Alone time

For the next few days, it’s just going to me and my proverbial shadow. I love my guy but I can’t express how super excited I am to be on my own for a few days.

alone time

Alone time … with no pants

Sure there are things that I’m going to hate – taking out the garbage (I don’t like stinky things), doing all the cleaning (let’s face it, I pretty much do all the cleaning anyway with the exception of the aforementioned garbage and vacuuming, so no real net loss there), and oh yeah, I’ll miss my guy but I’m super stoked about some alone time with this sexy beast (aka me).

Top five things I’m looking forward to:

  1. Naps without the guilt

    It’s pretty easy to take naps with your partner, especially if you’re kid-free. But at times people can get all judge-y. “Really? You’re falling asleep again? You just woke up from a two hour nap!” Don’t put your societal pressures on me, man! If I want to nap four times a day, I’ll do it! In the words of pro-napper Beyonce, “I’m a grown woman. I can do whatever I want” and what I want to be not so sleepy so I’m off for another mid-afternoon nappy-poo. Besides, there’s nothing on TV right now so really it’s a matter of effective time management.

  2. No more hiding the Downton Abbey box set 

    For the most part, we pretty much agree on what we watch during primetime TV hours. If he wants to watch something all Star Treky, that’s when I find myself getting sleepy and napping. See? In every situation, napping just works! I know there are some shows that he doesn’t want to watch but that lure me in like a sucker. Downton Abbey is one. I got hooked on it last Christmas when I was sick and a work colleague gave me the box set of all three seasons. I’m now into season four, I think. I don’t really know. All I know (SPOILER ALERT!!) is that the middle sister (the one no one likes) is pregnant.

  3. Tuna, again?

    Yup, I like tuna. It’s a very versatile protein. Tuna with cucumbers, capers and dill. Pasta puttanesca (tuna with capers, olives, tomatoes and red pepper flakes), tuna melts with fancy cheeses, vitello tonnato (veal cutlet with a tuna sauce) and tuna onigiri (rice balls filled with a tuna filling). They’re all freaking delicious and don’t cause a lot of mess, which brings me full circle to trying to not cause the garbage to fill up too quickly so that I don’t have to take it out.

  4. Big ol’ bed

    This is an obvious one. It’s going to take a few days but I’ll gradually take over the entire bed. My guy use to have a tendency of falling asleep with his arms over his head and in the middle of the night, as his body realized his arms had no blood flow, his arms would fall to his side and smack me in the face in the process. That sucked a lot.

  5. No pants

    That’s right. If I don’t have to leave the house or if I’m not expecting anyone, the pants aren’t going on at all. It’s a lot easier when the temperature is 30 C but everyone knows pants suck and they’re one of the first things to go when you know you’ll be by yourself. Ahhh freedom!!

 

Travel Japan: Food

This is in no way a comprehensive list of all things yummy in Japan. This is merely a rambling of some of the tasty food we ate when we recently visited. Coming from Toronto, a city as multicultural as you can get, most of this stuff wasn’t new to us but I was amazed by the quality, style of preparation and in some cases the availability and convenience of the dishes. Check out my previous musings on Japan Part 1: Culture.

Let’s start off with foods at your local convenience store. You would never think of stopping in your local 7-Eleven for sushi, a cheeseburger, or fresh three cheese ravioli with mushroom cream sauce. The very least you’d get is a sloppy sandwich with sandwich meat of a questionable expiration date, soggy bread and gross tomatoes. Maybe you’d opt for a bag of Doritos or instant noodles. Either way, this is the extent of convenience store gourmet food in North America. Not in Japan. They’re jam packed with ready to eat and heat n’ serve delicious, fresh ingredients and dishes.

Onigiri

Japan's onigiri with 1-2-3 system of unwrapping to keep nori crisp

Onigiri with 1-2-3 system of unwrapping to keep nori crisp Image: TheAtlantic.com

Take for example Onigiri which is rice balls usually filled with delicious goodness from raw or cooked fish, egg or red bean paste and surrounded with crisp nori. My favourites were the ones in special ‘peel-by-numbers’ wrapper which kept the nori crisp. So simple, yet you’d be hard pressed to find something as fresh and nutritious as this in a convenience store in North America. Here’s a detailed recipe on how to make Onigiri from Japanese Cooking 101 if you’re interested. I plan to make these this weekend!

