How do you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’re from?

When people ask me why I do genealogy, my answer is invariably, how do you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’re from? 

The future need not be a preoccupation for the past to be relevant to your current life.  For me, genealogy – family history – is not a dry, dusty or obscure hobby.  It informs the very life you lead today.

To one degree or another, we are the products of our family.  Whether we like it or not, our parents inform a very large part of who we are.  Our beliefs, our fears, our ambitions… all have been influenced in some part by them.  In turn, their beliefs, their fears and their ambitions were in some part influenced by their parents and so on.

My grandmother was in south London during World War II, when the Luftwaffe taught her to fear.  Fear the sound of sirens, fear the future, fear for her parents.  She and her sisters were sent to Wales while her parents stayed in London during the worst of the bombings.  They spent time in an orphanage and the girls never knew if they would see their parents again.  I heard this from my great-aunt, as my grandmother has never talked about the War.

My grandmother is not a woman who talks of consequential things.  She does not hug.  She doesn’t speak of emotions.  She is a friendly lady but keeps things ever so proper and light… when she’s not creating a new drama around herself.  I love her but, like all of us, she’s a complicated personality.  My great-aunt, her twin sister and polar opposite, said many years later that some of this was to do with their experiences as children.

My mother,  not knowing of my grandmother’s experiences, only knew that she had a mother who didn’t show love in a conventional way.  Growing up, she saw a capricious woman, who played favourites with her children, who kept secrets and stayed remote.

Myself, not knowing my mother’s and grandmother’s experiences, could never understand why, when I knew my mother loved me, she would laugh when I came to her with a problem.

Today, I often find myself a self-deprecating personality who often makes jokes at my own expense to make others comfortable and who finds it very hard to tell people how I feel.

I agree it is a long bow to draw to say that my personality shortcomings can be laid at my grandmother’s feet due to her War experiences but I can see that we are all the product of our upbringing to a degree and, with hindsight and history, I can see that my grandmother probably still holds great fear, particularly of losing family and perhaps has kept people distant for partially that reason.  That my mother, with an undemonstrative and unemotional mother has in turn found it hard to process emotions herself and, to this day, is not the best person to speak with when you have an emotional crisis.  And I, in having at least one important person in my life laugh nervously at my various attempts to talk to her about my emotional crises as an adolescent have found it difficult to share them with others in my adulthood.

This is not a blame game, more a fascinating line of inquiry.  I am the way I am partially down to genes, partially down to environment and partially down to chance.  But, in pursuing my hobby, I’ve learnt how my grandparents grew up, and how their parents grew up and how their parents grew up and this context allows me to see them and their personalities in a whole new light.  My other grandmother is a ferociously strong woman, independent to the point of belligerence – did it have anything to do with the fact that her father left them when she was young?  That she had to practically raise her younger sisters because my great-grandmother had to work so hard to bring in enough money?

One of my great-grandfathers loved the army life so much that, even after surviving the Great War, he signed up for the Second World War – even going so far as to lie about his age and claiming to be 10 years younger, so as to be accepted for enlistment.  He was having a difficult marriage, which was probably more than half the reason for his going, but was his love of a structured life also in any way informed by the fact that he was an illegitimate child of an unknown man, whose mother married and had another family, sending him away to live with his grandmother?  That kind of uncertainty… was purpose and security something he found in army life?

This is rank speculation but something I find fascinating nonetheless.

In my research of family history, I’ve found ancestors who were wounded in the Crimean War, who went as missionaries at the turn of the 19th century to India to convert the Indians and who, in 18th century London, held up a carriage at gunpoint and were tried for highway robbery – and only escaped the noose because they were 16 at the time!

I’ve “met” ancestors who lost their father, husband and siblings all in one year, who plied the waters of the Thames as Watermen, families who worked meagre lives in tenements of 19th century Birmingham and then emigrate to a new life in Australia.  Mothers who saw all their children emigrate to Australia and America, fathers who saw sons follow in their footsteps and children who failed and succeeded.

