There’s no shame in admitting that we all love a bloody good snack. Although we try to do our best to consume as responsibly and ethically as we can, we all stumble along the way. And who could blame you? These food corporations own your mind after all and aggressively assault your senses with a constant barrage of delectable imagery and irresistible sound bites. Even the most health conscious come crawling back into the dark, depraved depths of a snack addiction.
No country has quite the proliferation of snack products as the U.S.A but when it comes to quality, I’m nominating Australia as the rightful heir to the throne of Snackdom. Let’s not forget after all that behind the toned and tanned facade of Australia, this is a nation facing a serious obesity crisis, with well over half the nation’s population being considered overweight or obese.
It’s not hard to see why. Australia is a nation obsessed with its food. It consistently produces some of the best chefs and restaurants in the world and on the other end of the scale has managed to force fast-food giant McDonalds to bend to the will of their palate, forcing the company to create McCafe and ‘Create Your Own’ in an ever growing failure to retain this food-pampered country’s custom.
But whilst all this talk of world-renowned restaurants and huge fast food consumption is all well and good, the true Aussie experience is to be found in the world of snacks. There’s a lot to be said about the cultural importance of food and dining to a sense of national identity, but what about those small, magical moments of high-calorie respite that lighten up the monotony and labour of everyday life?
Here’s a few of the snacks we’ll miss the most from our time in the Sunburned Country.
If you’ve never been to Australia then you are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. This was a fact that really struck my heart when I was talking to my Dad about this particular cream and realised that unless he made an unlikely trip down here, he would probably never taste one of these for himself. Harrowing.
The access to good ice creams is something of an Australian birth right. In a nation this hot and dry, nothing can help maintain your sanity quite like a good creaming. And whilst there’s plenty of options out there, this one is just unbeatable.
Soft serve toffee and vanilla ice cream encased with milk chocolate and coated with a generous coating of crumbly honeycomb biscuit.
When the sun is blazing, grab a mate and grab hold of one of these bad boys. Because as the tagline goes “It’s hard to have a Gaytime on your own”.
You’ll have to just take my word on this one. When I first landed in Australia I developed something of an addiction to these little corn-based, burger-flavoured bastards.
Make no mistake, this is the kind of snack that will leave you feeling dirty and empty after you’ve devoured an entire packet in the space of ten minutes but the euphoria of that first bite is worth all of it. An incomparable crunch and inexplicable taste explosion will keep you coming back for more until you awaken from the frenzy clenching the empty packet and coated in a thick dusting of burger flavoured dust.
The snack is a subsidiary brand of the American based snack food giant, Frito-Lay, a company who have given unto the world such snacks as Doritos, Walkers (Lays), Cheetos and Fritos among others. Burger Rings are a minion among these titans of the fried snack world, but don’t we all love an underdog story?
Every nation has its heritage brand chocolate biscuit. That staple lunchbox snack that brings light to those long, sterile days at school or those reliable dipping warriors, plunging valiantly into the late afternoon cuppa.
In Australia this national hero comes in the form of the Tim Tam.
The biscuit consists of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, intersected by a light chocolate filling and coated in smooth milk chocolate. A fairly standard biscuit, no pretensions here, just old reliable.
For the English readers the Tim Tam resembles something close to the P-P-P-Penguin. In fact the biscuits do have something of shared history. Tim Tam’s creator, Ian Norris who was Director of Food Technology at Arnott’s, took a trip to the UK and upon tasting the Penguin biscuit decreed he would make a better one upon his return Down Under. Whether he did or not is a matter of international debate but what he did do was create a national icon.
No Tim Tam experience is complete however without the Tim Tam Slam. Sometimes the traditional method of biscuit dunking won’t suffice and down here in Australia, they taken things to the next level.
By biting off two opposing corners of the biscuit you are able to suck the hot beverage up through the biscuit like a straw. After a while the biscuit inside absorbs the hot liquid causing the outer chocolate casing to melt at which point you scoff the thing into your gob. A veritable slam dunk in the truest sense of the term.
After a lot of deliberation, both on the basis of whether or not it meets the criteria for a snack and on the basis of national pride, I decided Vegemite had to be included in this list.
For a long time I was adamant that Marmite was the only yeast waste condiment for me but after nearly two years in Australia and an endless barrage on my taste buds by its thicker, darker cousin, I fear I might have slipped through to the other side.
The salty spread was born from the dark days of Marmite shortage in Australia, the importation of which diminished in the light of the First World War. And from the ashes of a British import a homegrown Phoenix was born. And since then the stuff has become something of a national symbol for independence and the idea that Australia can not only stand on its own without the crutch of the British Empire but perhaps even exceed it.
I’m sorry Britain but the Aussie’s have done it again.
Fried Dim Sims
One thing we absolutely do better than our Australian counterparts however is Fish n’ Chips. Despite protestations from Aussies about our chips being too greasy (that’s the whole point you ignorant heathens) and the quality of our frozen cod being incomparable to their freshly caught Flake and Flathead Tails, there is just nothing quite like a British Fish n’ Chips.
However saying that, the Australian Fish n’ Chip market does excel in an area where the British do not and that is in the plethora of side order and snack options. In Australia you can expect a whole range of deep-fried accompaniments, from potato cakes to pineapple slices and even deep-fried Dim Sims.
These are not Dim Sims as you’ve come to know and love however. Like the Burger Rings this is a snack that leaves you with a deep feeling of regret and existential torment after consumption. It’s oozing grease and once you break through that crunchy exterior you’re faced with some of the most suspect, mystery meat you’ve ever encountered in your life but who cares when it tastes this good?
So don’t come here for the fresh, local caught fish. Instead load up on these deep-fried, imported parcels of mystery meat and enjoy the darker side of the Australian Fish n’ Chip experience.
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Picture the scene. You’ve been driving for days through the dry, arid desert in temperatures exceeding 35 degrees. You have water in the car but at this point it is mostly warm and the only thing that breaks the relentless nothingness are the small roadhouses that line the highway at intervals of several hundred kilometres.
You fill up the tank and pray it gets you to the next town. You head inside to settle up and then, out of the corner of your eye you catch a flash of sunburst orange from the drinks fridge. Further inspection reveals the small stubbie of a Bundaberg Ginger Beer and your gaze fixes as a trickle of condensation runs tantalisingly down the bottles surface.
Flash forward 30 seconds. You sit in the car, which in the space of just two minutes has turned into an oven. But before you turn the key and start the air con the cool bottle in your hand compels you to act. You pop the ring pull cap of your newly acquired refreshment and in that one sip you are transported thousands of miles away from the brutal isolation of the desert, you find yourself on a tropical beach in Northern Queensland watching the sun set over the vast blue of the Pacific Ocean.
Suddenly the next 200 hundred kilometres don’t feel too bad at all. You are reinvigorated, ready to face the world.
This ladies and gentleman is the refreshing power of the Bundaberg Ginger Beer.