Ok, folks, I know I haven’t been posting much on this blog during the last few months (jeez, when did I last post here? I don’t even know). But that isn’t because life in Oz is so gosh darn boring that I have nothing to write about. Nope. It’s just becoming normal for me. I’m settling in, making myself at home, and probably taking for granted this amazing adventure I’m having, being here with the love of my life. In other words, life is good, and I don’t really stop to write about it so much anymore. That’s all.
I do stop to think about food, though. A lot. You could even say that I am obsessed with food. I have been cooking and baking more in the last several months than I ever had before in my life. I’m all about trying new recipes every week. My Pinterest food board has morphed into several food categories, including desserts, brunch, cookies, ice cream, slow cooking, and cake. Almost every day, I hunt for new foods and recipes to try. Let me tell you, Glen and I are well-fed these days.
Since food is my new obsession, and I figure most of you like food, too (you eat, right? you may as well love doing it), I thought I should tell y’all about some foods that are a little different here in Australia from the familiar ones back home in the U.S.A.
This list of 10 foods are just a few examples, which I happened to jot down. There are loads more differences in foods, from their names, to the ways they look and taste, to their methods of preparation. I’m still learning such things, and I’m guessing I have a lot more to learn about Aussie foods.
I bet you thought those pretty red and white stripes on your American bacon were put there by Mother Nature, didn’t you? Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that those tasty-looking stripes are actually fake. Bacon seems to be dyed a deeper shade of red in the U.S., probably to make the meat look like what someone decided bacon should look like, back when coloured advertisements first began to be printed. That’s just my guess, anyway. (Note: I have not found any real evidence about bacon being dyed, only lots and lots of websites devoted to the love of bacon. I haven’t found any explaining how bacon is made in the U.S. This hypothesis on bacon colouring is purely from my own, and Glen’s, observations. In other words, we could be totally wrong about it being dyed. The most informative resource I have found is the Wikipedia page on bacon, found here.) Apparently, the favoured bacon cut in America is streaky, whereas Australians prefer middle rashers and short cuts of bacon.
Here in Australia, bacon is a light pink colour, in other words, the natural colour of the little piggy it came from. You see, Aussies don’t really like food colouring, or flavours which seem fake or overly saturated. They tend to go for foods which are au natural, not dyed or full of flavour additives, preservatives, and the like.
2. Cheddar Cheese
Along that theme, we have the subject of cheddar cheese. You know, that bright orange stuff we like to put on everything from sandwiches to baked potatoes to broccoli? Do you think that cheddar is meant to be that flaming colour? Nope. That orange hue is added to cheddar in the U.S., probably to distinguish the cheese from other types which would normally be the same pale yellow shade which it originally was made.
In the land of Oz, cheddar cheese is also called Tasty cheese (or Extra Tasty, for sharp cheddar). It is pale yellow in colour. However, we do have a few American snacks, like Doritos, in that familiar rusty shade, for those moments when I’m missing home.
America is home to the real deal, in my opinion, when it comes to lemonade. I mean, the drink is called lemonade for a reason, right? It should have lemon juice in it. And sugar, of course. Make it as tart or as sweet as you like, but, basically you should make it with water, lemon juice, and sugar or simple syrup. That is true lemonade.
It’s not the same down under. Here, lemonade is a fizzy drink with a slightly acidic citrus-y after-taste. Basically, it’s a lemon-lime flavoured soda, like Sprite. There is no lemon juice in it. None. Seriously.
4. Jello vs. Jelly
Americans all know what Jello is. That squiggly stuff, in bright colours, often featuring canned fruit and Kool Whip (I miss Kool Whip!). Many an American family gathering, from the 1950s through the 1980s, displayed a bounty of Jello desserts.
Here in Oz, that jiggly treat is known as jelly, not jello. Some people make it themselves, I’ve heard. I guess they must buy the gelatine and–well, honestly, I have no idea what you do with it. But it turns out like Jello.
5. Sandwich vs. Burger
This terminology has been the subject of much debate in our household. You see, I think of a burger as being, normally, made of beef. That’s not to say that I have never enjoyed burgers made of other things, like turkey, chicken, salmon, and black beans (oh, how I miss black beans!). But, those burgers were made with ground meats, other than the veggie kind, obviously. Sandwiches, on the other hand, by my reckoning, can be hot or cold, and they include breaded and fried chicken breast as a possibility.
