Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Do Aussies really eat this stuff?!

Parked to your left is an image borrowed from AOL Health ... the credit is hereby acknowledged, but someone, somewhere is probably going to file a hopping-mad law suit, though not at AOL! Regular readers might recall, a few days ago I was talking about "culture misappropriation," and this, to your left, is just about the worst case of it I've ever seen...

In answer to the reader's question, "Do Aussies really eat this KRAPP?!!" (emphasis is the readers ... but heartily encored by yours truly), the answer is a resounding --


This little beauty is described by AOL Health in the following terms: "Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing ; 2,900 calories 182 g fat 240 g carbs; Even if you split these "starters" with three friends, you'll have downed a dinner's worth of calories before your meal arrives."

Aussie What? Where? When? Okay, here's a little bit of clarification: Outback Steakhouse is NOT an Australian restaurant. There is no such restaurant down here. End of statement. Period. Even if there was an Outback Steakhouse down here, it would serve Australian-style food, or at least the Aussie "takes" on US meals.

So, don't be duped: Outback Steakhouse is an American restaurant, serving American food. (I mean, jeez, there isn't a smidgen of Vegemite, a lime Kool-ade, a Chicko Roll, a meat pie, a pasty, a lamington, a bit of damper, or a carbonized lamb chop anywhere in the building! Just joking, people. But, really.)

Fries, in the Antipodes, are known as CHIPS, for a start. They come on the side with battered, fried fish, as a rule, but will also be served with roast chicken, or burgers.

I had never seen cheese sauce poured over CHIPS before I went to the States in the late 90s. (In those days, nachos, tacos, and Mexican food as a species were virtually unknown here; even now, there's an Aussie spin on Mexican food in Antipodean restaurants ... it tends to be low fat, with human-sized portions, and they make the chili verde with green capsicums (known to North Americans as bell peppers).

And that's the other thing: even if they smothered CHIPS (okay, I'll stop being cute now) in cheese and ranch dressing down here (which they don't), the portion size would be about one fifth of what you'll see in the States.

So ... no, sorry to disillusion you. When you eat at Outback Steakhouse, you're not eating Aussie, and if the food gives you a cardiac arrest, you won't be able to blame it on the Aussies. ("Well, I don't know what could have gone wrong -- they eat this stuff downunder. Don't they?" No, sir, they don't.)

Which begs the question, what DO they eat downunder?!

Ethnic cuisine is very popular. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Japanese, Indonesian, Indian. There's a couple of mid-eastern eateries. Italian and Greek are great favorites. You also get "combo" restaurants, like A Taste of Asia. And the "family" restaurants, which tend to be "all you can eat" places, like Charlie's and Fresh Choice. Charlie's is a chain; Fresh Choice might be local, not sure. There's a Mexican chain, Montezuma's ... but the food has an Aussie accent. There's a lot less fat, the portions are human-sized -- and, alas, some of the ingredients are not authentic. Tomatillas are very had to get down here. And if you've ever had a Margarita made with lemon juice ...! Fast food comes in loads of varieties, with fish and chips being the favorite across the board (again, human sized portions). The local fish are butterfish, gar, snook, flake, hoki (blue grenadier), hake, whiting, and so on. There's also KFC, Red Rooster and Pizza Hutt all fighting for market share ... the Aussie KFC is significantly different from the US variety (!), and the pizzas down here are SMALL by comparison with US pizzas. What we know as a family pizza is, apparently, known as a "personal" pizza up yonder. Red Rooster is not the same as the US Red Robin. They do chicken only. Subway is very popular, too; then you're onto things like Itami, if you want fast-food takeaway sushi, and Wok-in-a-Box, for takeaway Asian. There's also great places to get genuine Yiros ... then, a vast assortment of patisseries -- German, French, Italian, Australian, Swiss. lastly, there's McDonald's, and Hungry Jack's (ie, Burger King), if you're desperate for junk ... and even there, the menu is suspiciously Aussie and noticeably healthy, with fruit salad, green salad, yogurt and what have you, on the menu...

Food options are as cosmopolitan as the rest of the community, and incredibly varied. There's a lot less lethality to the local cuisine, and the most telling factor is the portion size. I was stunned by the amount of food they dish up in the States ... but of course the other side to this is, when Americans come down here on vacation they're shocked by the small amount of food they're handed as a portion. (I've seen US tourists get very annoyed and quite, uh, loud, about it. Solution: duh. Buy two or three portions if you want to eat more.)

I other words, there's two sides to every coin, and you get used to it, wherever you land. Eating out in the States, I used to ask for a box, and would wind up with lunch for a couple of days, in the refrigerator, from the leftovers of a restaurant meal. I mean, the solution was simple ... frankly, I can't see why people grumble when you can solve the problem of portion size with a box (or, if you want masses of food, buy two or three portions).

Ah, the joys of international travel!


Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Mmmmmm, food... drool...

Mel Keegan said...

Yeah, yeah, sure. (Can't talk, eating. Right?)

Speaking of food, what's going on with that peanut butter cheesecake with hot chocolate fudge I keep hearing about???

Post a Comment