Australian and Spanish lifestyles: food

Hello everybody! Welcome to my blog. 

I really hope you enjoyed last week’s post about minimalism. It’s one of the subjects I enjoy the most.

In this post I would like to bring you a few differences between the Australian and Spanish lifestyles. This is a huge topic, so I am going to break it down by categories. Today, I will be talking about the food in these two different countries.

Spain is known as one of the best countries for many reasons, and one of them is the food. Every region in Spain has a particular dish or dishes. Just to mention a few…

If you go to Asturias, you can’t leave without having Fabes (this is like a white bean soup, but the beans are particularly big) or Cachopo (made of beef, Serrano ham, cheese and a specific way to make it). 

Thanks to the high-quality fish and shellfish from the Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the north of the country is very famous for its seafood: Galician oysters and octopus, Cantabrian anchovies and Raba (calamari), Asturian Caldereta (different types of fish with a sauce made of vegetables like capsicum, tomatoes or onions, lemon, cava or wine and the normal condiments such us salt, oil, garlic and parsley).

The famous tapas are popular around the country, but the Basque speakers take the cake. Navarra and País Vasco (Basque Country) are the areas of the country in which you will find the most generous tapas in the country.  

Castilla la Mancha is famous because of its Queso Manchego (Manchego chess), making 62% of the production of cheese in the whole country. 

In Madrid, the city I am from, we are famous because we have the best quality fish imported from both Mediterranean and Cantabrian seas and Atlantic Ocean, but we also have, among other dishes, Cocido Madrileño, which is a soup made of chickpeas, a short version of noodles, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and meats like pork (chorizo and morcilla) and chicken. 

Down the south, the cold dishes are very characteristic, like the Gazpacho or Salmorejo (these are a kind of tomato soup, very popular in summer). On the Mediterranean coast, we have one of the most famous Spanish dishes worldwide eaten and recognised: Paella (which by the way is pronounced with a “j”, “paeja”). This fantastic dish, despite the confusion, is from Valencia. There are many different types of paellas. My favourite is black rice paella, which is made of calamari ink and “arroz a banda”, served with no extra elements but the rice. 

Spain makes the best olive oil, alongside other Mediterranean countries. The olives that grow at the foot of the Mediterranean Sea are recognised as high quality because of its high content of iron and vitamin A, as well as promoting minerals and other vitamins. Just for you to know, the healthiest type of olives come from a region in Greece called Kalamata, giving this name to the olives.

As you can imagine, the homemade food in Spain has the leadership that McDonald’s will (hopefully) never have. Although we do have junk food restaurants, most Spanish will rather eat at home and occasionally go out for a beer and tapas, and even when we go out, we tend to go to places in which we can eat Spanish food. It is true that these places are a bit more expensive, and young people with no income will go to junk food restaurants instead but ordering food through delivery or going out for dinner is more like a treat rather than a normal everyday thing.

Tortilla de patata (Spanish potato omelet)

Australia on the other hand has no typical food. I have been told that no matter how much I love my Aussie husband, I will never become an Australian if I hate Vegemite so much. Although I don’t mind a little bit of the bitterness and saltiness of the vegemite on a dish, you will never see me spreading vegemite and butter on a toast. No-no. But if there is something that Australia does better than any other country is the fresh produce. 

Thanks to the different climate, Australia produces the best fruit and vegetables with a great variety. Next week, I will share more details about this fresh produce on a post about Flemington markets. 

Sometimes these markets are a little bit hidden and not so famous, especially if you don’t live in the area. There are way more Woolworths and Coles than little markets with fresh produce from nearby farms, which is a pity because the quality of the fruit that you can find in these markets are way higher. In my opinion, the fruit you can taste these differences the most is the berries. Furthermore, you will find a much bigger variety in a market than in a supermarket. Nonetheless, these supermarkets provide really good quality products, and they encourage people having their own produce at home. For instance, when you buy lettuce, you have the option of buying it with the roots and dirt so you can plant it and have more lettuce in the future. There are also some campaigns that provide customers with little pots to grow plants with kids, which I think is a beautiful initiative. 

The typical Australian fruits are bananas, apples, oranges, mangoes, mandarins among others, but what a lot of people outside Australia don’t know is the native fruits: Kakadu plum, gooseberry, elderberry or wild passionfruit. I have a few native plants on my garden, and the taste is amazing. 

Australians also have access to a particular type of meat that other countries can’t enjoy so easily: kangaroo meat. Personally, and as vegetarian, I don’t eat kangaroo. They are too cute and for some reason they remind me of my dog and cats, but I have tried it in the past, and I find the best definition for this type of meat: it tastes wild. Unlike cows or pigs raised in farms, kangaroos live in the wild. Meat from animals that have been raised in the wild has more omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fats because of the natural vegetations these animals eat.

Thanks to the immigration of people coming from around the world, Australia has the influence of many different cuisines, especially Asian. The number of Chinese restaurants that you can find in a big city like Sydney clearly demonstrates the affluence of Chinese people that move to Australia or that came in the past, leaving the new generations with an amazing inheritance of food. You can find amazing Japanese, Thai, Indian, Korean and many other cuisines.

Not only can you find great Asian food in Australia, but also food from European countries like Italy or Greece and from South American countries such as Colombia or Mexico. 

Watching Mater Chef in Spain and in Australia you can really see these differences. Whereas in Master Chef Spain it’s all about Spanish food and every now and again some foreign cuisines, in Master Chef Australia there’s always something different, something from places around the world, it’s the magic of having contestants whose backgrounds are divergent.

There is a big problem though. The influence of big junk food chains is actually very high. Whereas in Spain we go out for dinner as a treat, in Australia is just a normal day at the office. Order online for lunch at work or going to the nearest Macas is the normal thing. Maybe that accessibility to this food is the reason why Australia is the 6th in the obesity world ranking, with 67% of the Australians having problems of obesity or overweight, which is more than 12 million people. In Spain, the percent of obesity is 14.5% and the percent of overweigh is around 38%. Not a number to be proud of, but still a bit lower. 

With this COVID pandemic, we all have heard of people dying around the world because of COVID. In Australia, over 900 people died since it started. Every year, 50,000 Australians die because of an obesity-related disease. We said before that 67% of Australians have obesity or overweight. Just 0.12% of Australians have had COVID. We are doing a lot to keep this virus away, we wear masks, we wash our hands, we keep the distance, and we haven’t seen our beloveds overseas, but we are not doing anything about the obesity pandemic. 

COVID is a real thing, and we need to take action, we must follow the rules and do our part to fight this pandemic. We never know where we are going next with this virus, and we need to be very precautious. 

Although I have learned a lot about food from all over the world thanks to the Australian hospitality, the fruit is the best I have ever tried and the diversity is enchanting, I still think there is nothing like a homemade Spanish meal, made with the love and care of a dedicated parent.

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