the things we eat…

When I was little, on mornings when we weren’t feeling well… or mornings that were made somehow more special, my mom would make us a soft-boiled egg, crumble a piece of bread into a bowl, and mix them together. I thought it was so delicious, and it was easy on my tummy, if I hadn’t been feeling very well. Or maybe if we were upset about something, it cheered us up. If it was the weekend, then my dad might make it, and we would be awed at his skills, trying to figure out how he got the eggs out of the shell, without making a mess.

Actually, I’m still in awe of my parents’ skill with a soft-boiled egg, as when I was sick over vacation, my dad reminded me to try them, as the protein would be good for me, and it would be easy on my stomach. He was right, and I still haven’t figured out how to get the egg out (usually) without getting the yolk all over the shell. I think it has something to do with having the right-sized spoon, and cracking the egg in the right spot.

So, this week, our entire household, here in Emerald, has come down with colds that are mostly accompanied by sore throats. I returned to eating eggs and bread for several days, but haven’t been able to talk any of my girls into having any. I can’t decide whether they think it sounds yucky, or they’re not feeling bad enough to avoid cereal.

But this got me to thinking about the foods that we eat, in both the United States and Australia, and reminded me of any number of discussions I’ve had with Aussies, about food. And since I don’t think I’ve posted about food in a while, I guess it’s about time.

When I first arrived here, I was introduced to Vegemite and CheesyBite, so I won’t go over these again. My kids would ask me to make them sandwiches with avocado and pepper, or cheese and honey. I found this quite strange, but I’ve learned to like avocado, though I don’t go out of my way for it, and the avocado and pepper combination is pretty good. Cheese and honey still sounds strange, and I tried it once, but concluded that it was neither bad nor good, just odd. I don’t think the honey flavor stands out against the strength of the cheddar.

It didn’t take me long to find that my girls eat beans or spaghetti, cold, and straight out of the can. This is normal, over here, and though I’ve grown accustomed, I won’t try it myself. At home, I’m a big fan of clam chowder, but I won’t touch it until it’s been heated up, whereas, my brother will lick the lid off, which I think is gross. Aussies also eat spaghetti on sandwiches.

On the other hand, I’ve had extensive conversations on how peanut butter and jelly (jam, if you’re an Aussie) are an American staple, while Vegemite is what Aussies live on. My eldest girl, Bea, doesn’t understand why Americans don’t eat Vegemite, and I said, why would we? What possible reason could I use to convince my countrymen that they should eat, instead of peanut butter, a brown food paste that’s made from yeast extract? Don’t get me wrong, I like Vegemite and CheesyBite, but why would Americans even consider using it?

Talking about how good it is for you… come on, people are always telling us what’s good for us, and we still don’t eat it. Only the route that got Aussies to eat it regularly would work, and I’m not ready for another World War. From what I’ve read, Vegemite was invented after World War I, and Marmite shipments to Australia were disrupted. Then, the Kraft company marketed it, giving it away for free with their cheese. Finally, during World War II, Vegemite was included with food rations, so by the time the war was over, everybody was eating it.

So, when I make my kids their lunch sandwiches, I’m often impressed (or flabbergasted) by what they come up with. Sadie likes CheesyBite with tomatoes, and sometimes cheese, too. Emmie likes mayo, but has lately started combining that with CheesyBite, as well. Then, Bea will criticize Emmie’s choice, but turn around and eat CheesyBite with mustard. Frankly, I think the latter choice is the most disgusting of the lot. I like CheesyBite plain.

The other night, at dinner, I started to tell them the story of my dad trying to get my younger brother to try peanut butter and marshmallow fluff…. on crackers, wasn’t it? My brother was in tears over being forced to try it, and then, of course, he ended up loving it. But some of the humor of this story was lost on my Aussie family, as I had to explain marshmallow fluff to them.

I’ve explained s’mores to them, in the past, and they’ve had a variation on them, but since there aren’t any graham crackers in Australia (except in specialty shops), they can only make s’mores with other kinds of cookies (biscuits). And no Hershey’s chocolate. And for the record, I think their pink and white marshmallows taste different than ours, but I don’t have any American marshmallows to compare them to, over here.

