Travel can sound so appealing. Historic sites. Unusual wildlife. Exotic cultures, customs and cuisines. There is a less glamorous side, one that gets glossed over by pretty photos and exciting tales. It involves doing what you’d do back at home but with far less understanding or finesse. I’m talking about the day-to-day things such as grocery shopping and eating.
On any trip I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about what, when and where I’ll eat. The meal over which I obsess the most, the one where I try my hardest to eat as I think the locals do is “the most important meal of the day.” Yes, I’m talking about breakfast and, at present, breakfast in Australia.
After two weeks in Australia I’ve sampled a range of local breakfast specialties. Although meat products remain absent from my menu, I have added pikelets to the morning repertoire. No, these are not little fish cakes as fans of pike might assume. Ever had dollar pancakes? Then you’ve had a fluffier, syrup-soaked version of pikelets. Sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and paired with jam and whipped cream, they kick off my day in a very indulgent way.
No less sweet but a tad less traditional are the chocolate wafer cookies Tim Tams. People dunk Tim Tams in coffee or use them as a straw to slurp up that morning cup of joe. I attempted and failed to do the latter, known as the “Tim Tam Slam,” in the above video. Don’t worry. I’ll keep practicing. It won’t be a hardship to master this technique.
When ordered at a coffee shop, my morning flat white usually gets partnered with a warmed baked good. Here muffins, quick breads, croissants and doughnuts get toasted or popped into a microwave for 30 seconds before serving. I’m not a huge fan of re-heated pastries; doughnuts tend to get greasier and taste like cooking oil while croissants just get limp and chewy. Even so, I’ve yet to turn down the offer of a free sweet with my coffee.
Vegemite falls at the opposite end of the flavor spectrum and of my favorite breakfasts. Made from brewer’s yeast extract, Vegemite has a pungent, salty, bitter taste that reminds me of a bouillon cube or a paste made from soy sauce. As with the similar British spread Marmite, Australians slather Vegemite over toast and sometimes pair the duo with cheese and/or butter.
Rather than sully a good piece of bread and cheese with Vegemite, I’d rather stick with an old travel standby, a hunk of bread and a wedge of cheese. On this journey I’ve lucked out and found a plethora of outstanding, local bakeries as well as cheese and honey makers to supply me with all three. As with Tim Tams and muffins, savor your bread and cheese throughout the day. If you don’t have to drive anywhere, wash the combo down with a glass of Shiraz or cold Gold XXXX. Why not? You’re on holiday! And, if you’re feeling bold, do try Vegemite on toast.
VEGEMITE ON TOAST
2 slices white or rye bread, toasted
Butter, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons Vegemite
2 slices of mild cheddar, optional
Butter the warm toast. Spread a thin layer of Vegemite over each piece. Place an optional slice of mild cheddar on top of the Vegemite and bite into this classic meal.