An Australian man found it hard to accept American attitudes towards Australian cuisine, describing our food as “boring”.
I just got back from a trip around California and the southern part of the American South – the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
And I was shocked that I didn’t get charged for extra baggage for all the extra kilos I had accumulated, Escaped reports.
This is not a criticism. Eating five figures of calories each day is part of the United States vacation experience. I love American food. It’s amazing – especially Southern food. And even Southern Cajun food in particular. Crab cakes. beignite; Biscuits and syrup. Catfish and red fish. étoufée – spicy shrimp stew. Cheese grits, butter lobster, carrot cake, banana filling, jambalaya. Not to mention all kinds of burgers, nachos, tacos and moules. This will all send you to an early grave but it’s all delicious and you only have to do it once in your life.
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But what I find a little more difficult is hearing how Americans feel about our food.
I’ve heard time and time again that Americans reject Australian food – usually from people who have never been to Australia, but sometimes from people who have.
Americans seem to think our food is too boring and undervalued. Or it is basic, background and derivative. Or we simply aren’t a country that understands much about food at all.
This is stuck in my crawl (fish).
In California, a hotelier told me, “Australian food is so boring. It’s not exactly a food country, is it.”
I was shocked. Boring? Australian food is never boring. It’s just more conservative.
Obviously I’m generalizing here because both the USA and Australia take their food influences from hundreds of different regions and cuisines but there is a very clear overall difference.
Australian food looks to minimal ingredients, often fresh or fermented for its flavor – fresh herbs, lemon and lime, miso, and chili. Restaurant bowls in Australia tend to be small in size, beautifully composed and elegant.
While American food? The mantra is: “Why do we use five ingredients when you can use 29?”
I saw him over and over again wherever I went, from Los Angeles to Louisiana. A typical menu text would be: “Lean smoked brisket sandwiched between two double orders of crunchy brisket topped with fried jalapeños, cheddar rings, pico, sour cream, and two eggs your way, finished with house-made barbecue sauce and green onions.” Then add some sides. Maybe a cake, some syrup and grits.
It wasn’t bad. It was amazing. But they were many. And don’t make your face-smashing attacks of flavor (which tend to be fairly one note) our relatively low-key food—which focuses on technology, subtle discrimination of flavor in any way.
Interestingly, Alabama, one of the southernmost of the southern states, is starting to eat more Australian-style food. Oysters are native to North America, but until fairly recently, southern states had grown their own wild oysters, lured from the silt in the bay. Oysters tend to be large, which means they are not good for serving raw. Instead, they get the full American treat — either served with rusk and fried, or piled with cheese and bacon and grilled.
Now, many oyster farmers in the region have traveled to Australia to learn about the “long” oyster farming method that was invented in South Australia and that we’ve been using here for decades. It allows farmers to better control their stock and grow oysters that are smaller, more manageable, more delicate and better to eat raw in one gulp – for example the way most Australians eat oysters all the time.
So, Alabamians may have, for the first time, begun to see oysters on their menus served the restrictive Australian fashion, often with a little Mignonette sauce or lemon juice. I was thrilled when I saw this on the Mobile Alabama menu myself, and even more so when my Alabama buddies tried their first ever raw oyster and declared it ‘delicious’.
I don’t like to say “I told you so” – but maybe eating the Australian way now and then isn’t boring after all.
This story originally appeared on Escape and has been reproduced with permission