Vegemite or not

August 28, 2009


Vegemite or not… by Helvi Oosterman

Leaving your mother country, you’ll leave behind mother’s home cooking and most times also Speciality foods of your nation. In my case it was the flat Finnish rye bread, which I hadn’t encountered anywhere else on my travels. The Estonian black bread became a reasonable substitute in Australia.

Some countries of course have food to die for ; their recipes have crossed the borders and we all enjoy our spaghetti Bolognese , our Danish pastries, Russian beef stroganoff and Swedish meatballs. That’s the easy bit, but what happens when visiting or moving into a foreign land, and you are offered those countries’ less known or some of their more peculiar tid bits.

First trip to Amsterdam and you are given your first raw herring with raw onions. How’s that for a new culinary experience. Not as good as roll mops out of the jar, but not bad either ; I could learn to love this. Greek olives or dolmades are easy to like, but what about the funny drink Ouzo, that could be problematic. Sweet and sour pork, Mongolian lamb don’t need getting used to but please, don’t ask me to tackle bird’s nest soup or hundred year old eggs, ever, never..

English roast dinner even with the peculiar Yorkshire pudding goes down well, but a pea soup with a pie floating in it, a floater, they call it…good for piglets at pigs Arms maybe..?  Haggis, now that’s something that only the starving amongst us dares to touch.

season's first herring. Dutch herring eater. 

New Zealanders wrap their fish in banana leaves and bury it in sand over hot coals to cook and this of course can taste fantastic, depending on type of fish and the cooking time. Kiwi friends of ours did this once; they buried their catch in the Balmain back yard…sadly the Snapper tasted like compost and smelled like burning rubber.

Getting used to Aussie food was not so hard; it was a matter of learning to like bland or plain food; the chops and the three veg. Sometimes the greens came out of tin, especially if you were eating in a road side milk bar, on your way to Brisbane. Sister in law, having been a waitress, had had her share of difficult customers, therefore she in her turn turned ‘difficile’ when dining out. Are the mushrooms fresh, she queried. Straight out of the tin, was the Taree cafe owner’s answer.

Husband had been in Australia many a year before I came, but he had never managed to even taste Vegemite. For me it was love at first sight , I have to have it at least twice a week.Our kids couldn’t be without it either; when living in Holland, we had to do with Marmite…no match to Vegemite. The jars were cute though, ideal for my dried herbs.

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