Monday, August 27, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Various Australian Animals

     Several months ago, in my post about vegemite, I referenced my 2004 trip to Australia/New Zealand.  Today I’ll return to it with the topic of this post—the meat of various Australian animals.
     This trip came about due to the actions of my close friend Dan, who I’ve been friends with since 6th grade.  Dan moved to Brisbane, Australia, and lived there from 2003 to 2006.  I figured, when else would I have a free place to stay in Australia?  That and the usual winter layoff from work sealed the deal.  The plane ride was just as long (and expensive) as advertised—five hours to L.A., twelve hours to Auckland, N.Z., and three more to Brisbane.  Since I can’t sleep well on planes (I got maybe one hour of fitful napping), the flight was hellishly long.  However, to illustrate how bored I was by the movie, even in my desperate, entertainment-starved state, I still can’t remember how the third Matrix film ended.
     But eventually I made it, and disembarked in Brisbane.  It was an adjustment seasonally and temperature-wise, too, as I went from a Mid-Atlantic winter to the middle of an Australian summer.  Given my keen scientific curiosity (okay, full disclosure, I’d heard rumors and seen the funny “Bart vs. Australia” episode of “The Simpsons”), I was very excited about viewing the coriolis effect.  (This is the observation that water spins counterclockwise down a drain in the Northern Hemisphere, and clockwise in the Southern (and apparently straight down in bathtubs situated exactly over the equator.))  So literally as soon as I walked inside Dan’s apartment, I went into his bathroom and observed his toilet flushing (the results were disappointingly inconclusive).  Sadly, I was wasting my time, as this effect is only visible under carefully controlled laboratory conditions.
     Fortunately, Australia has interesting sights in addition to my friend’s commode.  Brisbane was fun, as was Sydney.  The late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s zoo was neat too—very hands on.  Visitors got to handle tame kangaroos and wallabies, feed the elephants, and even pet koala bears (who we learned, just like your pet dog, can have distinct “tickle spots” which cause their legs to move about in a comical fashion).
     Also, there was Alice Springs, smack dab in the middle of the Outback, the nearest town of any size to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock), which you’ve seen on countless postcards and documentaries on The Land Down Under.  (FYI, Uluru is definitely worth seeing, but if you’re foolish enough to go in the summer like I was, bring some netting for your head.  The bugs are absurdly annoying, and the local shops (understandably) kind of gouge you for the netting there.)
     We stayed in Alice Springs for a couple of days, and while browsing through The Lonely Planet guidebook I saw a local restaurant, The Overlanders Steakhouse, served various unusual local fauna.  Dan was a good sport, so we checked the restaurant out, and ordered their signature platter, “The Drover’s Blowout.”  Camel, crocodile, emu, and kangaroo.  Starting worst to best, the camel meat was tough and unappetizing.  The crocodile was decent but surprisingly not very similar to the alligator I’ve had.  The emu was good, too, and reminiscent of its giant flightless bird cousin, the ostrich.  The pick of the litter, though, was the kangaroo.  Very, very good—extremely tasty, with a unique flavor and nice texture.  I had the chance to try kangaroo in another restaurant as well, and it was top notch there, too.
     I really loved my time in Australia (and on the same trip, New Zealand, too), and my one week in each obviously only scratched the surface—I hope to return some day, and for longer stretches.  To summarize my dining experiences, if you like to sample new and unusual meats, aside from camel you can’t go wrong.  And hopefully visitors from far away will have a better choice of in flight movies than I did. 

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