PSA: Australians are not like this

I showed Dan this Cadbury tweet, announcing a Vegemite chocolate bar:

And Dan said, “Oh god, now everyone’s going to think Australians are actually like this.”

He was right. Everyone now thinks that Australians are actually like this.

Food and Wine wrote, “many Australians probably wouldn’t bat an eye at the idea of infusing Vegemite into a chocolate bar.” Actually, they are pretty turned off by infusing Vegemite into a chocolate bar!

Buzzfeed was annoying and seemed to care most of all about whether there was going to be Vegemite chocolate.

Apparently, no one bothered to read the title of the Australian Reddit thread which leaked a photo of the chocolate bar, pre-Cadbury’s official announcement: “What were they smoking?”

Indeed. Do you know how many Australians care about a Vegemite chocolate bar?

Like, none. (Australians: please take this important survey.)

Yes, Vegemite exists in Australia but it’s not the only thing that exists, and it certainly doesn’t exist on every single food type.

Anyways, turns out it mostly just tastes like salted caramel: “It’s nice, but they’re cheating.”

In better news, Cadbury announced 3 other new flavor combos, which I’m actually really quite keen to try: salted caramel, toffee chip, and pretzel & peanut.

In which I am compared to a bagel

tabely_tableFor a few months, Dan and I had been planning, eating, making, baking, trying, experimenting, writing, crossing out, reading, re-reading, editing, and trying again. We had an idea in mind, and finally, that idea has a home on the internet.

The Tabely entwines the passions of science and writing with a love for eating things, plus the process of trying to get things right. We’re analyzing food at a detailed level, from the ingredient up: we are experimenting with our food, we are trying what other cooks are good at, and we are figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and why.

To start, we decided to introduce ourselves:

I wrote about the first meal Dan and I ever shared which was waffles and how Dan went against the waiter’s advice and got Nutella on his chocolate waffles.

Dan compared me to a bagel.

And then we tried two bagel places in Melbourne, and if you want to know what it’s like to eat the “best bagels in Melbourne,” you can read about the disaster. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but we asked for extra cream cheese and this is what we got:

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:(

Follow us on Twitter, perhaps even subscribe to the blog, or just have a look-see.

Wombutt supreme

Wilsons Prom is known for its vistas and coastlines and breathtaking geography. Observe:

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Plus, it’s known for the native wildlife: kangaroos, koalas, emus, snakes, wallabies, among many others whose names I don’t recognize, not to mention that if you come during the right season, you can spot humpback whales and killer whales.

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Importantly, the reason for this post, even though I have already written about Wilsons Prom and would normally never dare revisit a topic for fear of boring and alienating you, dear reader, the reason for this post is that I have a new favorite animal: the wombat.

Wombats are nocturnal marsupials. Here is a wombat that has ventured out of its burrow at dusk. Look at it grazing with its eyes closed:

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As I was explaining to a friend in an email:

They just boop out at dusk and nom on some grass, maybe they will check out if you have tasty trash on your campsite and rub against your leg by accident and then you give it bread and it hangs out eating the bread and then boops off into the darkness onto the next adventure. They are like giant stuffed animals, except better, because they are real.

And then I offered not one, but two YouTube videos. My friend responded with the following observations:

He has the personality and the curiosity of a puppy, so he will come up to you to say hello and see what snacks you might have for him. He has the body type and fluffiness of a bear cub, so you want to hug him immediately (and the feeling is mutual). He is slow-moving and likes to eat grass like a cow, so he hangs around in the park while you are having a picnic.

Yes, Allison, correct. Exactly. You get it.

Lookit:

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The chances of spotting one while you’re camping at Wilsons Prom are 100%, and you don’t even have to try that hard. Wombats aren’t very bothered that you’re in or around their space, but if one does happen to be bothered, it’ll just wobble away into a bush, and you can probably go for a walk and find another one to try to cuddle.

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I guess I should take this time to acknowledge that supposedly, wombats are dangerous. (Emphasis on supposedly is my own.) But apparently, if you meet one on a bad day, it can claw or bite … or “skittle a fully grown man as if a 120-litre barrel had bowled him over.”

(Confused at the use of the word “skittle” not in reference to chewy candy that comes in more flavors than necessary, I asked the Dictionary which offered:

skittle |’skitl| (noun): 1. (skittles) [treated as sing.] a game played, chiefly in Britain, with wooden pins, typically nine in number, set up at the end of an alley to be bowled down with a wooden bowl or disk. 2. a pin used in the game of skittles.

