This is Oz

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
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19
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Trip End Jan 08, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Sunday, October 9, 2011

After one week in Oz, what have I learned?

The people:

Australians can be divided into 3 major groups.

1) The Ockers – these are people who are typical Australians but are 'modest' about it, not unlike Mick Dundee in Crocodile Dundee. They are fine, upstanding people.

2) The Bogans – the Australian version of hill billies. They drive Utes (a kind of flat bed estate car), wear flannel shirts, tight jeans and live on a diet of meat pies, steaks and chips. The Australian version of The Dukes of Hazzard, if you will.

3) The Yobbos – Yobbos want to be Ockers but there is nothing modest about them. They’re not hooligans exactly, but they are loud and obnoxious particularly when they drink aka Chavs.

Food:

Just as it’s difficult to describe British cuisine (pretty much roast dinners), it’s equally difficult to describe Australian cuisine. Meat pies with ‘dead horse’ is top of the list. Don’t worry, ‘dead horse’ is rhyming slang for sauce – or, in this case, ketchup. Also up there is chicken parma (short for parmagiano), which when I described it to the Italian turned his nose up, saying that the Australians should be locked up for crimes against food. In case you missed it earlier, chicken parma is chicken schnitzel with a layer of ham, Bolognese sauce and melted cheese on the top, served with a plate of chips and side salad. Yummy!

Just like Mick Dundee in Crocodile Dundee when he says to a mugger "That’s not a knife, this is a knife." I get a similar impression with the food. Until arriving here, I thought we had pretty big prawns in Spain, but clearly we don’t. In comparison, Spanish prawns are shrimps!

On my first trip to the supermarket, I had to check out one thing. I headed straight for the cheese section. I’d heard a lot about it, but I didn’t really believe it. It couldn’t really exist could it? Yet there it was; four shelves of the cheese section were dedicated to Coon Cheese. I was not disappointed, especially when I brought it up with Aussies who maintained that there's nothing racist about it. “It’s just a name!”

You can also find churros here, except they’re known as Spanish doughnuts. While they may not be typically Australian, I did try a smidgeon of that most Australian of meats – Skippy, erm kangaroo steaks. Excellent!

OF course, I also had to try one of the most iconic foodstuffs – Vegemite. Fortunately, I had a guide who was able to show me how to eat it without hurting myself. It’s a paste that you spread on toast or crackers. The key is not to think of it as something like chocolate spread and put loads on your toast, rather it should be handled with care and used sparingly. Then you can fully enjoy the Vegemite experience – I know I did.

Containers:

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, pre-mixed alcoholic drinks are sold in cans/bottles, but it seems that just about everything comes in a can – want some chicken? Go to the supermarket and pick up some chicken in a can. Need some oil to cook it with? Don’t forget to buy an aerosol can of oil, so that you can spray it on the chicken as you fry it.

Geography:

Americans are famous for being limited in their town names, most places in the USA are named after European locations eg Paris, Texas or even New York. While this isn’t immediately apparent in Australia, once you get into the suburbs of Melbourne – at least to the East, it’s like being in South London – I’ve been through Mitcham, Camberwell, Croydon, Richmond, Kew and even Forest Hill. While Burnley may be close to Blackburn in the north of England, only in Melbourne is Blackburn next to Camberwell! A little confusing.

Travelling out of Melbourne, something else struck me – the roads are incredibly straight. They go up and down over hills, but they have no curves. I was a passenger in the car and I was falling asleep.

Conclusion? Melbourne is a modern city with certain eccentricities. The architecture combines the futuristic ( la Matrix) with the old-fashioned (well, as old-fashioned as a 200 year old country can be). It’s also the place where you can walk into a modern supermarket and buy video tapes. There’s a cosmopolitan mix of cultures in food, but the ubiquitous meal is the pot (half pint of beer) and (chicken) parma. Actually, Melbourne is a fair reflection of its climate – you never know what the weather is going to be like – a sunny start can lead to a downpour later in the day and vice versa. That’s Melbourne, you never know what’s just around the corner.
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Comments

JT on

The Coon cheese is named after the guy who developed the "cooning process" when making cheese. Edward William Coon...suppose he was racist too

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