Calpis Water

Calpis Water from Japan

Calpis Water. Get on this Coca-Cola North America! Image: Rakuten.com

Technically I didn’t discover this next item at a convenience store but it’s a very popular local beverage especially during Cherry Blossom season. Calpis Water, a non-carbonated drink made from milk and lactic acid, was discovered by Kaiun Mishima when he travelled to Mongolia in 1902 and saw locals drinking a type of sour milk. The drink seemed to aid his own digestive problems and when he returned to Japan, he brought the drink that is now so very popular. Sounds weird, right? Fermented lactic acid drink? Certainly nothing that I’d want to drink but it’s delicious and sweet and only now I realize how good it is for you. I guess the sweetness made me think that it was completely void of any nutritional value but the company claims the fermented lactic can aid in digestion. Either way, it’s yummy.

Royal Milk Tea

Royal Milk Tea, served hot or cold in Japan

Royal Milk Tea, served hot or cold in Japan Image: Rakuten.com

Japan can get pretty chilly in the winter and there’s nothing better to warm you up while you’re waiting for the Shinkansen than a hot tea or coffee. All over Japan you’ll find vending machines that sell hot beverages. One that I fell in love with is royal milk tea. I’m not sure why North America beverage manufacturers haven’t got on board with milky tea, either served hot or cold. There’s tons of ready-to-serve iced coffee drinks in North America but no tea! Screw coffee!! Coffee is gross. Let’s get moving on this multinational beverage companies … Coca-Cola, I’m looking at you! You have the market locked up in Japan, let’s branch out to North America for all those tea drinkers. A refreshingly cold or warming milky tea is just what the Canadian public want. Timmy’s serves already brewed hot tea. I’m not saying … but I am saying. Get. On. It. Now.

Ramen

Noodle restaurants at the Ramen Museum,  Shin-Yokahama, Japan

Noodle restaurants at the Ramen Museum, Shin-Yokahama, Japan

Though the ramen noodle originated in China, Japan has made it one of its own. We visited the Ramen Noodle Museum in Shin-Yokohama, which in my opinion is just a trumped-up spot for a few ramen restaurants with a gift shop attached to it. No one really should go for the gift shop; they should go for the choice of nine restaurants all serving their style of unique ramen dishes all fashioned around a WWII Japanese setting. Fresh ramen is soooo much tastier than the instant stuff. Japanese ramen shops take great pride in their noodles and especially their broths which are cooked for hours and can never be replicated by the freeze-dried, powered stuff. We went to the Sumire noodle shop known for their rich, flavourful miso noodles and broth. Very cool and very tasty place to try a lot of ramen dishes all in one spot.

Uni

Fresh uni (sea urchin) in Japan

Fresh uni (sea urchin) in a box in Japan Image: SeriousEats.com

We’ve always wanted to try uni (aka sea urchin) but it never failed that when we were at a sushi restaurant and saw it on the menu it was always in the off-season. This time we were in luck and we tried it three times. The first time we tried it at a sushi train in Osaka. It was one of the foulest experiences I’ve had in my life. It tasted like dirty garbage sea water with rotting fish and it had staying power. No amount of sake would take that away. When we met up with friends in Tokyo, they saw it on the menu and thought we should try it. We told them how uninterested we were in ever tasting it again but they assured us that it didn’t taste like that normally and that you get what you pay for (we got our first serving pretty cheap). Convincing us to try it again, we tasted such a delicate flavour and texture. Everything was different from our first experience. I would highly recommend trying uni but remember: you get what you pay for. Quality is everything with uni. It’s not a flavour for everyone but definitely worth a try.

Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot) just like Mama-San served

Sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot) just like Mama-San served Image: Japanese Homecooking

We were very fortunate to have a home cooked meal prepared by my brother-in-law’s mother-in-law (if that makes sense). We called her Mama-San and she made us sukiyaki, a hot-pot filled with love. Cabbage, tofu, sliced beef, enoki mushrooms, noodles, were spooned into our dishes that had a freshly cracked and beaten egg in it. When the fragrant hot broth and ingredients hit the egg, it became this velvety-smooth mixture of pure deliciousness. When we walked in to their house all you could smell was the aroma of the dashi-based broth with a hint of sweetness from the sake, mirin and sugar. It was heaven. Arigatō Mama-San!

Katsu don

Pork katsudon (Japanese fried pork cutlet on a bed of rice and egg)

Pork katsudon (Japanese fried pork cutlet on a bed of rice and egg) Image: Crizzfood.com

Pork katsu don wasn’t anything new for us but it is just delicious and needs a proper shout out. For those who aren’t familiar with the dish, it’s a fried piece of pork (or chicken) cutlet, served over a bowl of rice with an egg. The katsu don I’ve had in Canada was will a fried egg with a runny yolk so that you can incorporate the yolk with the rice and the bit of katsu don sauce creating something epic. In Japan we had it served two ways: with the sautéed chicken breast it was served just barely cooked and then pretty much raw with the deep-fried pork cutlet. Depends on how comfortable you are with consuming raw eggs. Nothing hard to do, nothing too complex, just simple delicious food that kept me full for over eight hours of walking around Osaka.

