Fresh whole milk is used in quantity by most Australian families: children drink milk at most meals and adults enjoy milk in puddings, soups, custards, and tea. Skim milk, 2 percent (partially skimmed) milk, and cottage cheese are not widely accepted, nor is skim milk powder. Cheeses are not a usual part of the Australian food and dietary pattern and usually are only used in specialty dishes that call for cheese as an ingredient. There is a small but noticeable increase in the popularity of yogurt.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Although there is a great variety of Australian food, the variety is mainly seasonal and local. There is even little importing of produce from one state to the other. Part of the reason may be storage and transportation facilities; frequently January floods affect supplies and cause price increases in Australian food.
Fruits available include passion fruit, pineapples, pawpaws, many forms of coconut, fresh figs, guavas, melons, chokos, tamarillos, mangoes, mulberries, loganberries, lichees, cumquats (Australian spelling), kiwi fruit, feijoas (plums), and a range of citrus fruits. Exotic tropical fruits available are: persimmons, avocados, custard apples, monsteria delicio. Australia is also rightly famed for its fine-quality dried fruits; Australian raisins and currants are widely exported. Other popularly consumed dried fruits include peach-es, apricots, pears, figs, prunes, and apples. Australians prefer to eat fruits that require minimum preparation, and more dried fruits are commonly eaten as snacks and desserts than in North America. A favorite accompaniment to a barbecued dinner of steak or chops is a large mixed salad that combines fruits and vegetables.
As with fruits, Australians prefer their vegetables with a minimum of “fixing”; not for them mysterious mixtures of creamed or sauced vegetables. Some Australian food and vegetables are called by names different than those used in North America: beets are commonly called beetroots; capsicums refer to green or red peppers. Australian “pumpkin” is unlike the pumpkin found in North America, as it is a dark green vegetable with the shape and appearance of the familiar American pumpkin but a flavor and texture resembling that of carrots.
MEATS AND ALTERNATES
Beef in the form of steaks and roasts heads the popularity list on the Australian food. Next come other cuts of beef, lamb, veal, and offal. Pork and poultry are not used with any regularity. Roasting, quick-frying, or barbecuing are the usual methods of meat cookery. Other meats used only occasionally include duck, goose, turkey, wild duck, crocodile, camel, marinated kangaroo meat, partridge, pheasant, venison, and wild pork. A famed dish is carpetbaggers steak: a thick steak that is split, stuffed with raw oysters, and broiled or barbecued.
There is no shortage of fish and seafood and there is wide variety: oysters, scallops, mussels, tohero (a shellfish with a distinctively green color), trout, salmon, red snapper, mulloway, hapuka, whitebait, tarahiki, gurnard, flounder, and bream. Following the Australian’s preference for simple Australian food, fish is served fresh and prepared in a simple way by poaching, baking, frying, or grilling.
Legumes are used only in specialty dishes, but a growing vegetarian community is using legumes and soybean products extensively.
Finally, it must he noted that steak and eggs really are a classic favorite and considered the perfect breakfast, lunch, or supper and even — for heartier Aussies – a snack.
BREADS AND GRAINS
In home baking there is a definite preference for the use of self-raising flour, that is, flour containing a proportionate amount of salt and leavening agent. Fresh breads are usually purchased daily for meals and for teatime. Wheat flour is the staple but cornstarch is used in thickening desserts and sauces. Wholegrain wheat flour is called wholemeal. More recently, the Swiss breakfast favorite muesli, a blend of toasted oats, dried fruits, and nuts eaten with milk, has gained some popularity. Australians do not favor pancakes or waffles and seldom use sweetened breakfast cereals, although pikelets similar to pancakes are considered a dessert in the Australian food.
Margarine is the most widely used fat, and although generally priced the same as butter, many seem to prefer its flavor. Cofa is a solidified coconut oil used in making desserts.
SWEETS AND SNACKS
Dried fruits are popular snacks and Health Food Bars, made from nuts, sesame seeds, dried fruits, and honey are enjoyed by all ages. Fresh fruit is eaten as a snack in season.
Not for the Australian any complex form of seasoning. Cookery, service, and seasonings are all simple and basic. Salt and pepper and onions are the staples, for Australians have a strong preference for Australian food that “taste natural.” Chutneys, pickles, and piquant sauces are often served with meals.
Australian wine is inexpensive, of excellent quality, and widely used. Local quality beer is the preferred beverage for most men and Foster’s is the brand everyone knows; women enjoy frequent cups of tea daily; children prefer fresh whole milk but often have tea or coffee. Fruit cordials are popular, especially in hot weather. Strong spirits, cola drinks, and coffee are not as popular.