I’m not sure if the inventor of fluff was out to recreate s’mores, with Nutella, or if they just loved to put peanut butter on their marshmallows. The fact remains that many Americans like to eat “fluffernutters” (I only just read that name, for the first time, on Wikipedia) sandwiches, with peanut butter and fluff spread on pieces of bread. Marshmallow fluff is just a jar full of spreadable marshmallows, so if you’re a marshmallow addict, then this makes your life a whole lot easier. I don’t dislike fluff, but I’ve never sought out marshmallows for regular consumption. I like ’em in hot chocolate, occasionally, and on the occasional s’more.

Last night, the girls cooked dinner, which was hot dogs, but they were the American ones, so the kids called them either sausages or wieners. That’s probably because Aussie hotdogs are longer, and bright red. No one has yet been able to tell me why. But while the girls were decorating the house with a tennis theme (for the Australian Open), and I was dunking the three little girls in the bathtub, they discovered that we were out of both barbecue sauce and tomato sauce. So, these other items would have been on the table anyway, but we had our hot dogs with sweet chili sauce, sour cream, and shredded cheese. And it was delicious, by the way.

I’ve actually come to love the barbecue sauce over here, which is strange, because I hate the stuff we have at home. I need to figure out if there’s a different name for it, in the U.S.  Because they use it for pizza and all sorts of things here, and it’s yummy. Anyway, the sweet chili sauce and sour cream are a regular staple for eating with potato wedges (boy, I’m gonna miss these, when I go home), and several other recipes. But I’ve found that shredded cheese is a regular ingredient, whether you’re eating hot dogs or sausages. At first, I thought this was different but good, and then I finally remembered that when we were little, we’d melt American cheese on hot dog buns, and then add the hot dog. Mind you, we tried to do this when Mom wasn’t around, because she didn’t approve of this unhealthy option.

Of course, I wasn’t the only member of my family who liked to eat hot dogs cold, straight out of the fridge, but we tried to do that on the sly, also. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which you can barely find over here (which is insane, because Americans live on it!), is made even more delicious by adding chopped up hot dogs to it.

Then again, the Aussies are the ones who eat pumpkin soup all year round, and think that pumpkin pie sounds terrible. But that, as I’ve discussed before, is because of the pumpkin misunderstanding. Pumpkin here and pumpkin there are not the same thing. You can read previous posts about this, if you’re curious.

My girls asked me what kinds of fruits we get at home, and can we get bananas? I told them, yes, we get bananas, and they’re cheaper. But that might be because the floods destroyed the banana crop, here in Queensland. At home, we get apples, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, just like here, but I tell the girls that my family gets a lot of the berries at a local berry farm. We go there during the summer and pick them by the bucket, eating as many as we like, as we pick. The only fruit that I’ve seen Aussies eat regularly, that I’m not familiar with is passion fruit. These delicious fruits might be available in U.S. stores, but they’re probably included with all the other specialty fruit that I’ve never heard of (like star fruit or dragon fruit). Those are the ones that look cool, but you have no idea how to eat them.

Southern Supreme Fruitcake

I know what you’re thinking already, looking at the picture of the passion fruit. Take my word for it, they taste wonderful, but the insides looks gross. When one of my friends first offered one to me, I looked at her like she was crazy, expecting me to scoop out the yellow and green stuff and eat it. This is NOT durian (a fruit that smells like rotting meat), I assure you. Passion fruit smells and tastes great, just looks a bit gross, if you aren’t used to it.

I also find that Aussies like to eat fruit cake, whereas in the U.S., fruit cake is usually a joke. We consider them only good for re-gifting or using them as a doorstop. My recollection is that I’ve never liked them because they’re full of a sugary, fake fruit that tastes disgusting. If they actually had real fruit in them, things might be different. The exception to the rule, in my family, is Southern Supreme. This company is located in Bear Creek, NC, and they make a delicious fruitcake that has lots of nuts, but plenty of juicy golden raisins, dates, and pineapple. Every Christmas, my family goes to Holiday Fair (a craft show in Greenville, SC), heads for the fruitcake booth, and stocks up on it for the year.