What specifically brought this post on is a letter I read today.  Sometimes, in your search for your family, you are given a very rare and special opportunity to meet them for real.  Primary sources are usually in the form of birth certificates or marriage registers.  In the case of my convict ancestors, I can read their trials, which is very special.  But letters… they are gold.

I want to share a letter I read, written by my great-great-great-great grandmother, Rebecca Caroline.  She was born by the Thames in Deptford and her father was a Waterman.  She married a greengrocer, John Morris, and all of her children – bar one – emigrated overseas; most to Australia, but one to America.

At the time of her writing, only two of her daughters have left – she does not yet know that within the space of a few years, she will have seen them all go (save for one daughter) and will spend the rest of her days worrying for them, pleading for letters from them and trying to be part of their lives through the tyranny of distance, in a world where Australia is not a 25-hour flight away but months by boat.  Such are the limitations, she has to tell her daughter Sally, who is in Australia with her sister Betsy, about their father’s death by letter…

October 22, 1850

My dear Children,

I received your welcome letter Sept 28th and it has much added to my grief to find you was there without a friend or any one to assist you or a home for you to go to and a thousand times I wish that you had not left us.

I am extremely sorry to inform you your dear Father from the accident he met with in the Minories never held himself up again, his side under arm was much hurt and formed at last into a Black Cancer from which he never recovered.  I buried him at St. Georges Southwark.  He was eight months ill and kept his bed six weeks and I am happy to tell you the Almighty wrought in him a blessed change.  He never ceased praying for six weeks night or day while he was awake his prayers were nearly always about his Girls and that he should never hear from them again while he was alive nor he never did for he died on the 14th November 1849 and I received your first letter the 26th December 1849.  

My dear Children I am happy to find that you have seen the roughest of your days and I am happy to hear that you have now a home of your own.  My dear Children I am now left with nine to provide for and a very hard struggle I find it as I have been very ill myself suffering from a wounded leg and am under the care of a third physician.

But thank God I am much better but you would have been a great assistance to me as the books is half my trouble as the business has increased and would be more so if it was better attended to.  I still keep the six cows and still carry on the shooting business as George your brother is the strapper, John Morris have left home before his Father’s death, his treatment was worse and worse.  My dear Children – you seem to wish us to come out, how could I come out with all my children as I am getting a crust here for them and a hard one it is almost more than I am able to bear.

My dear Children I live in hope to assist you if I have good shooting orders this season as it does not lay in my power or as you must know you and Besty leaving home and your dear Father’s death in one twelve month.  When your father went up stairs I had only £2.10.0 in the world and out of it I paid the physicians one pound, so I leave you to guess what position I was in.  My dear Children I should like to have you over if I thought I could get you a living as I could look up to Henry [Sally’s husband] as a father and instructor to the children.  I shall put William and James to a trade if it lays in my power next summer as Betsy says that no one is any use much at your Colony without a trade.

Do write as soon as possible my dear dear Sally, I am glad that you have got out of your trouble as it caused me great grief when I heard you had no one but strangers about you.

But that Great friend above us the Almighty which I hope my dear Children you will both look up to as I have found him a husband to the widow, and a Father to the Fatherless I shall remember 1849 while ever I live first you and your sister were torn from me and your poor Father died and your Aunt Olett’s youngest boy with Cholera, poor Old Gray Chapman and Mr Chapman.  Mrs Frederick Phillips of Consumption, her two children are very well.  She was ill 12 months.  Robert Leakey’s wife’s confined and got a nice girl.  Polly Smith is still staying with Capt Jones at Peckham.  Mrs Sterry and Mrs Greenwood are sorry to hear of your troubles and think you ought to have gone on to Port Phillip with Mr Whitby.  My dear Children I wish I could once see you in England again as I think you might do better.  I conclude my dear Sally and Henry with the sincerest love that a mother can bestow and I hope you will have health wealth and prosperity so no more at present, from your Loving and affectionate Mother, R Morris.

