sometimes I discover something about another country, or the way someone else lives, and it shocks me because I never even thought about the fact that someone could live differently in that regard.

For example, not everyone eats Vegemite. And while I may have been able to accept that, apparently there are countries in which shops don't even sell Vegemite?? My uncle lives in an Asian country, and my grandmother has to ship him big jars of it. The downside of international travel/living.

Recently, someone told me that in Europe, people don't eat pumpkin. I don't know how true this is, but I can't even imagine. No roast pumpkin? No pumpkin scones? Pumpkin fruit cake? Pumpkin is such a common vegetable in my life, the idea that some people don't even consider eating it made me think more about differences in culture.

And I think I'm rambling here, because I was thinking of another post and then decided to go with food and I'm writing posts at 11pm again and why do I do this to myself.

BASICALLY. AUSTRALIAN FOOD TODAY. Because I know a lot of the blogosphere is based in the U.S.A. And I thought I might introduce you to a new culture.

...I know. It isn't as though I don't speak English. (And only English, sadly.) How different could the culture be??

...and that is what I'm arguing against today. Just because Australia is an English-speaking country doesn't mean it can't have a culture different to other English-speaking countries.

And so. many. people. don't know what they're missing. Because we have some good stuff here, mate. Today: the food.

I'm going to start with the obvious. If you didn't read my Of Cookies and Books tag (WHAT why not??) then you won't have seen my confession: I've never eaten a cookie in my life

(For those of you who have read my Cookies/Books post, that probably seemed... a little melodramatic and repetitive??)

Anyway. I've never eaten a cookie, because we call them biscuits.

In the comments of that post, Kate Marie and I tried to figure out the various differences between the Americans' and the Aussies' terms for various foods. It was hard! And I still don't know! So here's a little run-down of some of the Aussie foods involved in the discussion; please tell me if you have them in America and what you call them!

Biscuits: Your "cookies" (I know this one! I'm so proud of myself. I'm basically multicultural now.)
Scones: Round biscuity things except taller and made of dough; can be made with pumpkin or dried fruit; sweet, typically eaten with jam (and cream, if you're feeling Pommy ;P).
Damper: (we did not discuss this one) Like a giant scone, except wrapped in alfoil and buried in coals to cook, instead of an oven.
Dumplings: These ones aren't sweet; we put them in stew and stuff. Sometimes.

(I'm still confused as to what your "biscuits" are. I thought they might have been our scones, or dumplings, but maybe not??)

Now we have all those excellent and dictionary-worthy definitions of the various doughy things out of the way, I'm going to go into detail about a few important biscuits.

Anzac biscuits. Made with syrup, coconut and rolled oats. Named after the Anzacs - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - in WWI and II. Very culturally significant. Turning down an Anzac biscuit is equivalent to refusing to have a barbecue and the locals will turn you over to the drop bears.

(That last sentence is also in spirit of the Australian Culture. We may pull your leg occasionally. When we do so, we will likely drop into the most stereotypical, overdone accent you've ever heard and call you mate at least once in every sentence. Unfortunately I can't give you the accent over the internet.)

TimTams. Ohhh, TimTams. Two rectangles of light biscuit with chocolate cream inside and the whole lot covered with soft chocolate. The outer chocolate layer inevitably melts onto your fingers, but that means you can enjoy it longer! The only problem with bringing these to a party is that they're always the first thing to disappear.

Hundreds and Thousands. I haven't had one of these for so long, wow. So it's a biscuit, like - do you have Arnott's biscuits?? - just a plain rectangle biscuit. But with sugar icing on the top and sprinkles (hundreds and thousands) on embedded in the hardened icing. My memory of them is of general childhood nostalgia. Now I'm afraid to eat one. What if it's just my memory and they're not good?? help I'm having a crisis
Next, I must talk about lamingtons. Whenever I mention lamingtons in the blogosphere, I get polite responses asking what they are. The answer is: squares of sponge cake, rolled in chocolate icing and then desiccated coconut. They are fluffy and delicious and if you have a party and there are no lamingtons, it is not a real party. (I'm barely exaggerating here.)

(Since seeing people's responses, I've tried to make a habit of mentioning lamingtons on alll the blogs. People need to know. They're missing out.)

Some lamingtons even have jam in the middle.

And sometimes they're in a roll, which is gorgeous. (Even though it theoretically should be exactly the same...)

Moving away from the sweet food, let's head to barbecues. Americans have barbecues, right? Well, they're a stereotypical part of the Aussie culture... for a good reason. Family gathering? Barbecue. Christmas party? Barbecue. End-of-year break-up? Barbecue. Birthday party? Barbecue.

I'd like to insert here that you will never find shrimp at an Aussie barbecue. They are prawns, mate. (And if you're silly, someone might call you a king prawn. Or maybe it's just my grandmother who call people silly prawns.)

And you'll never find me eating prawns at a barbecue. Ew no. Sausage on bread with tomato sauce for me, thanks. I'm still a kid. I'm not ready for adult food. Like... steak. Or vegetables with my sausage on bread. Why would you do that.

A group gathering - e.g. an end-of-year party for a community group - is 95.3% of the time going to be a barbecue. There's a couple of fold-up tables in a line, with the barbecue behind, tended by the blokes. On the tables, you'll have: Serviettes. White bread. Trays of sausages. Tray of barbecued onion. Plate of sliced tomato. Plate of shredded lettuce. Plate of grated cheese. Tinned beetroot. Pineapple (either tinned or fresh). Bottle of tomato sauce. Bottle of barbecue sauce. (The sauce is very important.) Together, these constitute a balanced meal.
And since we just did barbecues, I'd better cover chips.

US:            chips     fries
England:   crisps     chips
Australia:  chips     chips

Basically, here's something I stole off Pinterest:

Now I think about it, there's no reason for that to be hard?? We just call everything chips. (Except Cheezles, which I call Cheezles. They're food you can wear on your fingers. All kids' parties need Cheezles.)
And I'll just quickly go over some fruit and stuff so you know I don't just eat junk food [which I honestly don't eat very often].

Mangoes and pineapples - we grow them locally. (Actually, we're coming into mango season, just in time for Christmas, which is great! The smell of mangoes makes me think of the beach at Christmas. :) Do you have kiwi-fruit? And you eat bananas, right? (it's just that there aren't any books that mention bananas coming to mind.)

Pumpkins - as I said above, someone recently cast doubt into my mind as to whether everyone ate pumpkin. If you have any information, please confirm or deny. (Also some cows apparently eat pumpkin? our cows don't eat pumpkin. But maybe that was because we were trying to feed them the rotten ones.)

Macadamia nuts - I'm pretty sure these grow in Hawaii. And you might call them Hawaii nuts? But their original name is Queensland nuts. Because they're ours. There's your piece of trivia for today: Hawaii nuts came from Australia.

So. Lots of food in this post!

Dear Aussies: please jump into the comments and explain to our international friends what I was talking about this whole post?? because if I were American, I'm pretty sure I would be confused. And what iconic foods did I miss?

Dear Americans, potential British readers?, and every lovely person from every other part of the world (please tell me if you're non-American, I'd love to know): I hope you enjoyed! Do you have these foods? What do you call them? Are you now going to visit Australia so you can try TimTams and lamingtons? (I might even cook you a damper. And johnny-cakes, if you ask nicely. How can you say no to this deal.)

...And to pretend that this is a writing post, I'm going to suggest you use this as potential worldbuilding inspiration. It can be hard to write something different from what's normal for your life, because you just don't think of the possibility of it being different. So. Worldbuilding. xP