No mention of “skittle” as a verb, but I think I understand the point.)

But the wombats at Wilsons Prom have become pretty used to Homo sapiens up in their space and don’t seem too upset at their presence. They have the concentration of a college student taking an exam on Adderall, the munchies of a student who smoked just a little too much weed, and the pace of a student who hasn’t had a nap in weeks.

Essentially, we can all connect with wombats on a complex and nostalgic level, plus they look fat and cuddly as fuck, so what’s not to fall in love with?

(Sorry, kangaroos. I… it was nice feeding one of you at the zoo but like, I never really see you around as often as I’d like, you know? You should maybe work on being more approachable.)

(And sorry, koalas. I’ve only seen you once at a zoo, and I’ve never even touched one of you. … Actually, wait – koalas? I take that back a little. Just look at this guy.)

Nah, but still. Wombats have won me over. They have taken my heart and jiggled their butts off with it.

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Everybody’s been to Wilsons Prom but nobody’s at Wilsons Prom

We spent the night before organizing supplies, and we spent some time at our local bar – the John Curtin Hotel – to hear our friend DJ, and then Dan needed some time to finish up a project. In the living room, I wrote a letter, and I played Grand Theft Auto, and I drank wine.

The next morning at 6am, we threw too much clothing into our sides of the suitcase; I had the right and Dan had the left and we stuffed our underwear into the same pocket. Dan’s mother called that she was downstairs so he started packing her car, and I kept at it: collecting our toothpaste and anti-itch cream and tortilla chips and a blanket and two pillows and etc.

By 8am, we were out, driving to Dan’s uncle’s place. He promised us his pick-up (in Australia, called a “ute”), as well as a portable stove and a foldable table and some camping chairs.

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We were heading to Wilsons Promontory, the southernmost point on the Australian continent. It’s a 500 square kilometer national park; it’s the one that when people ask, “where ya headed?” and you reply, “Wilsons Prom,” they tell you expansively about how many months and/or years it’s been since they’ve lasted visited the Prom and detail whether they’d camped there and then delve into their childhoods and etc.

In short: everyone’s been to Wilsons Prom.

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In Australia, summer is now coming to a close: March is autumn. This was our last chance to spend a long weekend outside, the last chance we’d have to visit the Prom before it got too cold. We packed up the ute, we stopped for some chips at a Red Rooster on the way, and four hours later, we were setting up a tent.

We had bought a tent for the trip: a pop-up tent that technically – according to the specifications – fits three people. Also according to the specs, it sets up in less than a minute, so by the time I was done admiring the parrots – different ones that I hadn’t seen before called Crimsons rosellas – Dan had managed to figure out which strings to pull to get the thing upright.

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The weather was bad that first day: rainy, windy, cold, but the beach was a three minute walk away.

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The next day’s weather was a bit shit too, but we hiked up Mount Oberon: a pamphlet noted it was a “hard” hike that would take an hour, so we were surprised to find a paved path the entire way up to a set of stairs carved into the rocks to the top. To be fair, when I had asked a park ranger what it meant for a hike to be designated “hard” as I pointed to Mount Oberon on a map, she said “Have you hiked before?” and I said, “Yeah” and she said, “You’ll be fine. There are stairs to the top.”

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But, hey, the (cloudy) views:

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We did a long hike the next day, deemed “medium” by the pamphlet, which it was, though the 15 kilometers one way, made it long enough to be more difficult than our hour long “hard” hike the day before.

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Anyways, it turns out that Australia is kinda like Jurassic Park.

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We made it to Sealer’s Cove in the early afternoon, and I remembered a thing Bill Bryson had wrote in “In a Sunburned Country,”

It struck me, not for the first time, that there seemed to be more places in Australia for tourists to go than there were tourists to fill them.

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The entire length of the beach, for the most part, it was ours.

That Day We Went to the Bush

Ah, the bush. The Australian kind. The kind that I imagine to be a not-quite-barren-desert kind, where a few trees poke out of the ground, and snakes are rampant and livid. There’s a watering hole nearby and crocs are desperately hungry, and also kangaroos are boopin’ around, usually at night. Also it’s really freakin’ hot.