Aussies call that fried chicken sandwich a chicken burger. Not a chicken sandwich. It took me ages to remember the difference. Here, a sandwich is on bread, not on a burger bun or roll. That seems to be the distinction, as far as I can tell.
Last week, I made lasagna for the first time in my life. I know what you’re thinking. Lasagna is so delicious and so easy to make, why didn’t you ever make it before, Kim? One simple reason: cheese. You need lots of it, and it can get expensive. But I’m a frugalista now, so I budget for such things. I made the lasagna for my boyfriend Glen and his daughters, at Glen’s request, to celebrate Father’s Day. We also had strawberry sundaes for dessert–the American way.
The difference between American style lasagna and the Aussie style is in the white part of the filling. American lasagna (and, by this, I mean the traditional bolognaise sauce kind, not white or veggie, etc.) has a filling layer usually made with ricotta cheese. Sometimes, it has Parmesan, feta, cottage cheese, or other additional cheeses. Basically, it is a thick fluffy layer of ricotta-based filling.
In Australia, that white layer is a sauce instead of cheese. It’s a gooey white sauce, called a bechamel sauce. In fact, the entire lasagna (which is called lasagne here, by the way) is very gooey, in my opinion. Needless to say, when I made lasagna, I made it in the American style. In fact, I used a fabulous Martha Stewart recipe, which you can find here.
7. Margherita Pizza
This is one of my favourite foods. At least, it was a favourite when I was back home, where it was made with tomatoes and basil. Here in Oz, a margherita pizza is just a plain cheese pizza. Good to know.
This is a food which is not so much different in the way it looks or tastes, but in the way it is viewed and prepared. By viewed, I mean what people consider the ideal use of the food, or what people crave when they think of that food.
Americans primarily think of pumpkin as something which makes a great pie at Thanksgiving. We also enjoy having our fair share of other pumpkin treats, like pumpkin roll, pumpkin spice donuts, and pumpkin cookies. We like our pumpkin sweet, with a bit of spice.
In Australia, pumpkin is not seen as a treat. It is seen as a vegetable. Here, pumpkin is prepared mainly as a savoury food, from pumpkin soup to roast pumpkin as a side dish. You will not find pumpkin pie here. I haven’t been able to find pumpkin puree here, either. So, I think I will have to roast some pumpkin, when I want to make pumpkin pie, etc. That is what I intend to do in a couple of months, when I will be celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time here.
9. Peanut Butter
Similarly, peanut butter is not seen as a treat by Australians. It is thought of as a sandwich spread, and that’s about it. Hey, it sure beats Vegemite any day.
In the U.S., peanut butter is a beloved ingredient of many a sweet treat. From the classic cookies, with the little fork pattern, to Reese’s cups, to my grandma’s peanut butter pie (a treasured family recipe, which will forever be debated among those of us who have our own handwritten copy of her recipe, none of which matches), peanut butter is made into a plethora of goodies. My grandma even blended peanut butter with margarine and maple syrup to make a sweet creamy sandwich spread, for me and my brother, when she babysat us. I love peanut butter. Glen might not crave it as a treat, like I do, but he sure did appreciate the cookies I baked a couple of months ago, and I’m hoping he will enjoy many more such confections in the future.
Last but not least, we come to marshmallows. This is one goodie which is actually sweeter and more fake-tasting here in Australia than in the States, in my opinion. American marshmallows have a light powdery sweetness, whereas Australian marshmallows have more of a pronounced sweetness. I can’t quite describe the taste of them. I think they have some kind of flavouring additive which is unfamiliar to me. I have also noticed the same flavour in some brands of vanilla ice cream I’ve had here.
Another difference is that, here in Oz, marshmallows are made in a couple of flavours which you don’t find in the U.S. Musk-flavoured marshmallows are very popular. The typical bag of marshmallows has the plain white kind mixed with musk, which are pale pink. I only tried a musk marshmallow once, and I don’t remember the taste of it very well. I just found it odd. Another interesting marshmallow flavour is honeycomb, which, of course, tastes like honey. In fact, you can always find honeycomb treats, from chocolate-covered honeycomb candies (aka lollies), to honeycomb ice cream (which is really yummy!). I’ve also been seeing caramel-flavoured marshmallows lately, which I’d like to try.
There you go… Some foods to make you go “Hmmm….” when you think of Australia.
On that note, I’m going to finish making a pizza, because my belly is rumbling, after writing about all that food!
P.S. Here is a picture of a classic American treat, a banana split, just because the photo is making me smile.