Posts Tagged ‘Stuff Australians Like’

Yeah, yeah … it was only a matter of time before I brought up Vegemite. How can one not when one is prone to blogging about Australian stuff? It is quintessentially Australian. It’s a symbol of Australia around the world. Australian kids grow up eating it. There are even myths surrounding it (ie Put vegemite behind your ears to ward off Drop Bears, a viscious cousin of Koalas … oh, nevermind).

The truth is that Vegemite is really the most foul concoction ever packaged and sold as food. Australians laugh about Americans eating cheese from a can and fake bacon bits. Well, cheese from a can is pretty disgusting but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the revolting, non food status of Vegemite. In case you didn’t know, Vegemite is a nasty black paste that people inexplicably put on anything from toast to cheesy scroll things. Sometimes they even mix it into stews and casseroles in the misguided belief that it “adds flavour.” Since when is ass flavour something one wants in their stew anyway?

Vegemite is basically the biproduct of beer making. How Australian is that? “Hey, we have all this foul black paste leftover from making our beer. What should we do with it? I know, let’s eat it!”  This is a culture so obsessed with beer that not only do they televise Lawn Bowl games, a “sport” that can be played (and usually is) while holding a stubby in one hand, but they actually ingest the biproduct of producing said beer.

I remember the first time I tasted the foul death paste (a description of Vegemite coined by Amanda Palmer). It was on my first visit to Oz, two years before I actually moved here for good. I had been told about Vegemite but had no real idea what it tasted like. My roommate at UW was dating a Kiwi guy who had grown up in Brisbane and was now living in Portland. He had a predilection for Vegemite and potato chip sandwiches. He told me it tasted excellent. I had my doubts (Vegemite & potato chips? Um, can you get more sodium in one meal?). Anyway, when I first got to Australia, I found a pot of it in my future mother-in-law’s pantry. I thought “Eh, what the hell” and opened it up for a sniff. It smelled foul. If I were smart, I would have stopped there. But no, I am prone to stupidity so I got a teaspoon, scooped a tiny amount out, and took a tentative taste. HOLY SHIT! The tiniest touch of my tongue to the tiniest scoop of this shit made me gag. I had to rush for a glass of water to rinse the vile taste from my mouth.

The moral of the story? Believe people when they tell you Vegemite is foul. Do not try for yourself … you will be sorry. I think a love of Vegemite requires training from an early age. Few people actually taste the stuff for the first time as an older child or adult and decide they like it. No, I have not done studies but it just makes sense, ok? It’s my blog and I can say what I want, damn it! 😉

Part of what finally motivated me to write this post was the Amanda Palmer gig we went to last night. She’s touring her most recent album, Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, which she has described as a “love letter to Australia.” The show was glorious … the audience even spontaneously sang Advance Australia Fair to her. She looked stunned when that happened. It was pretty awesome. Anyway, my favourite song on the album is The Vegemite Song. You see, occasionally, Amanda Palmer manages to hit upon Truth in her songs. This is one of those times. This song is better than any blog post I can do about Vegemite. In fact, you’d probably be better off skipping this post and going straight to this video:

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The Australian, who has just been transferred to the London office of the multinational company for which he worked in Perth, saunters up to the reception desk on his first day of work in the UK.

“So, do I need to wear shoes here?” He asks…

The above is a true story of a friend of a friend of mine. He really did that … and he was only half joking. Australians, you see, have a long standing tradition of not wearing shoes. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps it’s the laid back nature of Australian culture, perhaps it’s just that Australia doesn’t tend quite so far towards the stuck up, snotty, classist bullshit that America falls prey to all too often. Whatever it is, shoes are optional in so many situations here, the mind boggles. And, honestly, I love it.

I’m the woman who graduated from high school barefoot despite strict edicts from the Powers That Be that we should all wear formal attire under our robes, blah, blah, blah. I would have graduated from university barefoot, as well, if it were held outside during shoe free sort of weather. I did, however, get married barefoot much to my grandmother-in-law’s horror (she was fixated on how barefoot would “ruin the dress” for some reason). So, yeah, I’m not one to complain about barefooted-ness. In fact, I was over the moon when I first moved here and realized that no one would bat an eyelash if I wandered across the street to the shops wearing nothing on my feet. After years of complaining about having to remember to put shoes on just to drop into the shops (lest I get kicked out), it was refreshing to not have to bother. I’m sure, technically, the same rules apply to places like grocery stores, etc here but no one seems to care or enforce them. I’ve even heard a story in which a man attempted to get into an event barefoot. When he was told he needed to have something on his feet to be allowed in, he licked the back of his ticket stub, stuck it to the sole of his foot and continued walking in without so much as skipping a beat. An isolated incident, yes, perpetrated by a complete smart arse, yes, but so very Australian nonetheless. 🙂

To me the no shoes thing just highlights further the Australian tendency towards being relaxed, comfortable, easy going. It seems Australian culture is not wound as tightly as in the US. People are much better at just letting things go, not being quite so judgemental and knowing how to kick back, crack open a beer and enjoy the sunshine. Of course, this sometimes is infuriating as it seems, also, to go hand in hand with a reluctance to fight even when it really matters. But that is a mini rant for another time and, besides, it does not apply to all things all the time and is a gross generalisation anyway. Of course, this entire post is a gross generalisation but let’s not split hairs.

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We’re having a long weekend down here in Oz. Why? Because Monday is a public holiday? Why? I have NO FREAKING CLUE!

Australians like their public holidays. They have a freakish amount of them each year(around 10 depending on which state you’re in). Rarely does anyone even know *why* they have the day off work. But, you know what? That’s fine by me!

Australian’s laid back attitude where there is always time to relax is an easy one to adopt. Being here so long, I have nearly forgotten how hideous it is to be a part of the US workforce. I mean, no wonder Americans rarely know anything about the world around them … they’re too busy being worked to death and paid shit to travel or think about the world outside! Over here most workplaces have something called “long service leave” in which you get a month or two off for something like 5 year’s work or something silly! This is on top of being entitled to way more paid (and unpaid) annual holiday leave than the average American worker can even dream of PLUS the public holidays. You’d think, given this laid back attitude towards work vs play that Aussies would have a reputation for being lazy sods, right? Well, anecdotally, this isn’t the case. I’ve been told that UK workplaces often prefer hiring Aussies for their good work ethic!

So, I salute the Australian public holiday. I suggest you all raise your beers and salute it too! Take that, US Puritanical “work ethic.” *thumbs nose*

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I hate beets (or, as I have learned to call them, beetroot). They taste like dirt and something even more foul mixed in. They are on the list (along with brussels sprouts and various other foods I can’t think of right now) of The Most Revolting Things Western Society Will Eat.So, you can imagine my utter revulsion when I came to Australia to find that these people put beetroot in EVERYTHING! I am not kidding. They put it in salads, on sandwiches, on BURGERS ffs! I shit you not.

I’ll never forget the first time I ordered a “burger with the lot.” We were in Kalgoorlie visiting my (then future) father in law. I thought that “burger with the lot” was just a charming Australian way of describing a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and pickles (you know, the *normal* burger fixings). Oh, was I wrong. So, so wrong. The waitress plunked a ginormous burger with all the fixings (though no pickles … I’ll blog about atrocious Australian pickles later) plus beetroot and (get this!) a fried egg! It’s not bad enough that they put beetroot on a perfectly good burger but a fried egg as well? What are they thinking??!?!

So, I’m curious about Oh-My-God-Do-They-Really-Eat-That moments you all have had. Share!

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