The invitation has me hooked immediately. “As ’Strayyylian as meat pies, mate!” it screams, before going on to invite me to an Australia Day barbecue featuring the best of German bratwurst.
Nothing wrong with that. Australia is a very multi-cultural country, and at least one of the other guests can trace her ancestry back to Germany (five generations ago). Nothing wrong either with the fact that my hostess was born and raised in New Zealand (as was I). She’s a naturalised Australian (I’m not) and we live in Australia. So we will celebrate this land we live in. And if that means German snags on the barbie, I’m all for it.
I’ve now lived in Australia longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, so when Australia Day rolls around each year on January 26, I’m ready for whatever celebrations come along. This day marks the landing of Captain Arthur Phillip at Port Jackson in 1788, claiming Australia for the British Empire. To Australia’s indigenous people, it is sometimes – understandably – bitterly called ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day’.
But as Australia grows ever more multi-cultural, it has become for most people simply a holiday to celebrate modern nationhood. And for many people, there’s more than a hint of quirkiness about it. For among the concerts and fireworks, there are also thong-a-thons, dunny races, mullet-tossing, keg-lifting and more. Among the strangest events – attended by about 7000 people – is the annual cockroach races held at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane for the past 32 years. Some of my friends plan to head there this year.
Australia Day cuisine has an unusual flavour too. Last year, I attended a barbecue in Melbourne where the steaks were shaped like a map of Australia. No-one commented until I started taking photos of them!
Last week, another friend whipped up an early batch of Australia Day scones. But not just any scones; these were pumpkin scones, made in the tradition of former Queensland senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen, who made them famous.
I won’t get involved in any debate about that other dish, the melt-in-your-mouth meringue dessert called Pavlova. Mere mention of it sparks good-natured (for the most part) argument between Aussies and Kiwis about just who ‘owns’ it.
Is anyone dining on the Australian coat of arms (kangaroo and emu) this year? I’d put money on it (probably in a pub somewhere).
Happy Australia Day to all my Australian friends, wherever you are and whatever you may be eating!