I’m a barbie boy…

March 4, 2010

We’ve all heard the phrase “throw some shrimp on the barbie” (which is incorrect, because shrimp are actually called prawns here), but why does one of the biggest Aussie stereotypes revolve around the Australian barbecue?

It’s because they’re everywhere here.  During orientation week, there were barbies everywhere serving free food and heaps of people waiting to get some hamburgers and snags (sausages, which are particularly good here) on white bread (no hot dog buns or hamburger buns here).  Of course no barbie food is complete without a smattering of tomato sauce (that’s ketchup for you Amuricans…our tomato sauce is their tomato paste…and I’m still trying to figure out what our tomato paste is in OZ).  And curiously the hardware for barbies is more often a flat top than a grill with grates and charcoal.

We had a barbie in the courtyard the other night for Arni’s birthday.  Along with the snags, steaks, chicken breasts, and kebabs (pronounced the way its spelled, NOT “kebobs”) that Arni brought, I made some kangaroo steaks with mango salsa.  Yum.

My 11th floor U.S.A. crew (plus Kah Ngee) enjoying the food.  For once, WE were the obnoxious people in the courtyard 😛

Can’t wait for another barbie!!

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No Reservations is my absolute favorite show on the Travel Channel.  The premise of the show is Anthony Bourdain, a New York City chef who’s seen the good and the bad of the restaurant industry, travels around the world to eat the best that each country or city has to offer and tries to understand what makes up their food culture.  He’s also a chain smoker and a borderline alcoholic, which makes the show very entertaining.

Naturally, when I go to a new city I watch the episode of that city and follow his food trail.  When I was in Chicago last summer, for example, we hit up Hot Doug’s and Avec and both can’t be missed if you’re in the city.

But I digress.  Bourdain’s tour of Australia starts and ends here in Melbourne, the food capital of the country.  (Did that have anything to do with my decision to study here?  Maybe.)  The first No Reservations destination I visited was the Queen Victoria Market, just a 15 minute walk from my apartment.

Known as Queen Vic by the locals, the market spans several blocks and includes an indoor butcher/fish monger stall area, a deli section with wines, coffees, cheeses, meats, and bakeries, an outdoor produce section, and a huge flea market area complete with souvenirs, no-brand clothes, and more food.

There are also “foodie tours” where you can sample some of the offerings in the deli section, pictured above.

My first trip was during a weekday, so it wasn’t as busy.  But around closing time the vendors will do anything to get rid of their goods for the day: the produce stalls will sell huge bags of slightly worn fruits and veg for just a dollar, and the meat and seafood are heavily discounted.

Luckily I was able to catch the last night of the Summer Night Market (yes, summer is just ending here). Same venue, just with live music, more food stalls, and as you can see, heaps and heaps more people.  I reckon there were so many there because it was the last night.

For dinner I had a Shiraz Sangria (my favorite red) and basically a “tourist plate”: a kangaroo burger, grilled crocodile tail, and emu sausage.  The burger was excellent, though I can’t wait to try roo straight up (we’re throwing a birthday barbie tonight so I plan to grill off some steaks).  Croc was okay, but nothing special.  And the emu…well it was kinda stinky.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to hit up more Bourdain spots and make another trip to the Queen Vic.

I love Tim Tams.  So do all Americans.  Every American I’ve met is pretty much addicted to Tim Tams.

According to Wikipedia, a Tim Tam is “composed of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate.”  Think of them as Australia’s answer to the Oreo.  But there’s heaps more flavors than Oreos: mint, hazelnut, honeycomb, dark chocolate, black forest…

Yes, they’re that good.  Which leads me to my next point…I gave up Tim Tams for lent.   All my friends think I’m seriously crazy, but luckily I’ll still be here after lent is over.  Also I was able to pull a little stunt called the Tim Tam Slam before I decided to give them up.

Here’s the original:

And here’s our attempt:

I’ve heard you can find them in U.S. because my sister did the TTS there, but I have no idea where to find them.  But I suggest you start looking.

Had a pretty full day yesterday.  Started out with a quick trip to the Queen Vic Market, went to St. Kilda’s beach again to work on that tan (fewer jellyfish this time!), saw some short plays at the Union House Theatre, and went out to Pugg’s Irish Pub for a few drinks.

But I think the highlight of my day was a trip to Princes Park for a pre-season footy game.  That’s Aussie rules football, a game similar to rugby/soccer/American football.  Basically the point of the game is to kick an oval ball through two posts, and there are different points depending on which ones you shoot through.   There are rules regarding how far you can run without touching the ball to the ground, tackling, etc, but it’s a pretty easy game to follow.

The footy field is a large oval with goals on either side.  If the ball goes between two taller posts in middle its a “goal,” which is 6 points, and if it goes between the outer posts its a “point,” which is 1 point.  See those kids in front of us?  They were pretty amused by us Americans.  Story of my life here.

My attempt at an action shot.  Not really sure what’s going on, but it’s a pretty fast-paced and exciting game.  I had to leave early, but apparently a guy ran up and jumped off an opponent to catch the ball.  Pretty epic in my book.