For a really comprehensive list of yummy Japanese dishes, check out Japan Talk’s “101 Kinds of Japanese Foods”.

 

Getting pumped about Toronto

It’s begun. I’ve started a countdown to our glorious return to Toronto. Lists are being made, clothes and household items are being sorted into keep/donate/sell/burn piles, and the frantic thoughts of whether we have all our things sorted to move back have settled in nicely and act like a nice warm hug full of crazy. Australia has been lovely and beautiful and we’ll miss it dearly, especially all the friends we met here, but I feel it’s time to head back home to Toronto.

I’m going to ignore the insanity and frustration that goes with moving house, let alone moving house to another country. My mind is focused on the most important thing about moving back to Toronto.

Food.

Tim Horton’s

Tim Horton's tea and my favourite doughnut Image: CampusDish.com

Tim Horton’s tea and my favourite doughnut
Image: CampusDish.com

A true Canadian classic. I’m not a coffee drinker but I can totally get behind Tim Horton’s steeped tea. I like tea that I can sip right away and don’t have to wait for. I’m a busy person with busy person things to do and don’t have time to wait for my tea to steep. And why am I paying for hot water and tea that I have to steep myself? If I wanted to steep my own tea, I’d do that in my kitchen for free. Pffffff. That’s just how I roll. I like Timmy’s because they steep it for me and put way more sugar in it than I normally would at home but hey, when in Rome! Did I mention I love doughnuts! I love doughnuts! I was extremely sad to hear that Timmy’s would be retiring some classics. One of them was my Dad’s favourite and I sent him a condolence card and a listing of all the local stores that still carried the remaining few. For his sake, I hope doughnuts freeze well.

California Sandwiches

A delicious California Sandwich Image: CaliforniaSandwiches.com

A delicious California Sandwich
Image: CaliforniaSandwiches.com

There was a California Sandwiches location near the place I use to work in Toronto and every now and then I would treat myself to a veal with cheese on a Friday. The only thing stopping me from eating there five days a week was my neurotic, evil brain making me think that I was going to become their Norm from Cheers and as soon as I walked into the restaurant, people would think “geez, she’s here again? Gross.” Luckily for my pants (which never split) and my self-esteem, that didn’t happen. I tried to wean myself off of these delicious foil-wrapped, fried sandwiches (sorry, “sangwiches”) and suffered through salad after salad and tuna with cucumbers or tuna with olives until I broke the habit. Salad and tuna sucks compared to California Sandwiches. To explain what a CS is to someone who has never tried the delicious breaded and fried veal (chicken, steak, eggplant, meatball, sausage or veggie) cutlet, smothered in a delicious tomato sauce and topped with provolone cheese, sweet or hot peppers, sautéed onions or mushrooms, it might sound a little basic and maybe even boring. But when you get every component right, from the crispy coating of the tender veal cutlet, the right acidity and sweetness of the tomato sauce, the right amount of hot peppers that won’t put you out of commission for a day and team it with gooey cheese (and a Brio)… its heaven. I can’t talk about this anymore. I’ve got a few more months before I can reward myself with one of these and this is torture.

Fuzzy Peaches and Swedish Berries

Maynards' Fuzzy Peaches Image: FanPop.com

Maynards’ Fuzzy Peaches
Image: FanPop.com

I’m more of a savoury foods person but every once in a while I’ll crave something ridiculously sweet. Something like Maynards’ Fuzzy Peaches or Swedish Berries. I have and will eat an entire bag of Swedish Berries. If you put money on it, well then challenge accepted. I’m hoping to finish an entire bag of Fuzzy Peaches but will have to work my way up to it. That’s my Olympic dream.

Poutine

Gourmet poutine Image: ChowTrek.com

Gourmet poutine
Image: ChowTrek.com

It’s not an everyday meal option for the GTA like it is in Montreal, but it’s a damn good one if you can get your hands on it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with poutine, it’s French fries with gravy and cheese curds. Again, it doesn’t sound that appetizing but done right and it’s amazing. When we left for Australia it had already cemented its place on trendy menus with luscious, high-end ingredients like butter-poached lobster and foie gras. We hacked out our very own version using frozen McCain Super Fries, instant St. Hubert Gravy and real cheese curds we found at Loblaws. Ghetto? Oh, you know it! I’m not going to say it was one of our proudest moments, and we ate it without making eye contact with each other but it satiated that salty, squeaky cheesy, gravy on carbs craving. Yummers!

