Friday, September 18, 2009

Australia - Beer, fun and beautiful accents

I’ve never been to Australia and I don’t know much about it other than they have kangaroos and koalas. My step-father was there recently and he said the women are hot, and my friend from South Africa said a lot of South Africans immigrate there. For me, oddly, most of my encounters with Australians came from Burma. My parents lived in Burma when I was in college and my friends and I would go to the Australian Club in Rangoon on Friday nights. The Aussies didn’t seem to mind that we were underaged. It was there that I drank too much and jumped into their pool forgetting that I was wearing my new watch that my mother gave me – and it wasn’t water proof.
I remember a crazy party at the house of an Australian Embassy secretary. There were lots of boozes, dancing and games. We danced in a darkened room, that had been cleared of furniture, until someone screamed because they spotted a scorpian under our bare feet. That was the night I hooked up with a handsome young American doctor who was passing through Burma. He was with the Doctors Without Borders Program, or something like it. The Australian secretary was not pleased as she had had her eye on him too.
And I will never forget one particular Aussie – a man with a large gut – who volunteered to dress up as Santa Claus for the Christmas party, at the American Ambassador’s residence, and he arrived on an elephant smelling like beer.
Beer. Fun. Beautiful accents. That’s what I think of when I imagine Australians.

Australia is the world’s 6th largest country and its largest island. It is the only island that is also a continent. It's the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef.
Between 30,000 and 50,000 years ago, the Aborigines arrived. Their presence in Australia is not easily explained as they have no evident racial or linguistic kinship to the countries in the region. But, unfairly, history rarely starts until a European has discovered it. For many, that came with the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770 - even though he is wrongly credited with discovering Australia (Asians were there hundreds of years before and a couple of Dutch seamen stumbled across it). But Cook claimed it in the name of the British. Cook, known as one of the greatest explorers, died in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians in 1779.
One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony because their correctional facilities back home were overcrowded. Australia may be the only country that started out as a prison.
Australia also has some interesting creatures (besides kangaroos and koalas). Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are from Australia ( A fact my son John appreciates. He loves snakes and if he finds one he will pick it up, and he has brought snakes home on several occasions. He even got bit once and we had to rush him to the hospital). This certain past time of my son’s would be unwise if we lived in Australia.
It would be unwise for him to pick up most creatures in Australia, as the paralysis tick and the tunnel web spider, are just a couple of examples of Australian’s lethal critters. Another interesting fact: Eighty percent of all the plants and animals that live in Australia exists nowhere else.

Dinner tonight was Beer Batter Fish and Chips and Pavlova for dessert. Let me just start out by saying that I hate frying food. Every time I do, grease flies everywhere and I always get burned, and at the end of it, I always feel like a big greasy blob. Well, tonight was no exception. And while I was making this beer batter fried fish I was watching Dr. Oz’s show about what to eat to live longer. I’ll be willing to bet that eating beer batter fish is not one on his list. All of us liked the fish except for John. I thought that was a bit amusing. He loved the Armenian whole fish (with head and all) with mint and parsley, but I fry him up some fish and he doesn’t like it.
The Pavlova was beautiful, though a bit too sweet. I asked Julia what she thought of it and she said, “Let’s just say it’s different.” She’s so diplomatic.


4 fish fillets
2 cups plain flour
salt and pepper
10 1/2 fl oz beer
oil for deep frying

Dust fish fillets with corn flour. MIx flour, salt and pepper, add beer gradually, stirring well until smooth. Dip the fish fillets into batter. Cook in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Serve with lemon, tartare sauce and hot chips.


4 egg whites
1 cup super fine sugar
2 tsp vinegar
1 TBSP corn starch
half-pint whipped cream
Fruit - kiwi, strawberries, blueberries

Place egg whites in a bowl. Beat slowly until frothy, then increase the speed and beat until stiff. Gradually add the sugar, beating well after each addition. (When all the sugar has been added, the mixture should be shiny, very stiff and should stand in peaks). Gently fold in the vinegar and corn starch with a spoon.

LIne a cookie sheet with parchment paper and grease it lightly. Pile the meringue mixture to form a cylinder. Preheat the overn to just under 300 degrees. Bake the Pavlova between 90 and 105 minutes. When done, cool, and top with whipped cream and fruit.

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