I’m home! After having the pleasure of spending the latter half of 2017 in the wonderful country of Australia, I’ve had a few weeks to re-adjust to life in this hemisphere and reflect on my time abroad. Don’t get me wrong -- I definitely missed some parts of home (pumpkin pie, anybody?). However, the Aussies were onto something in more ways than one, and we could certainly learn a thing or two from our Pacific ally when it comes to their general attitude towards food.
It’s the little things:
Nearly every person who travels abroad returns with this sentiment in mind, but it’s indicative of how out of control the portions have become in this country. Once, as we were flying around the back of an open-faced truck in Thailand, one Australian woman told me about her complete shock the very first time she was served breakfast in America. To her, the idea of a plate stacked with pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast was simply implausible. Her future strategy said it all. “From then on, I custom ordered my meals.”
Interestingly, I don’t remember feeling like my meals were any smaller when I arrived in Australia. On the contrary, I had the same experience as the woman I mentioned earlier when I ate my first meal back home (granted, it was in the LAX airport, but the sentiment holds). This is especially true when it comes to coffee -- I simply cannot understand the size of American coffee cups.
At Starbucks, the smallest conventional size is a “Tall,” which holds twelve ounces of liquid. In theory you can ask for the eight ounce version known as a “Short,” but this only applies to hot beverages and is only available at some locations. I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but in Australia I was never drinking anything more than six ounces, and in some cases as small as four. I miss this terribly -- the ratio of foam, milk, and espresso matters for these drinks! The taste is just never quite right in the bigger sizes.
Variety is the spice of life:
I will admit, I have a tendency to dislike foods that the rest of the world is completely on board with. This includes avocado, salmon, and most of all eggs (gasp!), which has historically made brunch a big challenge for me. But there are few places in the world that do brunch as well as Melbourne, and at some point I had to get over my apathy towards eggs in order to keep up with the times.
Long story short, after a few failed orders and some coaxing from friends, I discovered that eggs are tolerable (this is an improvement) when they’re poached! They’re still not my favourite food, and it’s unlikely that they ever will be. But what’s important to me is that I expanded my palette to a different food and consequently a novel ratio of key vitamins and minerals, all while spending my mornings with a happy heart and a full stomach.
The reality of it all:
I once overheard a group of vegans discussing their frustration regarding the availability of vegan “alternative” snack foods in Australia, and how lucky Americans were to have such a plethora of options. Ironically, it’s my personal opinion that the Australians are fortunate to have a lack of processed snacks, thereby forcing them to focus on natural, whole foods for sustenance.
As a necessary disclaimer, Australia definitely has problems of its own when it comes to obesity and processed foods. The ideal diet comprised solely of “real food” is just as elusive in Oz as it is over here. However, their general attitude towards snacks and confectionary is reflected in the fact that grocery stores are simply smaller overall than they are in the States. The produce, meat, and dairy sections are roughly analogous to the US version, but there aren't as many aisles of synthetic “food” stacked in between. It’s a subtle concept, but the message is loud and clear -- whole foods reign supreme.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed nutritionist nor a registered dietician. The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and each individual is ultimately responsible for his/her dietary and nutrition practices. Please consult a physician before starting a new dietary program