My ancestor was Sally and Betsy’s brother, George, mentioned in the letter.  He later emigrates to Australia, followed by a sister Carrie who comes to Australia on her own at the age of 17 as an indentured servant to a family in Tasmania (the only way she could afford the trip to Australia – she is later freed).  They are followed by another brother, James, and then another brother William.  Finally, their younger brother Andrew comes to Australia – again, on his own – and spends his months searching for news of his family by posting wanted notices in the local Melbourne papers.  He makes contact with Sally but has no news of his brothers.  At the age of 17 and working at a slaughterhouse in Victoria, he accidentally shoots his leg and dies of infection, alone – stranger in a strange land.  His mother would a year later write him, still unaware that he had died.  Rebecca herself remarries and gives up the grocery and shooting business (they provided pigeons to hobby shooters in London) that her first husband established.  Her children do mostly well and George eventually grew up to own significant land and interests in northern Queensland.

For me, the letter offers a fascinating insight into a family far removed from my present and yet connected to me nonetheless.  Even more so now that I have experienced emigration first hand.  I used to work on Minories and, until today, had no clue that one of my ancestors suffered an accident there that would ultimately lead to his demise.

Her concerns are so real and so modern – she worries for her children and how she’ll pay for the bills.  She works to provide for her family, works to set up her boys in trade so they’ll be of use in Australia and have a better life, even if it means she’ll never see them again.  As a student of history, her letter reminds me again that life has not significantly changed in the millennia we humans have walked this earth.  Only the details.

My last award was a “thanks for trying” pennant at the school kayak race

Don’t you just love school?  Awards for over-achievers, awards for middling achievers and awards for those who just showed up.  Or didn’t.  They got one too.  Honestly, kids, savour your school years.  It’s the last time you’ll be congratulated for your mediocrity.

Unless, of course, you take up blogging, in which case some very kind people might also award you with a little something for your efforts, paltry though they may be.  I do appreciate it guys – thanks for reading and thinking that it’s not crap!

Going straight to the pool room is my Sunshine Blogger award, from Rarasaur, whose blog I have a deep crush on.

Under conditions of the award, five things about myself:

1. I have shot an AK-47.  This is my ‘wilds of Kentucky’ story, which ends with no limbs lost except maybe an old tree’s.  And established that I couldn’t shoot myself out of a barn.

2. I may be a crap shot with a gun, but I am a crack shot with a bow.  I don’t know how I wasn’t able to transfer skills between weapons but it just goes to show you can’t take anything for granted.

3. I was 19 before I saw snow for the first time and I can’t adequately express just how excited I was about it.

4. I was 27 before I saw my first squirrel, an event which made my first snow experience oh-so-humdrum

5. I actually like devon/luncheon meat (I think Americans might call it baloney).  On a sandwich with tomato sauce.  OH MY GOD.

I’m also asked to nominate 6 bloggers but I don’t know enough people for that so, here’s 6 more things about me, in keeping with the conditions of the Liebster award, kindly awarded to me from Ned.

6. When I bungee jumped, the only thing that I could think about (asides from ‘holy crap, what a dumbsh*t thing this was to do!’) was how weird it is that, for the first time in my existence, I wasn’t touching anything.  Think about it – even when standing, you’re connected to the earth.  It’s such a strange feeling when all that is absent.  And yes, in the split-second I had that thought, the following thought was congratulatory in nature for being so “deep”.

7. Have you ever seen someone stare at you as they walk past and toyed with the idea that they’re tourists from the future, back in time to see you before you saved the world/became awesome?  Because I haven’t.  No sirree, not me…

8. I can’t enjoy Channing Tatum movies as much as I’d like to because he looks like my brother.  It’s really, really annoying.  Although I guess the real shocker there is that there is someone in this world who likes Channing Tatum movies.  But I do.  I stand by it.

9. I can’t use my real name on the internet because it’s unusual and is named after a character in one of the ‘big’ books of sci-fi.  Asides from keeping the boss off my internet trail, I stopped using it when fanboys started emailing me just to talk to someone “who’s from the book”.  I’ve read it, people, but I can offer no insights into her character.  Sorry.