(I think that I’m just describing the first half of Crocodile Dundee. 1)

But the bush was supposedly where we were going: Dan’s grandfather has a house “out in the bush.” In the car, I reflexively squeezed Dan’s hand as we passed a road sign warning us of koalas crossing the road. He didn’t notice the sign and didn’t know why I was squeezing his hand. The road was winding, we mostly passed farms and cows (they do have cows in Australia) and sheep (also sheep) and goats (yes even goats). Daniel’s grandfather mentioned in the car about one time there was a baby koala in his driveway. (!!! A baby koala?! A baby KOALA?! This was going to be The Best Trip of My Life.)

I did once see a koala. It was five feet away from me in a tree. 2

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Koalas are lazier than you ever dreamed about being. I was in college once so I had big hopes and dreams re: laziness, but I could never ever top the koala. A koala sleeps between eighteen and twenty hours a day, every day. Koalas don’t hibernate or anything, so that’s not a skewed average. They only spend about fifteen minutes a day socially – otherwise they are just adorable lonesome lackadaisies.

The thing is, koalas aren’t doing so hot in Australia: while they aren’t exactly endangered yet, they are classified as “near threatened” in some areas and “vulnerable” in others 3 because of loss of habitat (due to cutting down of forests). As the Healesville Sanctuary website puts it:

Since European settlement, about 80% of their habitat has disappeared, and little of the remaining 20% is protected. A disease called chlamydia 4 is also contributing to the Koala’s declining numbers.

Koala-spotting chances are slim, and the grand koala forces were not on my side That Day We Went to the Bush.

:(

But I did see a bunch of runover kangaroos in twisted lumps on the side of the road. Similar to deer in the eastern United States (I can’t speak to the dead deer populations in other parts of the nation), kangaroos are considered a pest here – and the odd ‘roo tries to cross the road at dusk, but hasn’t yet evolved to understand the risk of a speeding car, and then ends up dead. Also, I saw many parrots and cockatoos. (You can spot parrots and cockatoos around Melbourne, but less up-close.)

(Cockatoos not pictured.)

So what exactly is the bush? It’s not desolate, necessarily: the term just refers to a part of Australia that’s outside of a major metropolitan area, which yes, is sometimes the middle of desert nowhere, but also sometimes it’s a smallish town with like, people and industry in it. 89% of Australia’s population does live within large metro areas, so it’s a mighty sparse continent. 5

Mostly in Australia, there is nothing. A lot of nothing.

But sometimes, on rare occasions, there is a little town or a little city or even a pretty big city.

Sometimes there are even parrots refusing to have anything to do with me.

Notes:

  1. Fun game: how many Australian films can you name other than Crocodile Dundee? Hint: Whale Rider is from New Zealand.
  2. It was at the Healesville Sanctuary – north of Melbourne. A wildlife sanctuary such as the one we visited is like a very ethical zoo, where the animals there are all native and some animals have been taken in for some reason such as illness, or others are being protected from extinction and/or bred in a safe environment. They’ve got platypuses (platypi? platypussies?) and tasmanian devils and dingos. I fed a kangaroo there. Also, further research conducted into this specific sanctuary for the purpose of this post shows that it “offers visitors the opportunity to come close unto unique Australian animals in a stunning bushland setting” so I’ve already kind of been to bush, apparently. But anyways: I saw a koala five feet away from me in a tree once.
  3. I wasn’t sure what the difference was between “near threatened” and “vulnerable” either. Here you go, conservation status from lowest to highest risk: least concern, conservation dependent, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild, extinct.
  4. Yep, chlamydia. The outbreak of the disease in koalas made big news a few years ago, but scientists are now thinking that while many koalas carry the bacteria, symptoms don’t appear unless koalas are stressed. We need to stop stressing out the koalas.
  5. Reminder: Australia is as big as the continental United States yet has a population of just 24 million, only three times as much as New York City. For comparison, about 80% of Americans live in metro areas, but the United States at least has a larger population of nearly 320 million to fill out the land. More such statistical comparisons here.

I am a well-adjusted, socially adept human

This is me trying to make friends in Australia:

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I haven’t really made friends for years: I’d moved to New York City at 17 for university, and stayed there for five and a half years. The friends I made that first year are the same ones I have now – with two major exceptions. 1 See because college makes it easy: some algorithmic course scheduling system jams you in a room several times a week with people with whom you share an incredible number of similarities and then boom, you eventually come out of the thing with friends. After all, the sheer number of things you share in common with your classmates is at least four:

  1. You’re all in college
  2. You all are in the same college
  3. You all even decided without any forethought to take this certain class to fill some same requirement such as eight credits in mathematics or sixteen credits in global and transcultural communication
  4. You all decided to take the class at the same time in the day that was late enough to make sure you were all actually awake for it

To be honest, that’s a pretty good start, similarity-wise. In the “real” world, you’re not going to find anyone who’s in the same place for the same reason as you – ever. Take the three other people with laptops at the cafe you’re currently in, for example: one is just there because the place has wifi, one is actually writing their autobiography which is pretty cool and noble but apparently their life is already complete without you in it so don’t bother attempting to befriend them, the third is lamely hoping that a date-able human will sit next to them and is just tapping jibberish into Word doc. And who even knows what you’re pretending to do in there.

