Essential Information for the Gay Traveler
Volume 3, Number 1
Pages 4 & 8
Eating Down Under
with Dan Perlman
The big question is, of course, are you going to have to eat a kangaroo? The answer is – maybe. Sizing a ‘roo up for dinner while at the petting zoo is considered bad form. But if thin slices of smoked emu and kangaroo show up on your plate, give them a try, they’re delicious! Modern Australian cooking is as varied as the populous: containing elements of native foods and the cuisine of early British settlers, French, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and yes, even American – especially Californian.
Fish, low fat, and low alcohol are all the rage. Yet, Australians consume massive amounts of ice cream and a whopping 100 pounds of sugar per year, each. The “national” dessert of Australia, Pavlova, is a sugary meringue basket filled with fruit and whipped cream.
So what is modern Australian cooking? First, you should remember that Australia is as big as the continental United States. Regional tastes are as different as a Maryland Crab Bash is from Cajun Jambalaya or an avocado salad in downtown L.A. While mainstay of daily life may still be very basic British foods like sausages, eggs, and overcooked vegetables, some great cutting-edge restaurants await in Australia. You might find a perfectly grilled barramundi steak with tomato salsa, Victorian salmon with charred peppers, crispy prosciutto and caramelized figs, broiled yabbies with spinach gnocchi in garlic butter, lamb with field mushrooms and garlic potatoes, a date and pastry cream tart or a chocolate and riberry torte.
Australian wines have also come up in the world. The style is unlike those from anywhere else in the world, and a lot of what we get over here is barely representative. Most wineries are open to the public for touring and tasting, but even if you don’t make it out to one of the wine regions, the average Australian restaurant has a great selection. For the beer drinkers among you, not all Australian beer comes in a blue and gold can. Check out some of the local brews.
One last note, “grilled” means what we call broiled, while what we call grilled, they call barecued, as in, “slip another shrimp on the…”, only Australians are more likely to slip a sausage on and have a “sausage sizzle”.
So Hungry I Could Eat a Kangaroo
The climate and isolation of this former penal colony have given rise to a spectacular array of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, meats, and seafood – many species found nowhere else on earth. The influx of cultures from around the world has led to a bewildering array of dishes and ingredients. Here’s just a sample of what you’ll find.
Barramundi – a tasty whitefish.
Bug – a bay-water relative of lobsters and crayfish, anmed for the bay they come from, e.g., Moreton Bay Bugs, Balmain Bugs.
Capsicums – what we call bell peppers, green or red.
Damper – a traditional campfire flat bread, now prevalent in commercial imitations.
Lamingtons – chocolate and coconut covered spongecake.
Meat Pies – imagine that Hostess filled its snack pies with overcooked, greasy meat; perfect for the football (in this case rugby or soccer) stadium.
Pavlova – the national dessert, a fruit and whipped cream-filled meringue shell.
Riberries – small, conical berries tasting something like cloves.
Vegemite – the famed Vegemite, trust us, you don’t want to know what it is. Try it on toast one morning, it’s definitely an acquired taste.
Warrigal – a native green, somewhat like spinach.
Yabbies – a common and absolutely delicious crayfish.
Out & About was a bimonthly newsletter focusing on travel for the gay and lesbian community and travel agents. I’m fairly sure I wrote a few articles for them over time, but this is the only one I’ve been able to find a copy of.