October 6, 2004
One of the wonderful things about travelling is finding out the everyday differences of the place you are visiting.
A traveller’s preparation will always include mental preparation to be without all those little idiosyncrasies that they may take for granted at home. Not surprisingly, mine are to do with food.
Now New Zealand may be ‘far away’ from England in terms of miles, but I really wasn’t expecting the stark differences that I have come across at such grass roots level.
Take gum for example. You know how it goes: mint or fruit flavoured; bullets or sticks; and then choose your manufacturer. Simple. Or at least, it should be.
If you can actually find a brand you recognise, the gum is wet-tasting (Trust me on this: it goes all wet and stringy in your mouth); the flavour barely lasts beyond the first 3 swallows and don’t ever touch the dark blue “Eclipse” one. It tastes greatly foul (Like toothpaste, mouth wash and some disagreeable taste mixed together). Ironically it’s the only one where the flavour lasts – for up to 2 weeks it would seem – even after you’ve brushed your teeth!
Then there’s the Ribena – which comes in a glass bottle and is sparkling!
The Importance of Routine
Then horror of horrors, they showed me something I knew … or so I thought. I actually located a Nando’s in Auckland. The angels sang and for a momentary time I thought the city may not be so bad.
I walked in. Looked at the menu (It’s just a ritual, I know my order by heart – those who know Nando’s know what I mean) and ordered…. then left the restaurant empty handed.
Why? Because they are doing it all wrong. The chicken looked wrong (Don’t ask) and they don’t do the refillable soft drink. Can you believe that? Instead, you choose a can or bottle of drink (Beyond Coke, I didn’t recognise any of the offered brands – and I don’t drink Coke).
Now the joy of Nando’s is this:
- You know how it works.
- You know it will be good.
You enter. Spend time perusing the menu boards to tantalise your taste buds. You place your order – knowing that your meal will be perfected to your palate: right down to exactly how peppery hot you want your chicken. THEN – and this is the important bit – they give you your glass and you head to the soft drinks machine.
Your choice of fizzy beverage, squeezed by your own hand, is a vital part of this ritual.
The trips you make to and fro on the refills helps with the digestive process. Damn it, you can make new friends at the drinks machine! A can of drink just doesn’t cut it. It’s like going to church and not being offered a hymn book. It’s wrong, I tell you.
Waiter, There’s a Fly in My Soup
And what’s more, they have spoilt Maltesers too. Brothers and Sisters, they took those delicious balls of honeycomb dipped in just-enough chocolate and did a terrible thing. They replaced the honeycomb with malt! How could they? And they kept the same packaging so you don’t know until you crunch into it and then…. *shudder*
Now I do not like malt. I have known this from childhood. Don’t like Guiness. Can’t drink Ovaltine. Can’t take more than one bite of a malt biscuit. It just doesn’t work for me. Malt no good. So you can imagine how distraught I was when I discovered this great injustice. Especially as it was already in my mouth when the treachery was revealed *Drop to knees; raise hands to the heavens imploringly and moan “Why” in a drawn out manner*
An Acquired Taste
But they have saved their ingenuity for their own home-grown foods. THEY PUT CHEESE IN THEIR SAUSAGE. Now these words may not seem like much until you have lived it. Basically they have injected (Can’t think how else they do it) moments of Dairylea-type cheese (But not as nice tasting) at various points of the sausage. This means you are happily enjoying your meat then suddenly, you bite down and a puss-y sensation fills your mouth. You quickly extricate the offending specimen from your mouth to be faced with a weeping sore of smeese* (sausage meat + cheese = smeese. Copyright Norris 2004).
I gagged then and I gag now to recall it. That pretty much ruined a perfectly good breakfast. Apparently it’s a national dish. And they can keep it as far as I’m concerned. But it does bring to mind The Mighty Boosh song:
“Cheese is a type of meat:
A tasty yellow beef.
I milk it from my teat;
But I have to be discreet.” (Break it down…)
SO TELL ME: Have you come across unexpectedly confusing versions of food on your travels (whether at home or abroad)?
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AUTHOR: I am might war. I have a love of music, the written word, travel, Anime, polar bears, people and “sticking and colouring”.