10. Wild dolphins are awesome but they frighten the bejesus out of you when all you see is a triangle fin heading your way.  Also, trying to run out of the ocean is both difficult and hilarious for viewers.

11. I secretly think I’m a good singer, which is why I should never be encouraged to do karaoke.  It’s bad for us all, especially me when I see video the morning after the night before.

 

Ned also asked some questions he’d like answered.  Your wish is my command:

1) Why do you blog?  Boredom is one, also probably loneliness if I were being desperately honest.
2) If you could have one person in particular, living or dead, real or fictional, read your blog, who would it be?  I have sat thinking about this question for 10 minutes and I still don’t have an answer…
3) What childhood game or activity had the biggest impact on you?  Barbies.  It’s not until now that I realise how much of my girlhood was training me to be a homemaker 😛
4) When something great happens, how do you celebrate?  Dinner and a movie would be ideal.
5) If the world had to be ruled by either cats or dogs, which would you choose and why?  Cats.  Dogs don’t have the ruthlessness it requires.
6) If you could play the lead role in any movie you’ve seen what would it be?  Sam from 16 Candles!!
7) If you had to eliminate one technological achievement, what would it be?  None of them.  I’m all for technology.
8) Name a pivotal point in your life.  The day dark chocolate entered my life.
9) What is your favourite candy or treat?  Chocolate, my dark mistress.
10) If you could visit a time in history, when would it be?  1700s, just so I can wear those dresses!  Anyway, this is too hard a question for a History major.
11) If Ben & Jerry named an ice cream after you, what would it be called?  Berry Chocolatey.

 

 

The perils of womanhood: hairdressers

What did Kermit the Frog say?  It ain’t easy being green?  Hah!  Try being a girl.

I’m not saying men don’t have their problems – steaks don’t just eat themselves you know.  But the pitfalls of womanhood are many and manifold.  Behold, I give you:

HAIRDRESSERS: And why it really is a bloody chore.

Hairdressers would like you to think that they’re here to help you.  To help you look your best.  To boost your confidence in a way that only a fabulous ‘do will do.  Oh no – their true purpose is to carefully orchestrate your ruin.  By the time they’re done with you, you’re exhausted, poor and, if you’re lucky, only feel mildly cheated rather than totally ripped off.

It starts with The Talk.  Their brilliant pasted-on smile as they come sit down next to you and pretend to listen to you while you explain what it is that you want from your next haircut.  They nod robotically as they ruffle your hair and explain to you in pseudo-science that they know how to get the best from your thin/thick/frizzy hair.  They enthuse over how “fabulous” they’re going to make you look; they completely understand what you want.  Don’t you worry!  They’re professionals.

Next is The Wash, where you’re handed off to a minimum-wage minion who comes in one of two flavours: a) surly and begrudging or b) overeager and annoyingly chatty.  As life would have it, I usually chance upon Flavour B.  So, got any plans for this weekend?  Oh my god, you’re going to LOVE your new look.  Oh my god, I love your shoes.  Oh it’s soo busy today.  So what’s your plan for today?  And on, and on it goes.  I try to have patience until they start repeating questions, usually what my plans are for the weekend.  They really seem to love asking that one.

Phase 3 is The Wait, finished off with The Badmouth.  You sit and sit while your hairdresser finishes off someone elses cut and you wonder why they bothered booking you in for this time in the first place.  Some magazines will be dropped in your lap and you entertain yourself while you silently drip.  The hairdresser will then flounce along and spritz your now-dry hair again, whilst tut-tutting over the condition of your hair.  This usually takes the form of the Badmouth, where they ask who cut your hair last, forcing you to defend your last rubbish hairdresser to your current one (he did his best!  / it’s been so long since I got it cut / I trimmed my own fringe because it was getting long, so it was me, really).  My favourite part is when they start badmouthing the person who cut your hair last and you tell them it was them (this has happened to me twice and it never gets not funny although the joke, sadly, is really on me). 