Loblaws

President's Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie

A classic: President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, Image: Shalomlife.com

I dig food. I dig good food. I dig making good food from scratch. I dig not paying a lot of money to make good food that I dig. I could go to the trendy gourmet supermarkets and pay 30-50% more for the same item but I’d rather go to a place where I know I can find affordably-priced items, right next to some bargain gems. Enter Loblaws. Oh how I’ve missed your flyers, Insider’s Report and commercials! You had me when I first tasted a Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie and saw Dave Nichols and his “Memories of …” commercials. I’m looking forward to meandering up and down your wide, neatly arranged aisles, taking my time to check out your frozen hors d’oeuvres, classic President’s Choice products and your new PC Black Label lineup. I might rent a space on the second level and camp out but don’t worry, it’s cool … I’m not weird.

Oh, right. So I forgot my family and friends might read this so for sure you guys are number one and up there on my list of priorities. Family and friends outrank food and I am absolutely not saying that to get a My Super Sweet 16 kind of welcome home party. That would be lame (but secretly I’m really hoping for one).

What foods do you adore from Toronto or the GTA?

5 Aussie foods to try

If you happen to find yourself in Australia for a holiday, long-term stay or a big fat life change, here’s a helpful list of things you should try at least once.

The list is a collection from my own observations as a Canuck of some exciting Aussie foods that are a little different from the typical Canadian/North American diet. Not everything made the list: noble shout outs to damper bread (an Australian soda bread that’s best served warm with heaps of delicious Australian butter), the multitude of yummy treats like melting moments, Iced Vo Vos (sounds dirty but it’s not), Monte Carlos, and the patriotic ANZAC biscuit, meat pies, bircher muesli and of course crocodile. For a more, ahem, exotic listing of Australian foods to eat, check out CNN’s travel blog “Australian food: 40 dishes locals like to call their own”.

  1. Vegemite

    Vegemite ... yummy  salt bomb

    Vegemite … yummy umami salt bomb
    Image: Kraft foods

    So my first description of what Vegemite tastes like, might not have done it justice but I think for a non-Australian who hasn’t grown up on the stuff, it was pretty accurate. There’s a definite umami flavour happening and chef, traveller and good geek Ben Starr writes a great post on describing the taste from another non-Australian. I liked Vegemite when I first tasted it. Despite the majority of items on this list being sweet, I tend to favour more savoury/salty foods. I would have it for breakfast on buttered toast and pair it with another piece of buttered toast but this one was topped with strawberry jam. The combination of salty, sweet and buttery was an awesome way to start your day and to top it with a perfectly brewed cup of tea … well I could have eaten that for breakfast for the rest of my life. No problem. I mean no worries, mate! I told a coworker about my salty-sweet morning breakfast and she looked at me in horror. I’m not sure if I committed some sort of national incident but other Australians that I’ve shared this with don’t see the genius of the dish and only tend to pair it with other savoury items like cheese, tomatoes, scrambled or poached eggs. All good choices to pair with Vegemite, but I still think my dish is a winner.

  2. Tim Tams

    A package of the most delicious biscuit in the world, Tim Tam. Image courtesy of Arnott’s

    The original – Tim Tams. Image: Arnott’s

    Two chocolate biscuits covered in chocolate and sandwiched between a delicious chocolate cream make this biscuit and Australian icon. Read about the Tim Tam Slamprevious post on how to enjoy these delightfully decadent treats.

  3. Lamingtons

    Lamington Image: wikipedia.org

    Lamington
    Image: wikipedia.org

    Named after the wife of a Governor of Queensland, Lady Lamington, these delicate little cakes are made from a vanilla sponge cake, coated in a layer of chocolate, then a layer of shredded coconut. Variations include strawberry jam or cream-filled or my personal fav both with jam and cream. When we first arrived in Brisbane,we ate so many of these that we haven’t been able to touch them since, but since writing about them now, I think I might make a trip to the grocery store and pick some up. They’re perfect with a cup of tea or coffee as an afternoon treat.

