So since food is like 80% of what I think about anyway, I figured I’d try writing a post on food here in Australia, so here goes.
Random Australian Food Item No. 1: Vegemite
There’s a very interesting obsession with vegemite here that I would liken to an American southerner’s obsession with calf fries: whether you’ve actually had them or not, you know exactly how weird they are, but you feel a strange connection to them anyway, maybe because of a shared regional origin or something. Australian attitudes toward vegemite are similar. So first off, what is the stuff? Vegemite. Sounds like it’s made of vegetables, and maybe mites. Or maybe it’s what Popeye the Sailor would eat, mighty vegetables? Spinach? Nope. It’s yeast. And frankly, it’s plain weird. Even Australians will tell you to use extreme caution when eating this stuff, and I mean every single one of the dozen or so Aussies who has asked me if I’ve tried vegemite has said this. It’s made to be eaten as a spread on a piece of bread or toast, but no one ever does it right the first time. They pile it on like peanut butter and Nutella, and then they throw up. You’re supposed to put the thinnest layer you possibly can on a piece of bread, then scrape half of that off. And that still might be too much. And to help hide even more of the salty, meaty, beer-like taste (it is made of yeast after all) you’re supposed to put a thick layer of butter on that bread first (this also makes it easier to remove more vegemite when you inevitably use too much). Honestly, as little as you’re supposed to use at a time I don’t understand how people actually go through an entire jar in a lifetime. But it’s supposed to be a big source of vitamins, all the jars say “vitamin B” on the front, so I can see the interest in training little kids to like it.
Rating: Try it once, because it’s so very Australian you really can’t say you came and didn’t try it. But if you care at all about your taste buds definitely use caution.
Random Australian Food Item No. 2: Tim Tams
I always heard about Tim Tams on the internet and never understood why some people were so obsessed with them – the attitude here is similar to that directed at Twinkies in the US. Now I’m starting to. They’re literally everywhere, in all kinds of flavors. I think I can sort of compare them to Oreos, in the variety of flavors that exist and in the fact that they’re both made of chocolate cookie-cracker-things with some kind of creamy, sugary filling. In the case of TimTams, they’re both filled with and dipped in (usually) chocolate. And they’re amazing. They’re at every social event that has snacks, and they’re always the first thing to go. Also like Oreos, the packages never have enough of them. Ever. The residence hall I’m in often supplies a single package of them at social events, and while we have a pretty small hall and an even smaller turnout at social events, those Tim Tams never make it around the room a second time. If you don’t get one on the first pass they’re gone.
Rating: Yes. Try them. Love them. Don’t keep them in the house if you don’t plan to eat an entire package in two days or less. (so yeah, Australian Oreos)
Random Australian Food Item No. 3: Kangaroo Meat
You had to know that one was coming. Not reviewing kangaroo meat would be like going to Oklahoma and never having beef. I tried kangaroo meat at a food truck in the Queen Victoria Night Market in Melbourne. The truck offered crocodile burgers on squid ink buns, emu sausages with grilled veg on top, and kangaroo burgers on beet root buns. Upon questioning the saleswoman, I learned that yes, it was real squid ink, and no, it added no flavor to the bun, it just dyed it black and made it look both cool and slightly disturbing (ever looked at an ink-black burger bun? It’s unsettling). It was the same for the beet root, so I ordered my kangaroo burger, figuring I’d come back to try the croc and squid another time (hopefully next week). The ‘Roo meat, as the cook called it, was similar to beef in texture, although I imagine most ground red meat is similar in texture. The flavor was nothing particularly strange either, it just tasted like meat, maybe similar to beef, but again that could have had to do with it being ground. However, it was very well cooked. That burger was downright delicious, and unlike most well cooked beef, it really wanted to crumble apart in chunks. I was warned not to try to cook it myself first or I would never want to try it again, and I can see why now. The ‘Roo patty I tried was amazing, better than most beef burgers I’ve had, but I could tell by the texture that it would be easy to mess up if you didn’t know what you were doing. The way it crumbled, it was almost verging on gritty, and I suspect a poor or even mediocre kangaroo patty would be pretty dry and gristly. Luckily, I got a really, really well cooked burger, so hopefully my luck holds for future kangaroo meat trials.
Rating: Definitely try it, but be smart about where you go. Queen Vic Night Market seems to be a good place.
Bonus Australian Food Item: Emu Sausage
Bonus because I didn’t really eat the whole thing. My friend ordered it at the same place I got my ‘roo burger, so I only had a bite and don’t feel justified in giving a full review. My one bite tasted pretty typical of sausage to me, I honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference, except that the skin they used to hold the sausage together was so thin and so similar in texture to the meat of the sausage that I almost couldn’t tell it was there. But again, superbly cooked sausage. Maybe I’m just reviewing this food truck more than I am the kinds of meat, but so be it.
Emu Sausage Rating: Worth trying, I would buy myself one to get a proper try, given another chance.
Queen Vic Market Strange Meats Food Truck Rating: A+, definitely go there for all your weird meat cravings.