31 December 2003

US Knowledge for Australians

Cake Walk – you may have heard the phrase, “It’ll be a cake walk” to indicate that the task will be very easy. We actually experienced one at a Church day organized at the Ogburn’s church. Basically, you have all the participants wander around a circle marked with numbered circles. When the music stops, the organizer picks a number out of a hat. If that number is yours, you get to win the prize – a cake! Easy peasy and very tasty.

Parish Directory – Our local church has a “Parish Directory”. We did not know what it was, but now we know. It contains a brief history of the parish in words and photographs of the previous year, followed by a photo of every family that makes up the parish with their names. Then there is a list of everyone’s address and contact details. Basically, it is the parish spotter’s guide. We are now able to rush to our book and answer the question, “Who was that person we were talking to?” After all, everyone knows who we are. We are “The Australians”.

Pizza – Pizzas vary depending on where you are in the US, but locally, they are quite different to Australia. The two most common varieties are Cheese and Pepperoni. That is, the base, tomato paste and then just cheese, or cheese and pepperoni (salami). A “specialty” pizza is Hawaiian (Ham and Pineapple). The typical Australian Pizza with LOTS of toppings is a rarity. We had a Hawaiian pizza the other day. Our friends commented, “That’s a lot of toppings!” whilst we looked at each other and said, “Is that all they put on?”
An interesting, yet tasty, pizza is the BLT pizza. Basically, you have the base, tomato paste, cheese and bacon pieces cooked. Once out of the oven, you add the tomato and lettuce. Sounds odd, but is very tasty.

Boiled Peanuts
– A local delicacy is boiled peanuts. Signs abound on roadsides advertising “Boiled P-nuts”. We finally thought we would stop and try some. In an old drum, over a wood fire, are peanuts boiling away in salty water. The peanuts, through their shells, absorb the salt and they turn soft. The local rule is that whenever you eat a boiled peanut, you open the shell, suck out the nut with a big slurp and drop the shells onto the ground, saying, “It’s all natural”. I think we are too used to peanuts being crunchy to appreciate the softer texture of the boiled peanuts.

Sorghum Syrup – In the early days of this area, sweeteners were derived from the Sorghum cane. It is similar in consistency to Golden Syrup, but is darker and has a more molasses/malty taste. This is very tasty on hot buttered toast. When we couldn’t find Golden Syrup, we substituted Sorghum syrup in ANZAC biscuits (cookies). They tasted quite good, just a bit different.

Vidalia Onions – These are grown locally and are peculiar to the specific soil found in Southern Georgia. They are sweet and do not make your eyes cry when they are peeled. One of the local restaurants has an Onion Ring loaf made using fried crumbed Vidalia onion rings shoved into a loaf tin. Normally David avoids Onion Rings because of their bitter taste, but the Vidalia onion rings are very tasty. But the rule is you must pronounce their name properly – Vie-Dayy-Lya in a Southern accent. Unfortunately, they are only around in summer. Next year we will stock up.

Butter – In Australia margarine is a viable alternative to butter. It tastes similar and can be used the same as butter. Here the margarine tastes completely different. We tried many and can’t recommend any. The butter comes in a box with four sticks, each equaling 8 tablespoons. Many US recipes actually suggest using 1 stick or half a stick, rather than using ounces or spoon measures. We now just use butter for everything.

Chocolate - In general, Australian chocolate (i.e. basic Cadbury Milk chocolate) is far superior to any of the standard fare here. We have performed taste tests with locals both here and in other states, and the results still come back the same. “Let me try some more of that Cadbury’s.” Some of the US chocolate bars are very nice, including “Zero”, “100 Grand”, “Baby Ruth”, “Poppers”. The last are small balls of larger chocolate bars, such as Kit Kats, Snickers, Three Musketeers (Aust. Milky Way), Milky Way (Aust Mars Bar) among others. It is not very easy to say no to just one.

Food overall – As part of our service to all you strangers to the US, we are constantly trying different foods with varying degrees of success. Vegemite is known due to the song by “Men at Work” with the phrase “Vegemite Sandwich”. Very few actually knew what it was, but they know the term. If we are allowed to apply it correctly – that is not like peanut butter – on hot buttered toast, the reaction is favourable. Unfortunately, it is just one of those things that is unavailable here.

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