Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tree Kangaroos, Kit Kats, and Meat Pies, oh my!

Well... That's just a terrible title, but I tried.

Mama kangaroo with a baby in the pouch (you can kind of see it sticking out)
Today’s topics: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Aussie brands

Last weekend, my last weekend of freedom before the session started (semesters are called sessions here), the International Office here took us international students to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, which is less than a couple hours north of Lismore and along the coast (as the name indicates). One of the highlights of Currumbin is the opportunity to have your picture taken holding one of the animals, namely a koala or python. Obviously, koalas are much more cute and cuddly in appearance (hence the added “bear” to their name) and luckily these koalas are raised to be friendly to people (don’t try to hold a wild koala… Just… don’t do it, mkay?).

Besides koalas, there are hundreds of fascinating Australian wildlife. My camera died halfway through the day so once I figure out how to easily get the photos off my phone, I will post about all the animals I saw. Look out for one or two geekery posts. I fully intend to go crazy telling y’all about the cool trees and animals over here! The black breasted button quail is CUTE AS A BUTTON!!! No joke!

Over-exclaiming aside, for today’s ramble, here’s an introduction into some familiar and not-so-familiar brands with an Aussie-twist:

Now… We all know what a KitKat is (how can you be American and not know???). Apparently, KitKat gets a little creative outside the US. Check out these three flavors: Cookies & Cream, Caramel, and Choc Mint.
I saw these while picking up some ice cream with a friend at a local convenience store. I feel outraged on behalf of all Americans that we are not privileged with these options! Granted, I rarely eat mainstream candy (as a chocolate snob, I prefer my higher-quality, less mainstream simple dark chocolate). And also granted, the only time I ever enjoy mint and chocolate together are in those dark chocolate mint after-dinner pieces that Olive Garden gives out with the check. NEVERTHELESS, why do we not have these options back home?!?!

This next brand is perhaps less well known in the US, but it’s so Australian that I had to share!

A Caramello Koala! Pretty cute… Haven’t tried mine yet (told you, I’m picky with chocolate), but the most exciting thing is the koala shape, of course.

Here’s another reference for you. Free Cornetto if you get it right the first time.

 "Want to go to the shop?"
"We’ve just been to the shop."
"We could go to another one."
"What shop did you have in mind?"

I had my first Cornetto last weekend. It was more for the novelty of it and the thoughts of the afore-referenced movie (I hope I quoted it correctly), but it was good. Not much different than your average Drumstick in America (that’s what they’re called, right?).
As a point of interest, the first thing I saw when I stepped off the plane in Australia was a huge Jim Beam ad. My Ttought: I came all the way to Australia to see ads for Kentucky bourbon? What is wrong with this picture, people? As a purely academic insight into Australian culture, they seem to love whiskey and cola mixed together. I’m not saying a whiskey coke is a bad thing, but theirs often come premade:

Tragedy of all tragedies… My personal favorite has been turned in to some Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff-style blasphemy. Please tell me this doesn’t exist in America??
Here’s another fun fact: like most other countries around the world other than the United States, sodas in Australia do not include high fructose corn syrup. Just cane sugar. Yep, even the American brands use cane sugar just like the good ole days. I could rant very loudly about this for an extended period of time. What is the deal with Americans and high fructose corn syrup?

Continuing, Australian food culture does not seem terribly different right away compared to American food, or at least not very foreign to me. Lamb is a commonly consumed meat, which I absolutely love, and bangers and mash (sausage with mashed potatoes) is a normal Aussie-style meal. I tried kangaroo sausages last week. I can’t comment on the taste of the meat on its own just yet because they were Tuscan-ish flavored sausages but it was like any other specialty sausage. Chicken schnitzel (German-style breaded chicken breasts) is huge here and I love it! I think it’s Aussie-style comfort food meal… Meat pies are also a common item, sold anywhere from cafes to convenience stores and fuel stations. I tried my first one last Friday from a stand on campus. This is a peppered-steak meat pie. It included mushrooms and gravy of course. I love me a good crust and this was delicious. I’ll have to keep it as a once every-now-and-then sort of meal though. All that gravy and flaky delicious crust will kill me! Forget calories, I've got to figure out kilajoules now.  

 Now, some of us Americans may still drink Ovaltine or other variations of chocolate milk powder. Here is the Australian equivalent:
Milo is a malted barley chocolaty-ish drink my Aussie roommate enjoys in a glass of milk. Haven’t tried it yet but likely will.

If you’ve been to Australia and read this far down, you may have noticed I have excluded two of the biggest or perhaps most memorable Australian foods: Vegemite and Tim Tams. Never fear!

Vegemite is a spreadable condiment derived from yeast extract. It is very salty and has a strong, miso type of flavor. It’s usually mixed with butter and spread on crackers or put on sandwiches with peanut butter. (I wonder if they call it a PB&V? I must find this out…). I have tried it on crackers but have not tried the PB&V yet. Of course, I’ll have to try that, just once at least.
Alas, I do not have a picture of Tim Tams for you… They are a delicious cookie (“biscuit”) common throughout Australia. I love the dark chocolate variety. If you ever get the chance, you must try a Tim Tam but be careful! It’s like eating a potato chip: You can never have just one.

Finally, I may have mentioned before that there are actually kangaroos that live in trees. Behold the tree kangaroo!
He wouldn't face us but that's a kangaroo!
This guy is sleeping in a palm tree. The closest object was at least a ten foot jump. I would have loved to see him get up on that branch.

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