Food Investigation

Meppel Travel Blog

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Vegemite

One might not necessarily define culture as food, but as food can be defining in what we are and how we look I though it worthy of comment. It seems to me that each race of people and in many different places have ways that define who they are. Some beliefs are based on religion others certain values, to me I believe food can be defined as begin one part of the being that can almost without doubt decide what and who we are.

As we grow up much of what we become is gained from those around us and the culture we experience in our lives through what we experience, where we are and who we are with. Food to me is one of the factors that can and will define much of this. Sometimes when we simply mention a certain race or try and define a culture many thoughts come to mind and for many these can be thoughts of food, after all it is a necessity to eat and therefore live on this planet.

Cucumber Sandwich
.. unless you are on a fast that is. So just the mere mention of a culture race or country can already have us defining who they are by the food they eat or how we associate them with what they are and where they are. Take for instance if I mention Japan or in fact many parts of Asia, the image that I suddenly think of is rice and chopsticks which I am already thinking that many of you automatically thought of.

When Patricia and I lived in Australia we decided to share our house and home with people from different countries and help them understand us and vice versa, we did this through a program at the university where young students would travel to our country and learn English at the University and be placed with families and lead the life they did as a part of the family.
Hagelslag
The ages of these students varied from about 16 through to there early twenties and most of them were from
Asia. We would cook dinner for them and let them live with us and be part of our family. What really opened my eyes around them was how many of them had never even experienced what I would describe as a western culture. Dinner time really pointed this out when you would see many of them trying to use a simple utensil like a fork the way I have become accustomed to using one. I had never really thought about this, but in there upbringing it was normal to use chop sticks, not a piece of metal with prongs. I know it sounds simple enough, but take the time to think! How many of us have tried to eat an Asian meal with chop sticks and sometimes even failed and had to ask the waiter for a fork?

So what is it that has defined us this way? It is the culture around us which includes how we are raised and who and what is around us. These students would have thought of nothing strange to be eating with two wooden sticks even from an early age, it is just what was exposed to them and instilled in their being through their culture. And in much the same way the food they eat has had this effect. What I have experienced in my short life is by no means extensive and my thoughts are not the be all end all of every definition of culture, it is merely a refection of what I see. When we live in an environment we are by no means bound by anything, but contrary to that there are certain factors which will inevitable and even no matter how hard we try still affect us or be part of us and how others see us.

If I was an American (and no offence, but thank you Mum and Dad for being second generation Australians, although if they were second generation English then me being able to obtain an English passport would of been much more helpful in my current situation, but that's another story all together!)... Where was I... that's right American... undoubtedly the phrase, " These pretzels are making me thirsty" would of become second nature to me and the thought of putting peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich would not seem so wrong. And by the way, jelly in this instance doesn't mean the good old Australian wobbly dessert food with the flying airplane singing "I like Areoplane Jelly" it means jam. Just as the Americans are famous for this they are also famous for such things as McDonalds and " Finger lickin' good"... I'll leave the later to the imagination but for those of you not familiar with that phrase you don't have to send the kiddies to bed, if refers to friend chicken! Even the all famous hotdog and ball game are common.

But that all said, if I was English things would be entirely different, apart from all the obvious things like driving on the opposite side of the road and waving like the Monarchy with a fist almost ready to catch rain. I would be accustomed to the fine odd " cup a tea, luv" where for once it is customary to put this white stuff called milk into the drink and not bee scorned and ridiculed for actually liking my tea somewhat cooler and a white looking colour. I would also be able to enjoy eating strawberries with jam and if really lucky I could be on the lawns of
Wimbledon basking in the "summer" sun enjoying the odd cucumber sandwich while ducking for the covers every two minutes to avoid the drops of rain. For breakfast everything has been ordered by the guy that failed the nutrition part of medical school and in particular the part about which fats are good or bad for you and I'd be served up the ugliest, however oh so tasty, fried eggs, bacon, sausages and tomato that one could possibly see through all the fat luring around as reminisce of the main cooking ingredient... that being fat! The bad kind no doubt... and this breakfast must be avoided at all costs if you've just spent the previous night partying with royalty at the swankiest bar in town.

All this said, the Australians are very proud of what they call "Dinkie Di Tucker". Not only do we eat almost every national animal with great luster we even have towns coined as such things as, the "Beef Capitol of Australia" and even a state that puts the bend in Bananas? As for all things big and grand, the Aussies much like the Americans enjoy everything big... from the big Mango to the big Pineapple or huge Merino... not only the distances can be immense. The have also become quite the alcohol consumers in the world with a per capita consumption of beer up there behind only the Czech's, German and Irish (not accounting for that brown almost sludge like stuff they make in Ireland), but more so the Aussies have even harnessed the by-products of the beer making process to harness a power that can turn even the worst of hangovers into a delight for Dean Martin! From an ingredient in beer the yeast which makes the alcohol and bubbles the Aussies have invented the second, maybe the third behind one nights stand reason for beer...the extract that makes the one and only Vegemite! In one mere spread of this tar looking solution which honestly has a foul smell, the Vitamin B has glorious effects on the body. With double the vitamins in the same serving as counterparts such as peanut butter when used properly this commodity is a god send. There is never nothing to eat in the house as long as a trusty jar of vegemite is present and as my mum used to say... well if you are so damn fussy just have a sandwich with vegemite... which I commonly did!