And so, we finally get to The Cut.  By now, you’ve been sitting in the chair for well over half an hour and just want to get on with it.  You become alarmed by the amount of hair dropping on the floor.  You become concerned that you do not have a proper understanding of what a 1cm ‘trim’ really is.  Raising your concerns is an exercise in futility.  You can remind them that you just wanted a trim, at which point they’ll nod robotically, paste that smile on and say they understand and go back to exactly what they were doing before.  You might try again and they’ll sigh, give you that faux-patient smile again and say don’t worry, it’s going to be fabulous, and go back to exactly what they were doing before with nary a pause in the lopping of locks.  Hairdressers cannot be reasoned with.  They cannot be bargained with.  They absolutely will not stop: until your hair is at least 2 inches shorter than it used to be.

The final stage is The Hard Sell Finish.  This is where they blowdry and finish your hair using lots of exotic potions and lotions that you simply must buy because it’s such great value and you’ll only need such a small amount that it lasts forever, thereby justifying the eye-watering cost.  You smile politely and shake your head and say no thanks, while the hairdresser harumphs and makes you feel like a cheapskate who clearly wants crazy cat lady hair, despite their heroic efforts.

You then survey those efforts and discover they’ve reinterpreted your requested chic bob into shorn pixie.  You then pay double the price than the guy next to you with longer hair does, because you’re a girl and should be duly punished for having a uterus.  You leave just feeling grateful that they haven’t ruined it so much that you’ll need to work from home.

You vow to never darken their door again and swear to yourself that you’re going to grow it; envisioning long, luscious locks that tumble effortlessly around you.  But, mark my words, in 4-6 weeks you’ll be back.  Ends splitting, follicles frizzing and locks that, far from luscious, resemble that crazy cat lady you clearly always wanted to be.

So, can anyone recommend a good hairdresser?

P.S. I have been very kindly nominated for some blogger awards – I appreciate it guys!  I’ll post about those next.

This is where I had my lunch yesterday…

Beach

 

And this is what I had for lunch:

Fish and chips

Crumbed cod, potato scallops and salad to make us all feel better.  It was amazing.  I don’t want to gloat too much (oh, who am I kidding) – check this out!:

Beach

Let me paint you a picture – blue skies, cerulean ocean, gentle waves, pristine white sand, the sticky smell of sunscreen, the lapping of the water and gentle whoosh of the waves.  Paradise.

My only goal for the day (asides from stuffing my face with fish) was to wrinkle in the sea.  The most energetic thing I did (again, asides from stuffing my face) was a gentle stroll along the beach.  Paradise.

Despite the heat (we’re sweltering in a mini-heat wave over here), the beach was busy but not packed – plenty of room for everybody.  The sea was gentle so the lifeguards were kicking back and relaxing, some Nippers were training and enjoying being in the sun, while the surfers tried to make the best of what little waves there were.  Families were in the park, barbecuing up sausages and steaks.  Little ones were paddling in the shallows with their parents, getting to know what will become an integral part of their life: the beach.

Australians don’t have the market cornered when it comes to fabulous beaches but it does play a huge role in our lives and our psyches.  There is a cultural trope in Australia about the ‘Aussie battler’ and outback living – a vestige of our past that we treasure but which no longer reflects the lives of most Australians who now live in or near a major city.  We have no farming heartland like America does – we’re the same size as the continental US but most of the Australian interior is desert, so most Australians (along with most of our capital cities) live along the coast.  The beach and the water flows through our veins.

I can’t remember the first time I was at a beach: it’s always been there.  We live it, love it and breathe it.  We holiday there, we celebrate there and we while away countless hours there.  And on days like yesterday, it’s a wrench to tear myself away from there.

beach 2

Life happens… where to begin

It’s been a busy week – finishing off my temp assignment, going to interviews, pondering the many pitfalls of a long-distance relationship and, oh yeah, I have baby eggplants that have appeared.

Where to start.

