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  • Writer's pictureMartha Iserman

Observations on Australian Food Part One

We have friends visiting from Chicago, so my art updates and blog posting will be a little sparse for the next few weeks. This also means I get to introduce AU to a new audience and experience it fresh again through their eyes.

So far limited to rooftop bars and drinking out of horns...

There are so many lovely things about Melbourne. The architecture, the street art, the museums, the Yarra River at night etc.

There are also some really trivial confusing elements that will continue to baffle us as we attempt to navigate this cultural divide.

Say what now?

Speaking of puds (and their ability to self-service)... food is a good place to start. We have had some amazing meals in the city. We have even found a few decent places in the mountain suburbs near our home (here's looking at you Digging for Fire BBQ).

The most important part of Australian cuisine though is not a particular dish, or even Vegemite (which is actually great on toast). It's their chip flavors.

I'm sorry "crisps"

So far we're a fan of the Mint and Lamb and Sweet Chicken and Garlic Aioli flavors. I'm not a potato chip person per se, so it's been fun to have company so we have the excuse to buy every weird variant we can find.

He seems to be over the mourning period for his professional adversary Mr. Peanut

And as long as we're staying 'gourmet', HSPs are now a part of our lives on a semi-regular basis.

You down with HSP?

Halal Snack Packs are a greasy mixture of chips (large cut french fries) covered in halal kebab meat (usually a combo of lamb, chicken, and beef) covered in chili, garlic, and bbq sauces. Think of it as middle-eastern poutine. It is horrible and wonderful, and the perfect end to a night of bar-hopping while you're waiting to catch the train home.

With that being said, there are some really questionable items on the menu in Australia on all levels of cuisine.


On one of my first days in the country, I spotted this lovely sign advertising 'Extreme Pizzas'.

Only $5.95!?! In AUSTRALIAN dollars!?!

I don't know how you look up at that sign and decide between a 'Mr.T' and a 'Holy Smoke' but I'm guessing it involves choosing your favorite combination of beiges. 'Mama's Spaghetti' might actually be an appropriate name since it envokes a nervously sick Eminem.

You'd be surprised to learn the restaurant is called Big Al's and not Petri Dish Pizzas. You'd also be surprised to learn

1. It's a chain

2. The printed menus use the same pictures.

Full disclosure, we did eventually order from Big Al's and the pizzas actually had color and were edible. My apologies to Mr. Al.

Hey Australia, why do you like white bread so much? You know buns are a thing, right? They come in a variety of sizes and types, all with a little pocket for that sausage you worked so hard to make. Fits right in there. That's what it's for.

This makes me irrationally angry

There are a lot of things I crave from home (just give me a GD regular coffee Brenda) but I have to say I miss Mexican food with a fiery intensity, so much so that in a moment of misplaced optimism or delusional wanting I ordered nachos...

At an Irish pub.

At the mall.

On my birthday.

"Too much trust is folly, in an imperfect world"-Ellis Peters

There is one cheese in Australia and it is called Tasty (which is cute of them). It doesn't melt particularly well, or have much flavor, so it's about on par with Kraft American. Anyways, these were not good nachos, but they did pair nicely with a stale Guinness and the Joker movie we watched afterward.

Apparently this one has a level 3 maturity rating so parents be warned

I really shouldn't judge Australia though. This one was on me. I can't expect a city neighboring Antarctica to get carnitas right and I shouldn't judge their cheese just because I'm from the Midwest (though I do). Just because I can't find a decent burrito or a regular coffee doesn't negate the fact that the fresh produce is amazing. I never used to get so excited about broccoli. I've actually been teaching myself to cook since we moved here and have lost a ton of weight as a result.

In summary, it's not the most 'foody' place I've lived, but we've only been here less than a year. We've enjoyed almost every Indonesian, Chinese and Indian restaurant we've been to and even the train station sushi beats what we had back home.

Maybe I can sacrifice pizza and tacos and gruyere.


So I'm going to go take a hike with some friends and maybe we'll grab a 'Miami Vice' from Big Al's afterward.

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