Time for a quick break from the travelogs for a look at Australian food. I’m not a foodie by any means, and the only restaurant Caiti and I went to was McDo’s, but I did get to try some of the local delicacies.
I’d had no idea banana bread was so popular. Every café sold it, and I can highly recommend the Art Museum’s offering. Almost as good as Caiti’s homemade version with nuts and chocolate. There was something of a global epidemic of banana bread about ten years ago and the stuff is now to be found in every country, the vast majority of which don’t have any homegrown bananas. Australia grows its own, and that’s thanks to Chinese immigrants who came over in 1850s, lured by the gold rush. By the 1880s they’d established banana plantations in Queensland and a decade later came plantations in New South Wales.
Bananas are the world’s favourite fruit, and the fourth food staple after rice, wheat and corn. Those three have storage longevity but banana’s don’t, hence the popularity of using them in cooking: if they’ve turned too mushy to eat as they are, then you can bake something with them.
Other popular cakes we came across are muffins, millionaire’s shortbread, French viennoiserie (although not with their proper names – a pain au chocolat is a chocolate croissant in Oz, tut tut) and, of course, lamingtons. A lamington is a sponge cake with a layer of jam in the middle, and it’s covered with chocolate icing which has a generous layer of shredded coconut sticking to it. I’d long wanted to try one, having come across it mentioned in Possum Magic, a children’s book by Mem Fox which my cousin Yvonne, who lived in Australia at the time, sent them. (I think it’s the lamington which starts turning Hush, the little possum, visible again.)
Cakes come with coffee, and Australians really love flat white coffee. And so do I now. The drink was developed in the country in the 1980s. It’s made by pouring microfoam (steamed milk with fine, small bubbles) over a double shot of espresso. It has a lovely velvety consistency. It’s slowly spreading across the world so perhaps it will make it to France soon. I hope so!
Caiti likes bubble tea. This is another 1980s invention, this time in Thailand. The drink consists of a green or black tea base combined with fruit or milk, and chewy tapioca balls. It’s usually served cold. It’s a bizarre drink, but quite nice when you get used to the idea of slurping lumps of jelly like stuff up your straw along with your tea!
I had a nibble of Caiti’s sushi roll, but wasn’t brave enough to try one myself. It didn’t have raw fish in it, but had the seaweed wrapping and rice which I’d probably get used to eventually. Dear me, I’m becoming middle-agedly unadventurous!
Loaded chips are delicious. These are chips with a topping of some sort. McDo’s offers three, and we got through two of them, both times to help us warm up after very cold but hugely enjoyable evening swims in the sea. We had the gravy topping first, which gives you something like Canadian poutine but without the cheese curds, and then we tried the cheesy topping. Both excellent.
I brought some treats home with me. I should have brought a lot more TimTams as the two packets I did bring vanished at top speed. TimTams are very like Penguin biscuits. In the basic model two chocolately biscuits are sandwiched together with chocolate icing and the whole thing is covered in chocolate. There are a variety of different flavours and Rors loved the mint ones I’d got for him. The biscuits have been manufactured by Arnott’s since the late 1950s and I’m sure will still be produced in the 2950s as they’re the perfect snack.
I should have written this food-related blog a lot sooner as most of the other edible souvenirs have all been eaten now. I’d wanted to take a photo of the 3D kangaroo-shaped chicken-flavour Jumpy’s, but too late. I just have the blue jelly and port wine jelly left, and I can safely say they won’t be in the cupboard too much longer either!
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