So anyways: how one makes friends after college, I’m not sure.

Do people make friends after college?

Is everything after college a sham?

I welcome your input.

Actually, that above photo is me trying to get wild parrots to eat out of my hand. I was going to tell you about a trip to the bush this past weekend, about the parrots and cockatoos, and about the baby koala that I potentially could have seen but did not in fact see, and about a town I visited with only twenty residents even though it’s bank held over a billion dollars (!!!!!!) in gold about a hundred years ago, and perhaps even how I saw more dead kangaroos than live ones, but then I talked about how it is easy to make friends in college and not so easy after college. Welp. Here’s a picture of the parrots refusing to befriend me instead.

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Notes:

  1. One friend I met junior year in a writing class when she mentioned something about drinking vodka with the family at a young age and I interjected from the opposite side of the room “Are you Polish?” and she said, “Yeah” and I said, “The first time I had vodka I was like 14 and had pneumonia” and then we went out for drinks after class and thus commenced bff-hood. The other friend is Dan and I met him less than a year ago, post-college. I have not made any other friends.

A New Yorker in Melbourne: A Definitive Yet Work-in-Progress Guide to the World’s Most Livable City

Yes, Melbourne is the world’s most livable city – for the fourth year in a row, as ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit based on: healthcare, education, stability, culture, environment, and infrastructure.

(Another thing you should know is that Melbournians love mentioning that Melbourne is the world’s most livable city.)

Hosier Lane

So if you’re visiting Melbourne and want to know which side of the sidewalk to walk on 1 or how to order a coffee, or if you’re moving here and want to know how to find a roommate online or where to print a zine, or maybe if you’re just curious about the opposite side of the world and how confusing and different it can possibly be: I’m compiling Melbournian habits and customs for the internet’s reference right here on this page.

I intend to save you the trauma of going up to the counter at a cafe and asking for “just a coffee.” (There’s no such thing as “just a coffee” in Melbourne.)

You’re welcome.

But first, I tackle how to order something to-go, because yes, even that is tricky at first.

Notes:

  1. Kindly note that above photo incorrectly depicts the fact that you should walk on the left side of the sidewalk because no one here actually does walk on the correct side of the sidewalk and sidewalks in Melbourne are chaos.

Yes, this is a post about Vegemite

Vegemite: B vitamins for vitality!I think if I’m writing about living in Australia, I’m supposed to write something about Vegemite at some point.

This morning, as I was toasting raisin bread and pulling butter from the fridge, I had a thought: “what would happen if I put Vegemite on my raisin toast?”

I gchatted Dan for advice, but didn’t receive a reply in time, so I googled real quick. The results were not conclusive, so I decided to take a risk. I just went for it: the toast popped out, I smathered it with butter, and topped it with a thin layer of Vegemite.

FYI: Yes, the rumors are true. The reason foreigners don’t like Vegemite is totally and completely because they eat it wrong. A thin layer on a buttered piece of warm toast, maybe even broiled in the oven with a slice or two of cheese on top to bubbly-browning perfection, is the correct and mega-enjoyable way to eat Vegemite. Outside of that, once you realize that it’s a freakin’ delish spread, experimentation is okay. For example, I introduced it to my Polish parents and my mother has stated that she likes to eat Vegemite with pierogi. I consider my mother to be one of my heroes.


EDIT: SO DOES VEGEMITE


So anyways, I put the raisin bread in my mouth and it was super great, thereby proving once again that we all really need to take more risks in life.

Raisin toast Vegemite risk

For the ignorant and/or uninitiated, Vegemite is a kind of dark brown paste made from yeast extract. It’s scary at first, sure, but enlist a Australian to make you a Vegemite and cheese toastie. I trust that they will guide you well.

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See, look, I was nervous my first time, too:

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That photo was a long long time ago – back in September of 2014. Looking back on it, a lot of my life preceding my first toastie now seems inconsequential, meaningless, confusing, sad.

… And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my requisite commentary on Vegemite.