Let’s talk about two of my favourite things — food and Australia.
While abroad, I hit a few food hurdles.
Bananas: I love me some bananas. I even fashioned a chiquita banana lady costume for Halloween last year.
Grilled banana and peanut butter sandwiches, banana oatmeal, bananas on cold cereal, banana soft serve (food processed frozen bananas) and duh… chocolate covered bananas. In the states they’re nut-rageously cheap as far as fresh produce goes. Plus the pesticides stay in the peel, so they’re one fruit you can pass on buying organic. I ate them by the bushel before Australia, but when I went to my first Aussie grocery store (Woolworth’s, I kind of miss you), banana prices were absurd. One of our friends bought 5 of them and didn’t realize the steep price until they rang up to $13.00. Oops. So needless to say I went virtually banana-less for 5 months, unless I treated myself to a few when I bussed into the city for Paddy’s market (one way that I saved every once in a while on fruit and veggies). I also traveled in New Zealand with a bushel of bananas in my backpack because they were much cheaper there.
Pumpkin: It’s been made pretty clear that I drool over all things pumpkin. Last year’s pumpkin shortage forced grocery stores to mandate can limits. This was upsetting. I may or may not have purchased cans of pumpkin from multiple stores in one day just to stock up. Luckily the shortage is over. But in Australia, my go-to canned pumpkin was nowhere to be found. Solution: eat whole pumpkins. It was bizarre at first to have a whole pumpkin nestled in with the remainder of my groceries, but I quickly learned how to cook them up. While canned pumpkin was nonexistent, Australians made up for it by including roasted pumpkin in a lot of dishes. Nearly every cafe had some sort of salad featuring tons of one-inch cubes of it mixed up with pesto and feta, or roasted vegetable paninis with massive slices of pumpkin, eggplant and other veggies. I even bought pumpkin ravioli from a rediculously overpriced organic market up the street from our house… the kind of place where meals end up pricier than eating out at a nice restaurant. I’ll admit though, my roommates found my pumpkin consumption disturbing (much like their sentiments toward the rest of my meals. Living with 16 people in one house led to a once or twice daily, “what is that you’re eating?”)
Fresh Produce: Like I said, fresh fruit and veggies were ungodly expensive. And they were priced by kilogram which made things even more confusing. A lot of times, as un-glamorous as it was, I picked up multiple bags of frozen fruits and veggies to pop in the freezer so I always had some on hand. With 8 people in our one kitchen, it was hard to snag some stove-top space, so my frozen loot often took a spin in the microwave. I steered clear of the bananas (never could I ever spend over 2 bucks a pop), and generally stuck to sale items only.
Coffee: Not exactly a food, but as a staple in my diet, I dealt with some serious coffee differences overseas. First of all, the word coffee only appeared at Gloria Jean’s. Australia doesn’t do coffee– they do espresso. Most cafes and coffee shops sold your standard espresso drinks – lattes, capps, mochablahblahs. The closest you could order to coffee was an americano — two shots of espresso and hot water. I didn’t mind the espresso base by any means, but the prices! Holy nuts. Let me show you a standard menu. Here’s Barzura — a cafe that was right down the street on the beach.
So the prices aren’t that terrifying until you see that a “regular” is the size of a standard American juice glass. After consuming absurd amounts of iced coffee out of massive cups from Dunkin’ for 2 bucks and change… it kind of felt like being jipped. And iced coffee in Australia meant a $5 cup of chilled coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sadly, instant coffee was the budget-friendly alternative. My roommate Megan and I classed it up by buying espresso style instant granules, and foamed our milk in clean empty jars to feel like little baristas. We learned skim foamed up the best.
Grocery Shopping: Everything. Was. Expensive. It took a few weeks to figure out how to buy enough to last a while, but not too much that you couldn’t carry it a few blocks to the house. The grocery store was much smaller than I’m used to, and I crashed into everyone because Australians walk on the left side of the aisle. (Sidenote: once I came home I crashed into everyone on the right side of the grocery store aisles… and everywhere else).
Ketchup = Tomato Sauce
Check = Bill
Entree = Appetizer & Appetizer = Entree… excuse me what??
Brekkie = Breakfast
Capsicum = Peppers
Banger = Sausage
Rockmellon = Cantaloupe
Biscuit = Cookie
Vegemite = Don’t eat it. I don’t care who you are.
Raisin (Bran) = Sultana (Bran) …
which coincidentally works swimmingly into my roommate’s name Anna Briccetti (Sultana Brancetti)
And shrimp on the barbie? Australians will laugh if you bring it up.
I miss the amazing scones from Baker’s Delight, and drooling over the freshly-baked-bread smell when I walked by the bakery on the way to and from school. I miss Stock Market — the salad bar at school that offered (more like forced you to get all) 7 toppings of your choice — I was a chicken, feta, pumpkin, corn, sprouts, peas and cucumber with greek yogurt dressing on romaine kinda girl. I miss the late night kebabs (which are more like filled pitas than veggies and meat on a stick). I even miss complaining about the $7 foot-longs at Subway. And the sweet chili sauce! I miss putting it on everything. I mostly miss the giant bars of Cadbury chocolate (the ones with white-chocolate caps) that we passed around in a circle until they vanished.
Can’t forget the Lamingtons. One of our professors passed them out on the last day of class. We also ate them on a speedboat after a day on our privately rented beach over spring break (am I bragging?).