The interviews were positive – two of them were just agency interviews, which is usually a whole lot of hoo-hah and not much else.  However both these agencies had actual roles that they wanted to put me forward for, which makes them better than average.  In better news, though, I got a call back from a law firm I applied to directly who had a paralegal job going.  It was a great interview (there’s an oxymoron) and I left feeling very positive about it – and really, really wanting to work there if only to use their subsidised in-house masseuse (oh the luxury…).  Anyway, I got a call back this morning asking me to meet with the partner of the practice division I’d be working in if I got the job.  It’s all set for tomorrow morning.

Of course, life wouldn’t be life if everything was going absolutely according to plan.  My other half is still in the UK, coming to grips with the idea that life in Australia is a) better than England and b) better than England.  Going from living together and being in each other’s hip pocket to Skype calls is a huge challenge, not least because I have no idea if he’s even coming out – and he’s been thinking it over for almost a year now.  He can be as intractable as… something intractable… and no amount of evidence, logic, cajoling, pleading, threatening or any other action seems to have any effect on him making a decision.  It’s maddening and not altogether confidence-inspiring.

In lighter news, however, I’m the mother of brand-new baby eggplants.  They are the absolute apple of my eye:

Also, CAPSICUMS:

In our next installment, Australian beaches: a study.  Plus either a really positive post about how great a decision is was to move out to Australia because I’ve got that job and everything is all falling into place… or a post about how you can never count on things turning out the way you thought they would 😛

Glam metal Mondays: Pour Some Sugar On Me

Have you noticed how many great rock bands are English?  I always knew the obvious ones (The Rolling Stones, Beatles… if you can call them rock, etc) but there are so many 80s bands (pop and rock) that I assumed were American (because isn’t everything?) only to very lately discover they’re English.  Def Leppard is one of them and, like many of these English rock bands, hail from England’s North.

(Maybe everyone knows this and I’m the only one who’s clueless here but it was a bit of a revelation.)

This is an absolute classic rock song that you can’t help but singalong to.  Before we get to it, though, lets consult our glam metal checklist:

  • Big hair?  Check
  • Relaxed man-perms?  Check
  • Catchy hook?  Oh yes

Can’t say I approve of the bogan jeans look, although Rick and Steve are making a valiant, stylish 80s effort.  Anyway, who can criticise the band with the Thunder God (even if he is wearing shorty shorts)?  Certainly not me.  Also, special shout out to Joe Elliott’s massive mullet.  Not quite a Billy Ray, but impressive nonetheless.

This started out as a post about parties but ended up being about food

I really do think with my stomach.

Today at my (temp) office, they had a morning tea to celebrate the birthdays of all their employees born in November.

In England, when offices do something like this, it will always be sweet – probably a box of Krispy Kremes and a chocolate mud cake.

In Australia, you’ll still get a cake but a party ain’t a party and a morning tea ain’t a morning tea unless there’s a pie in there somewhere.  In fact, we even have a version of pie called ‘party pies’ (more on this later).

So, as I was scoffing the the party pies and the sausage rolls, I got thinking about food.  Not surprising.  I think about food all the time.  At breakfast, I’m imagining lunch and dinner.  At dinner, I’m remembering yesterday’s breakfast and planning tomorrow’s.

By rights, I should probably be about 100kg and rolling everywhere.  My brother is a personal trainer and he thinks I put away a lot of food for a girl (I protest this greatly – I’m a normal size!  But he might be right).  I think my saving grace is that, due to my father’s fatal heart attack before he was 50, I’ve been very aware of healthy eating (the occasional pie and sausage roll notwithstanding).  So, I may eat a lot but it’s not rubbish and the bike takes care of the rest.

Anyway, I’m getting way off track here.  I got thinking about food and Australian food in particular.  As a nation of (mostly) immigrants, we don’t really have a native cuisine like they do in, say, Italy or Greece.  Or so I thought.

It was only when I was in England that I started noticing that they didn’t sell the foods I was used to… and in many cases, hadn’t even heard of it.

