"There are great societies that did not have the
wheel, but there are no societies that
did not tell stories."

---Ursula K. LeGuin


Aussie August: The Australian version of grits? Bush Tuckers.

Our guest blogger this August is Australian poet Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke. His poetry publications include: Ultramundane Shadows (2008), Three Hundred and Sixty-four Paper Boats (2007), Deep Wings (2004),S-h-h-hidelplonk (2002).  Read some poems from Ultramundane Shadows by clicking here. (And then come back. Please. )

Aussie Bush Tucker


The Hungarians have goulash, the French have escargot, the American South has grits, and the Aussies, not to be outdone, have bush tucker. Well, to be exact, the Australian Indigenous peoples have it, and it’s becoming a cross-over cuisine into the mainstream of Aussie society.

The distinguishing feature of bush tucker is that, almost without exception, it tastes so foul that it borders on the inedible. A notable exception is kangaroo steak – stop reading now if you’re squeamish. The cute iconic marsupial, which is on the Australian official coat of arms, is considered a feral pest, well, some of its species are, and is mercilessly hunted down by ocker – Americans please read “redneck” – beer swilling professional hunters, who swear all the time and listen to diabolically awful country music.

An instance of this hunting so outraged Sir Paul McCartney (he obviously keeps his ear to the ground in Liverpool) he couldn’t let it be, and wrote a letter of protest. What he doesn’t know, it seems, is that kangaroo is a fine, lean meat, reminiscent of venison, and is now a sought after gourmet delicacy, with a fine, gourmet delicacy price tag. Previously, until someone actually tried eating it, kangaroo meat was used as pet food.

But kangaroo meat aside, the motley collection of foul tasting berries, leaves, grubs and grasses the Indigenous peoples try to get the unsuspecting whiteys to eat is a bit of a joke.

Aussies have plenty of cooking shows on TV. A popular one is “Poh’s Kitchen”, Poh being a petit twenty-something Asian woman who previously had been a finalist on the top rating series Masterchef. A recent episode was filmed in Darwin, in Australia’s tropical north, and I swear the Indigenous elder she had showing her local bush tucker had been plucked straight from the local McDonald’s.

Talk about a con. This grey-haired Indigenous guy was, among other things, a real sleaze, he was all over Poh like a dose of dengue fever, putting his arm around her and looking down her blouse. He made a point of laughingly saying “I’m married Poh,” as if she would be interested in him in a blue fit.

Anyway, they are driving down a dusty road, when the old guy says “pull over here.” They get out of the beat-up old pick-up, and he points to a tree by the side of the road. “Poh, enjoy nature’s kitchen, try some of our mingy-dingy berries.” Naive little Poh picks a handful of these small red berries, and puts a couple in her mouth.

The face she made was priceless.

“They have an, err, astringent, acidic quality,” she somehow spat out, somehow keeping the berries in her mouth. The old Indigenous guy, smiling broadly, ate not one berry.

Any post on bush tucker would not be complete without a mention of the witchetty grub. Apparently they are an Indigenous delicacy. Always out for every last vote he can possibly claim, recently the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, went to the remote outback, put a live one in his mouth, and swallowed.

Another priceless face, which made the national news on all the free-to-air TV channels.

It’s easy to work out the score for this post:

Indigenous 2, Sophisticated Westerners in the Public Gaze 0...

4 comments:

Nevyn said...

Now Michael...you failed to mention the Bush Tucker Man! This (white) guy was employed by the Oz Army to teach soldiers how to survive off the land in the bush and made a very successful television program out of what he knew. Crocodile Dundee had nothing on the Bush Tucker Man! I still don't know how he managed to sample everything with a straight face!

I'm so glad Michael is spreading the Oz culture far and wide :)

Dawn said...

We are loving getting doses of Oz over here in the States. My hits have definitely gone up thanks to Michael and his Down Under Musings.

I just saw my first episode of "McLeod's Daughters" and I am hooked.

Question--- they mentioned a "ute" is that short for a Utility Vehicle?

Also, speaking of food, what the bleep is vegamite?

Michael said...

Nevyn: I was hanging out with hippy, bohemian types, writing poetry, when Major Les hit our airwaves -- it's only now that I'm aged and decrepit I'm catching up with some TV shows, including "Poh's Kitchen".

Dawn: Yes, a "ute" is a utility vehicle; I think you folks call them "pick-ups". As for vegemite, it's an icon here. You either love vegemite or hate it -- it's made out of yeast extract and is very salty (doesn't sit well with the American sweet tooth, usually). It is usually spread -- thinly -- on toast or crumpets at breakfast. I'll happily send you a jar...

billie said...

I'm watching McLeod's Daughters from season 1 for the fourth time now. I wish there were some other similar shows I could find - there is nothing I have found that is anything at all like the gals on Drover's Run.