You Never Lamb Alone

Did you know Aussies love lamb? In fact, in 2010, roast lamb was declared the national dish by popular vote. It is a beloved Sunday night ritual, the roast lamb dinner. The roast lamb is typical prepared with rosemary and served with potatoes and other roasted vegetables.

Naturally, lamb gets a lot of media attention and some humorous advertising. Here’s the latest from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

I like the ad, but where’s Sam Kekovich?

For 10 years, Sam Kekovich has been the “Lambassador”. He’s been warning Aussies on Australia Day of the dangers to the Australian national identity if it doesn’t eat lamb. Who could forget the Barbie Girl commercial?

Alas, after 10 years, Kekovich may have retired from his lambassador position and opened the way for a new body of creative ads, or perhaps we have to wait until Australia Day to see more of him.

I never ate so much lamb until I came to Melbourne. How about you? What do you think of the MLA commercials?

Tastes Like Home

Image: DTTSP

Image: DTTSP

Today’s prompt in the Expat Blog Challenge is, “Tastes like home.”

I’ve blogged quite a bit about Melbourne food and dining out. It’s not that I don’t enjoy food here; I do. I especially like trying new restaurants and new foods. I’m a hopeless optimist. No matter how often I am disappointed by food and restaurants, and that’s quite often, I still keep at it, believing that it might be better next time.

Almost nothing in Melbourne tastes like its counterpart in Miami. Pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, cheeses, coffee, pasta dishes, steaks, cocktails – none of it tastes the same. Only American commercial foods such as McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Coca-Cola taste alike. That aside, nothing tastes like home, nothing.

My partner Theo insists I can find everything in Melbourne. I can’t find Cuban food. I can’t even find the ingredients to cook Cuban food at home. My mother sends me Cuban coffee and some spices. I attempt to cook arroz con pollo (yellow rice and chicken) and picadillo, but they don’t taste the same. I haven’t bothered to attempt making Cuban bread, pastelitos, or desserts. And, oh, do I miss it.  Cuban food, that which I ate nearly everyday for more than 30 years, is now something special, something I look forward to when I return to Miami for a visit. I want to fill my belly with it at every meal as if I could store it and bring it back with me like a chipmunk storing nuts in his cheek pouches. The only thing I bring back are extra pounds.

This is one of those expat experiences that local people are astonishingly insensitive about. In part it’s because, I’ve discovered, many Aussies think American food is crap and Melbourne’s food is far superior. Let’s pretend that’s true. Even so, how would they feel if they could no longer drink their favorite beer or coffee, or eat their favorite pizza or souvlaki, and they couldn’t find anything like the lamb or sausages they’ve been eating their entire lives? Would they be so flippant then?

What flavours from home do you miss?

Melbourne Restaurants

Image: DTTSP

Image: DTTSP

Today’s assignment in the Expat Blog Challenge is to write a restaurant review.

I recently wrote about dining out in Melbourne. It’s not very often a pleasant experience for me and my Aussie partner. It’s too crowded. It’s too noisy. The portions are small. It’s so expensive. The service is mediocre. I need water. I need a napkin. By lemonade, do you mean a Sprite or lemonade?

Nevertheless, I enjoy dining out because I like trying new restaurants and I still hope to find that restaurant with that mouth-watering dish I can’t get enough of and that perfect little cafe with the barista who knows my name and how to make beautiful coffee art. And because there’s little more that I enjoy more than a good conversation with a good friend over coffee or a nice meal.

Rather than a single restaurant review, I’ll mention a few places in Melbourne worth checking out.

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Tips for Dining Out in Melbourne

A laneway in the CBD lined with cafes.

A laneway in the CBD lined with cafes.

Earlier this week I wrote about how despite the fact that both Americans and Australians speak English, we sometimes speak different versions of it. Similarly, we both have lips and tongues and teeth and tastes buds and we probably equally enjoy meeting our friends for coffee and eating out, but dining in Miami and dining in Melbourne are very different experiences. Here’s a little guide to eating out in Melbourne.

I’m certain that Melbourne has some exquisite restaurants, the kind with maître d’s with French accents and mustached men that place a fine linen napkin on your lap for you. I don’t go to those restaurants. I’m talking about your average cafes, pubs, and restaurants, the kind that line the many fabulous laneways in the CBD, the kind where you meet your friends and book club, not your Japanese business client.

The first thing to know is that dining in Melbourne is, for the most part, not a quiet, private affair. Many cafes and restaurants are tiny, with tables very close together, and long tables where different parties sit together. Be prepared to hear almost every conversation going on except yours.

The second thing to know is that you don’t need to tip. Servers here earn a normal wage and do not depend on tips. You can leave a tip if you want, but it’s neither necessary nor expected. This is good for the server, but not so great for the customer. It is highly unlikely you will receive the kind of restaurant service you’re used to in the USA.

Truth be told, dining in Melbourne is always something of a mystery to me. I haven’t worked out all the rules and the adventure begins on arrival. In some restaurants, you should wait to be seated while in others you can just walk in and sit where you want. The problem is I can never tell which is correct at most eateries. You’d think there’d be a sign, but, more often than not, there isn’t. So, ask if you can go ahead and sit or if you should wait to be seated.

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