 

Let me see… who I haven’t offended yet… oh yes my current country of residence, Holland more commonly called the Netherlands, home to the Dutch! Now here is a country, which has seen the way the rest of the world do things and decided to be a little daring and do things a little different. Well know for their love of cheese I have expended my taste buds beyond the realms of which it was accustomed. Thank you good old Kraft for being so nurturing in my previous years, but the Australian choice of either Cheddar cheese or the good old fashioned singles has now been surpassed. I have been introduced to many things new and different from stuff with blue mould on it to stuff that smells even worse than vegemite. Most of these actually taste quite decent and provided they are eaten with the right crackers (Nuc bacon ones are the best) they go down quite well.

 

The strangest thing I have experienced is the way the Dutch eat there sandwiches… it is more like a ritual than just having something to eat. It is quite common to eat all together at such times as lunch and although it isn’t done all the time, there is this way the Dutch do it. First you assemble every one at the table followed by everything they could possibly want to eat. This will involve at least 4 types of bread, from white, to brown with various bird seeds, some soft some hard and crusty. Along with this is at least two types of cheese, cut directly from the cheese market in Edam, into a “V” shape, the two choices of cheese will be young and old ( I thought this always applied to someone’s age… but I have learnt differently). Apparently each cheese has a different taste and texture??? Apparently!!! Each of these cheeses is encased in a hard crusty shell, usually red or orange which is first cut of with a cheese slicer… somewhat like a potato peeler actually and then slices of this cheese is somehow peeled off and shared around. Add to the cheese at least one serving of American Fillet spread, which as far as I know the Americans don’t eat, but basically it is a raw mashed up meat suitable for spreading on bread?

 

Then also is the customary Hagelslag… which I can’t fathom. Basically it comes in various forms and colours depending which time of the year it is (If it is either the soccer season or the Queen’s birthday it will be orange) but other wise it is dependant on the chocolate of choose…  they are actually sprinkles of chocolate, so you will get a Melk, normal chocolate, Puur, the dark chocolate, a mixture of the two or even flakes of chocolate. It does taste OK on it’s own, but the Dutch prefer to slap a but of butter on some bread and then sprinkle it on the bread in copious amount and then make sure it has stuck to the bread by moving it all around leaving no part of the bread viewable. To eat the marvel one must then get a knife and slice the bread from top to bottom and then from side to side to make little tiny squares, some what like you mum used to do with meat or even sandwiches when you were a child. And please don’t make the mistake of putting a top on the sandwich, which would ruin the effect of all the chocolate sprinkles. And of cause there is a special Hagelslag for the kids, this is basically a coloured assortment of sugar based sprinkles used the same way, but with a very special effect. It’s all quite fun and games for the kids… but in my opinion and I speak here as a father of two children that already have enough energy as it is, but why would you want to serve up almost pure sugar on bread to worsen their already electrified bodies? At least Vegemite has vitamin be in it which is healthy.

 

Oh and let’s not forget the customary glass of milk that accompanies lunch or the 8pm Coffee time which must be adhered too under all circumstances. Oh and if anyone has had a baby recently be prepared for Mice… the customary way of introducing a new child with family and friends is to provide a yummy snack on a piece of crusty round bread known as Biscout, with the appropriate coloured mouse, yes blue for boys and pink for girls, which is actually coloured aniseed sprinkles.

 

Now if it’s the evening and you want a snack you can’t go past the ever popular snack bar where everything and I mean everything, including the hamburgers are deep fried. Not to mention the famous Crocket, a delightful tool for burning the mouth of an unknowing stranger that you may hate. It appears as a sort of crumbed sausage but in fact is a usually brown paste type stuff that I am told is minced sort of meat encased in crumbs which of course is deep fried and much the way a microwave heats from the inside yes the Crocket is steaming hot on the inside… so be aware that you might burn your mouth or as is a customary way to eat this place it on an unbuttered piece of bread take a fork and mush it into the bread spreading the mush all around… you are allowed in this case to use a top for the bread, but you must eat it with a knife and fork.

 

The point I’m trying to make is that each area or country has there peculiar traits or foods, and like it or not, it is part of who they are and their culture. Just please keep in mind that it isn’t their fault it’s what they know and if you are in doubt of anything make sure you rely on the good old jar of Vegemite that you have packed in your suitcase!

Sunflower300 says:
Didn't you ever go to a party when you were little and have fairy bread?
In Germany I use to eat Nutella well before it was ever imported to Australia, my Oma would send a couple of jars every Christmas. I had a friend once who introduced me to apple sandwiches, and I have never looked back.
Let’s not even mention some of the more interesting national dishes, i.e. Guinea Pig in Ecuador.
We might eat our coat of arms here in Australia, but at least they are not on the endangered species list.
I love this blog. Thanks so much for putting your thoughts down for us to read and have a giggle at.
Cheers
Elke
Posted on: Jul 06, 2008
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Vegemite
Vegemite
Cucumber Sandwich
Cucumber Sandwich
Hagelslag
Hagelslag
15,890 km (9,874 miles) traveled
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photo by: Stevie_Wes