Aussie Fruitcake

But here in Australia, fruitcake is all over the place. Or seems to be, when you’re at the grocery store. My family buys it regularly, and some of the girls get it in their lunches. It’s a moist, spicy cake, with raisins and good fruit (not the gummy, fake stuff). At Woolworths, you can get either a light fruitcake or a dark one, and I prefer the dark… probably because it makes me think it must have molasses or something in it. If I could figure out the recipe for Aussie fruitcake, I would happily bring it home and market it. Our country can do better than eat (or joke about) crappy fruitcake.

Another Aussie specialty is the Jaffa, a lolly (type of candy) that is a small chocolate ball, coated in a Jaffa orange-flavored shell. Think bigger than an M&M, round, and the candy shell is a bit harder, so my teeth hurt after working my way through a handful of them. But the orange and chocolate combination is delicious, though unusual to my taste buds. It seems that Jaffa can also refer to the orange-chocolate flavor, so I’ve seen desserts in the coffee shop that are supposed to be Jaffa orange.

Of course, Cadbury chocolate is produced in this neck of the world, so there’s always bars of all types of Cadbury in the grocery stores. At home, we get Cadbury Caramello bars and at Easter time, Cadbury creme eggs. Don’t talk to me about Cadbury caramel eggs, it’s the same as a Caramello bar. But I’ve discovered that rather than waiting until after Valentine’s Day (we can never get Easter candy before then, at home), Cadbury Easter eggs are already available, and in more flavors than I can remember. Mint creme, strawberry creme, crunchie, Turkish delight, and several other flavors make up the fillings available in the eggs. We can already get Caramello Koalas, all year round, but now we can get Caramello bunnies and other Easter specialties. I should just go into hiding, as Cadbury creme eggs are my failing. Can’t resist them, and yes, they’re sitting on my desk, right now. It must be an Aussie thing, the wrappers are orange, purple, and yellow, rather than red, blue, yellow, and green (which are the colors in the U.S.).

While trying to look up any other uniquely American or Aussie food of a strange or different nature, I read somewhere that only Americans could have invented chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Well, if that’s so, then I’m grateful to the inventor. Most of us kids remember loving to eat cookie dough, but being cautioned not to, because of the danger of salmonella. Did any of us ever listen? I know we never did. My mom doesn’t like cookie dough, so we’d take some for ourselves, and then, I would regularly put some aside for my dad and my older brother. And I wouldn’t be the first one to buy a pack of ready-made cookie dough, not because I was going to bake with it (I always make my own), but because I was in a bad mood, and I needed some cookie dough to make me feel better.

And since America’s the home of the Reese’s peanut butter cup, then of course, we’re home to Moose Tracks ice cream, which has ribbons of rich chocolate fudge running through vanilla ice cream, along with mini peanut butter cups. There’s nothing like it. Those of us who absolutely adore it, we’d go to camp and look forward to the times when Mr. Wilson got to the bottom of the Moose Tracks barrel. The bottom of the container always had bigger chunks of fudge… sigh. So yummy.

Speaking of ice cream, I feel like giving a shout-out to Ben & Jerry’s for both their Chocolate Brownie Fudge and their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice creams. These are wonderful, as they are, but then one day, I walked into the refrigerated section at the grocery store, and was greeted by the sight of Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked ice cream. Yes, they took the aforementioned ice cream flavors and swirled them together. There are thousands of calories (or something like that) per container, but when you’re miserable and in need of ice cream, you don’t care.

Sorry to be fantasizing about ice cream. The closest I can find to the above flavors are either chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips or cookies ‘n cream. Or chocolate. They like fruit flavors, sorbets, jaffa, honey, and other random flavors. I think Hershey’s really needs to build a factory Down Under, and introduce Aussies to REAL ice cream.

Anyway, gotta go. We’re having burritos for dinner. It’ll go well with the Cadbury creme egg that I just ate.

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