A General Store near Gloucester, New South Wales, Australia
When you're on vacation and you happen to be allergic to pretty much every common food in the world, you tend to spend a lot of your time procuring, preparing, and eating food. This can be massively frustrating, but I found that Australia (at least the hippie inhabited east coast) is a dream for the allergy inflicted. Sydney is full of insanely cheap and delicious Thai food which M. and I enjoyed while staying in Newtown. We also discovered that lamb is abundant and quite reasonably priced in Australia and seeing as lamb is an expensive luxury in Canada we may have gone a little nuts. I think it's possible that I ate an entire lamb during my three week stay. We frequented numerous butcher shops and treated ourselves to rosemary lamb sausages (that I'm pretty sure M. is going to think about and drool over for the rest of our lives), lamb steaks, and lamb chops. One night in Port Stephens I literally ate nothing but a giant lamb steak for dinner. It was rather unrefined. There I was with a paper plate on my lap eating a huge lamb steak with my hands, dripping lamb juice all over everything, washing it all down with wine, and thinking that life was awesome in that gluttonous moment. In terms of food we returned to the basics--everything went on the barbeque. We ate a diet consisting mainly of meat and grilled vegetables and fish that were swimming around in the ocean just hours before we ate it.
In Coff's harbour we stopped at a fish co-op where we purchased thick tuna steaks, seared them for about 10 seconds on each side, and ate them essentially raw at a public picnic spot near the ocean. I got to thinking that those sharks I'm so terrified of are treated to an exceptionally delicious sushi dinner on a daily basis. It's no wonder that sharks aren't actually keen on eating people. They have fresh tuna to dine on--why would they want my leg? This made me feel vaguely better as I imagined sharks discussing the quality of their ocean buffet and eating with chopsticks. Our seafood adventure also included pounds of fresh prawns that we viciously devoured after grilling them and tearing off their heads. I can tell you now that prawns are surprisingly ugly creatures and I wasn't having any trouble dismembering and eating them until M's brother's girlfriend started making her prawn talk.
"Eat me, eat me...I'm delicious" said her prawn. While the spectacle of a prawn with bugging dead black eyes begging to be consumed was extremely amusing for all I had a slight amount of trouble eating prawns after that. This was reinforced after we travelled through Yamba where we saw a famous giant prawn. The giant prawn is located on top of an old fish co-op and is slated to be torn down very soon. The whole thing was surrounded by fences and demolition equipment so we counted ourselves lucky to see the absolutely massive and totally ridiculous prawn on top of the building.
I tried kangaroo in Sydney. M's mother took it upon herself to make a kangaroo meatloaf and it was actually quite good, though somewhat astringent. There was a sharp flavour very unlike beef under the initial taste. It wasn't unpleasant but definitely not familiar. I was grateful not to have to rip off the kangaroo's head before eating it. While I can manage destroying fish I don't think I would do so well with mammals. Later in our trip we saw a field full of at least 2 dozen kangaroos and they looked so peaceful and lovely that I felt a bit guilty about having eaten one of their brethren.
For drinks we filled up on local wines and soy chai lattes. After stopping at a few cafes I was surprised to find that LSD was a common menu item. Initially startled about this I quickly discovered that Australian cafes are not in the habit of doling out hallucinogens in their coffee, but do make a soy latte out of dandelion root (Latte Soy Dandelion--a bit of a stretch to create the acronym I think!). Once I conclude that ordering LSD would not be illegal or in any way cause my brain to explode I gave it a try. I wish now that I could find the same thing in Canada! I don't even really know what was in it but LSD was delicious, with a rich ochre colour and a fascinating nutty flavour, kind of like walnuts. It was initially bitter, but had a pleasant sweet finish and I was deeply intrigued by the whole concoction. If anyone knows where to get such a thing in Vancouver I would be obliged. Apparently what it does have in common with the drug is an addictive quality.
Australian cafes are also notable for frequently having gluten free bread on offer, which made me very happy. I managed to have a delicious, warm, thick, soft piece of raisen toast at a cafe that made me remember how satisfying bread can be. I also found a loaf of fruit bread at an organic grocery store in Byron Bay along with vegan fudge bars made out of nuts, dark chocolate, and coconut milk. The problem with encountering such an abundance of food options is that I feel obligated to try everything I can eat on principal and this meant that I ate a lot. A LOT! I'm hoping that the wedding dress I ordered will still fit. I will not be going near a scale anytime soon.
And so my culinary excursions in Australia were deeply satisfying, exciting, and sometimes surprising. Though I am happy to be home now where food is famililar and I don't have to go through the process of trying to figure out what's in food I'm ordering at a restaurant and I don't have to read every label I encounter and I won't have to rip the heads off of anything for awhile.