Kah Ngee (on the far left) is a Carlton fan so that’s how we ended up at this game.  I definitely plan on going to another one and I’ll try to take a better video this time.

Off to the Crown Palladium for dinner and drinks tonight, and possibly a little gambling.  Tomorrow we’re trying to do a day tour of the Great Ocean Road (a stretch of beaches and hiking).  And Monday…classes start T_____T

Bloody lifts…

February 25, 2010

The lifts have been out at Unilodge for the past few days.  I live on the 11th floor, which means an incredibly long and tiring climb up the fire escape stairwell (especially for us fat Americans, which seems to be a common stereotype here).  One upside though is the great view we have of Melbourne and the CBD.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good shot without the safety caging for the fire escape, but I guess it’s there for a reason yea?

The next morning, and the lifts were still broken.  The large dome in the center is the Melbourne Museum, and the launchpad-looking thing to the left is the museum’s IMAX Theater.

Off to St. Kilda’s beach again tomorrow, since summer is officially coming to a close.  After all I’m still pasty from the U.S. winter…

Take care everyone!

For some reason facebook won’t let me upload any pics.  It’s not google chrome’s fault (although it seems that fb and chrome don’t get along sometimes) since I tried firefox…I think I’ll just blame the crappy Australian internet. I’m paying $35/month for 5 gigs in my apartment, and any free internet you find in Melbourne is excruciatingly slow.  Even the Wifi on campus is capped T_____T

Well without any further ado, here are just a few pics from my first week here.  More to come once facebook lets me.

My apartment building, right across the Uni and with a tram station right in front connecting to the city.  Sure beats Valentine Place lol

Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) or downtown as we call it, and the Yarra river that lines it.  Still haven’t decided if Melbourne’s skyline > Chicago’s…

MUSEX night at Turf club.  Like I said, SOOO MANY AMERICANS.  And internationals.  I met zero Aussies that night.

St. Kilda’s beach, about 20 minutes by tram from Melbourne.  More of a bay than a beach, which meant only a few waves and heaps of jellyfish.  Also the wind was ridiculously strong that day, which resulted in some painful sand attacks while we were tanning.  Now I know what “windburn” and “sandburn” are.

A glimpse of the Melbourne Uni campus.  It reminds me a lot of Cornell because its a mix of historic and modern buildings.  It’s also really spread out like Cornell so I’m still learning my way around…

Going out to the pubs with the Sri Lankans on my floor and a local from Perth.  Woohoo for meeting Aussies!

Alright I’m off to go do a bushdance and eat some Kangaroo meat at a barbie.  Later!

A Little Late…

February 23, 2010

Ok I guess its a little late to be doing a “first impressions” post since I did arrive almost a week ago, but better late than never.

A brief summary of my week so far: I spent the first few days settling in and just exploring Melbourne (which I do everyday), had an exchange student orientation last Friday and met ‘heaps’ of people (even someone in my Food Chemistry class!), went to St. Kilda’s beach on Saturday where there are tons of ginormous jellyfish, made my second trip to Queen Vic Market (the huge farmer’s/flea market) yesterday, and today I visited the Kraft R&D Center and saw where Vegemite is made!

So yea it’s been a pretty eventful week…tomorrow is the orientation week (or ‘O-Week’) for the rest of Melbourne Uni so I’ll get a tour of the campus, figure out my schedule, and see what clubs I wanna join.

Here are a couple first impressions of Melbourne and Aussie culture:

There are sooo many Asians here. When I got here literally half the people I saw were Asian…like Vancouver.

There are sooo many Americans here. Most of the people I met in my building at first were Americans. There are also lots of internationals, and I’ve met people from places like Lithuania, Jamaica, Malaysia…the list goes on and on. I’ve only met one Aussie on the floor above me and a couple Aussie ‘freshers’ at orientation.

I could run around this city all day. There are so many great parks to run in, and every street takes me somewhere new. One mistake I made while on a morning run: using a water fountain. For some reason they’re all really strong and I got hit right in the face. But it happened to a friend to so it’s not just me.

I can’t decide which side to walk on. This has led to many awkward dances with Aussies and walking down the up escalator once.

The coffee is amazing here. Instead of drip or percolated coffee, the standard is a ‘long black’ which is similar to an Americano but better (they call a straight espresso shot a ‘short black’). It’s also really expensive though. Melbournians are really big on breakfast so there are tons of cafes around the city too.

Aussies are really nice…even in Chinatown. Case in point: I was shopping for an unlocked cell phone in Chinatown and wasn’t sure if I should buy one in a store. The owner suggests that I shop around because I can always come back. Wait…she let me get away?

Australian English isn’t the same as American English. I’m still getting used to all the little nuances. I’m also really conscious of my American accent when I speak too.

That’s all I can think of for now…I’ll be posting pics on facebook once it stops screwing up.

Oh and if you’re wondering about the blog title:

(my dad made me use it to carry my cash on the plane) and

(Natalie Tran on Community Channel…a fellow Aussie!!)

Hope you guys are well!

Hello world!

February 21, 2010

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