So I present to you:

AUSTRALIA’S nATIVE FOODS

(Small ‘n’ since native is a bit of a misnomer – however, as I’m not up on Aboriginal food cuisine, it will have to do)

  • The party pie.  It’s a pie.  It’s small.  It’s perfet for parties.  Simple, really.  Australia has a real pie culture and, if you want a definitively good pie and find youself in south-east Queensland, then may I suggest Yatala Pies.  I never go to the coast without a pit stop and I’m pretty sure everyone else in Queensland does the same thing.
  • Cheerios.  No, not the cereal, which we don’t have here.  Instead, I’m talking about mini frankfurters.  The link takes you to a pic of them (scroll down a bit – thanks Google Image search).  Found at every Aussie child’s birthday since time immemorial and always served with tomato sauce.  One of my favourite memories as a child was when we visited the butcher and he gave me one for free.  Score!
  • Rissoles.  Like a burger patty, only not.  Basically, it’s mince mixed with various flavourings (onion, garlic, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, etc), an egg (to bind) and breadcrumbs.  My mum swaps breadcrumbs for rolled oats – it’s healthier and makes the meat go further.  Always served with gravy on top and mashed potatoes and green veggies on the side.
  • Corned beef.  Ok, I know you have it in America but in England they don’t eat it (except for tinned corned beef, an inedible abomination which is definitely not what I’m talking about).  The exception is the English Jewish community, but they call it salt beef (and I say this with some authority since I had a big long discussion about it with my old boss who is Jewish.  See, I even talk food at work).  In Australia, we boil the corned beef in water with vinegar, sugar, bay leaves and a clove-studded onion.  Always served with white sauce, boiled potatoes, pumpkin and greens.
  • Pumpkin.  And I don’t just mean Butternut Squash.  Pumpkin is not eaten in the UK (asides from Butternuts) and, in my few visits to the States, I never noticed it there either.  Pumpkin is HUGE in Australia.  Every supermarket will have at least three or four varieties: Jap (aka Kent), Queensland Blue and Golden Nugget.  Australians boil, mash and roast pumpkin and the skin on many varieties is edible (Butternut skin is lovely).  The flesh is thick, very smooth and creamy and tastes sweet.
  • Lollies.  In the UK, ‘lollies’ means lollipops.  In Australia, it means soft, chewy deliciousness.  Like gummi only not rubbery.  There are raspberries, strawberries and cream, pineapples, mintiesjelly babies, snakes, killer pythons (snakes only bigger and thicker), teeth, milk bottles, chico babies, mint leaves…  The list goes on.
  • Vegemite.  This is an obvious one and something I’ve blogged about before.
  • Lamingtons.  Basically pound cake cut into squares, dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in dessicated coconut.  Variations include cream filled and jam/cream filled.
  • Damper.  Like a really big scone.  Reputation as ‘bush tucker’ food since you can make it on a camp stove/over a fire.
  • Anzac biscuits.  A biscuit (cookie) primarily made out of oats and golden syrup.  So named (I think) because they were sent to ANZAC soldiers (Australian & New Zealand Army Corps) during both World Wars – they keep very well.  Recipe here.
  • Cheezels.  Delicious snack that can only be eaten one way: you must put a cheezel on each finger (like a ring) and eat them off.  I’ve been doing it that way since I was 4.
  • Lemon myrtle.  Ok, now we’re getting properly native.  This is a native shrub with the leaves used for (you guessed it) lemony flavour.  Often bought as a spice mix or part of a spice rub.  Rub chicken in it!
  • Barramundi.  A native fish – incredibly popular and delicious.  A recipe here.
  • Moreton Bay bugs.  A native lobster.  They look like they’re from an alien planet but, I’m told, are great eating (I’m not really into lobster, so I’ll have to take my countrymen’s words on it).  Easy recipe on how to use them here.
  • Beetroot.  Not unusual around the world but here in Australia we put it on burgers and sandwiches.  Top tip if you’re putting it on your kid’s salad sandwich for lunch: blot with kitchen paper.  It saves a whole lot of soggy pink bread.

Oh Australia – I’m so glad I’m home!