EXPAT LIFE: Now that some time has passed since I wrote my last post, I feel I can move onto talking about some of the things we enjoyed in Australia on our home visit – one being Australian food!
One of the greatest luxuries about going home is the ability to indulge your senses in your own homeland’s delights, whether they be visual, auditory or in this case olfactory. Now I know that to some of you, we may sound rather self-indulgent. After all, we live in the USA, so we are hardly deprived of western food. It’s not like we are living in deepest Africa or in remote Amazonian wilderness, where supplies of anything remotely edible are accessible only through air drop or river boat once every six months or so.
Nevertheless, I am sure that many expats will agree, there are just certain things that after a long absence, you realize are so representative of ‘home’ that it is only when you are surrounded with these wonders that you truly understand and appreciate how special they truly are.
And so it was with great relish that we were able to enjoy these again on Australian soil. Despite being overfed at every meal with friends and family as we did the rounds of catchups, eating out at restaurants regularly in between and particularly on our holiday to tropical Cairns in Queensland, we still managed to satiate ourselves on those few items we missed the most.
What are the foods that make our indulge’ list?
For every Australian family it will probably be slightly different but in no particular order, the foods we miss are:
Cadbury Chocolates: they actually sell a version here in NJ supermarkets but this is manufactured by Hersheys and tastes completely different. We are lucky enough to have a great local shop in Montclair that caters for British and Australian tastes locally, and they stock an English version Cadburys. But even this is slightly different than at home and because it is imported, it’s pretty pricey. What is so different about our chocolate you might wonder? Cadburys is a very smooth, sweet chocolate that just melts in your mouth. Americans may likely find it too cloyingly sweet but to us, it is like liquid gold. In comparison, chocolates from the US, particularly Hersheys, seem bitter and leave a less pleasant after-taste. And when it comes to dark chocolate, there is a huge difference! Due to the use of higher amounts of cocoa in the US products here, this is a very bitter experience for the palate and must be, we assume, an acquired taste. Australian dark chocolate is still very sweet, so I am doubtful we we will ever acquire the taste for this particular local food.
Special K cereal: They sell this brand here in the US as well but it is completely different to that made in Australia. The Aussie version has been my breakfast staple for umpteen years and to my sense is extremely tasty and made from rice and wheat grains. The US version tastes much more like bland cornflakes which I cannot stomach so early on in the morning.
Weetbix: As above, there is something like this called ‘Weetabix’ sold in NJ but this is still quite different from the Aussie version. The less picky of us in the family do eat the local version but we still fight over who is going to eat the Australian Weetbix, when we have had some sent in home parcels or brought some back with us to the USA.
Meat pies: Although some Australians might think we are culturally bereft for listing this, we are (mostly) unrepentant meat pie lovers. Certainly, not every Australian meat pie is a gourmet creation, and in fact some popular brands are sometimes almost inedible. These seem to be the ones you purchase at the football, or local kiosk at children’s soccer matches, or sometimes from a cheap bread shop. Our English neighbours remember them from an Australian trip as meat gristle in pastry being passed off as meat.
However, not all meat pies are this poor quality. We used to purchase the most wonderful handmade meat pies from a fantastic little bakery in Rose Bay, Sydney, which were so tasty that we bought them en masse to eat for dinner every night until we couldn’t stomach another one.
Meat pies are not generally available here in NJ. The next best thing is the Australian pie franchise called PieFace, now operating in NY which is apparently very popular with lunchtime crowds.
True Italian pizza: Our home in Sydney was near an area heavily populated with Italian cultural heritage called Haberfield. One of our fondest memories of Sydney life is when we were lucky enough to be able to eat out here regularly: a real treat as Haberfield is known for it’s fine food fare and a popular stop for foodie tours. The pizzas we are used to from Italian restaurants in this area, all have a very thin crust, with extremely tasty sauce and toppings, cooked in a way from my own experience, that is closer to true Italian pizza. While NJ is a heartland for Italian heritage, the pizzas we have seen and tasted here so far, are very different. We spent a lot of time in Haberfield while in Sydney, soaking up local food, coffee and desserts.
So good was the food, that almost in every case we had eaten our dishes before I even remembered to photograph them! So I include here a photo of my Italian friend’s home cooked pizza which was absolutely wonderful to eat. This is the sort of pizza we had been accustomed to in Australia, but we are now back eating local NJ pizzas and will keep pretending we like it until the next home trip comes around.
Lattes and cannolis: Also in Haberfield, we were able to overdose excessively on good quality local lattes, which are commonly found almost everywhere in Sydney but especially around Italian areas. One of our favourite places in Haberfield is ‘Papas’ in Haberfield, where this local Italian bakery/eatery is so popular people line up outside on the footpath to purchase their food. Papa’s is not as famous as the Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, popularly featured on the reality show ‘Cake Boss’. Regardless, Papas supplies consistently good coffee, cannolis and gelato to die for.
Beef sausages: Beef sausages are an iconic part of the traditional Aussie BBQ. We don’t always put shrimp on the barbie, contrary to Paul Hogan’s oft-remembered tourism pitch. However, barbequed beef sausages are relatively common, especially as food fare for children. Suprisingly, beef sausages are non-existent in NJ, with pork or turkey sausages as the normal option available. These just don’t have the same appeal. Perhaps with time, we’ll aclimatize but whenever we get the chance to indulge in this traditional food back home, we now grab the chance!
Toast with margarine: Also available in the USA but not with any form of bread that is as tasty! It seems our idea vs what the US locals consider bread, is so…oooo very different. After all, where else in the world can you get bread made of potato or corn? This is one of the things we miss the most out of anything on this list. Naturally, if we were hungry enough, we would eat it and not even comment! Perhaps a sojourn on the Survivor series may help us.
Of course, all expats have their eating challenges. I found this blog post from a US expat living in Sydney talking about how hard it is to like the local sausage sizzle! (A Typical Aussie Sausage Sizzle). It shows you how hard adopting local food as an expat can be for anyone!
What local foods have you found difficult to adopt as an expat or traveller?