  4. Kangaroo and kanga bangas

    Kangaroo Image: Lindsey Lumsden

    Australia’s national animal: Kangaroo
    Image: Lindsey Lumsden

    I previously wrote about kangaroo. It’s flavourful and best served medium rare, maybe crusted with dukkah (a dry rub consisting of nuts, usually sesame seeds, pistachios, cumin, etc) and paired with a great glass of cab sauv or merlot. If chowing down on a kangaroo fillet isn’t your thing but you still want to try it as a dare, cross it off your bucket list, whatever the reason, then try it as a banga! Kanga Bangas (aka kangaroo bangers, as in sausages) is a pretty decent way to ease yourself into trying the national animal of Australia. Familiar enough to put you at ease but exhilarating at the same time because you’re eating kangaroo!

  5. Dairy

    Delicious creamy Australian dairy

    Delicious creamy Australian dairy
    Image: thewellnesswarrior.com.au

    Australian and New Zealand cream, yoghurt, and butter is delicious. I haven’t visited the UK in a long time and can’t remember how good their dairy was but I know it’s up there. The cows, the grass that the cows eat (if they even eat grass), the process – I’m not sure what it is that makes Australian dairy taste so good. Like their English counterparts, they have a ton of variety that we just don’t see every day in Canada. Regular thickened cream, light thickened cream, extra light thickened cream, pure cream, double cream, dollop cream, cooking cream, double thick custard, pouring custard (yes, they sell eggnog-like containers of pouring custard all year long!), and a super thick sour cream. I needed cream for an Alfredo sauce one night after work and stood in front of the dairy case looking and acting like a mouth breather. How hard could it be to pick a cream? I finally put my half Italian pride on the side and asked a lady next to me. My Canadian accent must have thrown her because it looked like she took a moment to figure out what I had just asked. At least I hope it was my accent and not the fact that I was asking what cream I should be cooking with. That would have been awwwwkwaaard.

What are you up for tasting? Anything you would add to the list?

Melbourne: The Toronto of the Southern Hemisphere

A few weeks ago, my guy and I headed south to the lovely state of Victoria to take in all the sights and sounds of its capital city, Melbourne. We’d been to other states like Cairns (Queensland), Sydney (New South Wales), and Perth (Western Australia) but we always heard from others, locals and expats alike, to visit Melbourne. So last Australia Day, we set out to spend the long weekend and explore the city, which turned out to be one of my favourite places in Australia.

Here’s a photo of the Crown Casino’s hourly fire show. Yes, this happens hourly outside the complex.

Hourly fire show at Melbourne's Crown Casino

Hourly fire show at Melbourne’s Crown Casino

Here’s why: it reminded me so much of Toronto. Am I pinning for Toronto? Completely, without a doubt. I had been back to Toronto eight months ago, and that visit only made me miss it more. The sights, sounds, smells, and even the traffic made me realize how much I had missed it over the year and a half of living abroad. It felt as though my two weeks were compressed into only a few short days and I desperately wanted to drink it all in. I would live in Melbourne without hesitation if it weren’t for the fact that we moved from Toronto to find something different. It would have been a a disappointment to make the long haul journey to Australia and end up pretty much in a city that’s eerily similar to the one we left.

Locals describe Melbourne as the European city of Australia. It’s not like Sydney, Brisbane or Perth, and definitely not like Cairns. Melbourne has a unique history and is generally known as the melting pot of Australia as many immigrants from Greece, Italy, China, and Vietnam made Melbourne their home. It’s a beautiful and welcoming city, and equally fantastic as Toronto.

Here’s my theory on why Melbourne is the Toronto of the Southern Hemisphere:

Streetcars.

Public transportation geeks unite! Melbourne offers a free City Circle Tram that travels around the city centre and provides a recorded message of some of the interesting points of buildings, local attractions and neighbourhoods. Yup, free. Could you see Toronto offering a service like this? In addition to the free city centre service, it was very comforting to hear the sounds of cars driving over the streetcar tracks.

City Circle Tram

Melbourne’s free City Circle Tram [image courtesy of onlymelbourne.com.au]

It was cold.

Like 17C cold when we arrived. In my opinion, that’s not normal for Australia during the summertime. People who live in Melbourne say they can go through all four seasons in a day and I completely believe them. It was like Toronto on a cool autumn day.

Amazing food. 

Here’s where things get “European” in my opinion. Like many European cities, Melbourne has dozens of laneways and alleyways where amazing food is served day and night. That’s the only difference in terms of where you actually find food. Toronto doesn’t have the alleyway restaurant culture simply because of the weather. If Toronto had the same climate as the South of France where the only threat comes from a chilly day and potentially rain, then Toronto would all over it. Unfortunately, Toronto is faced with -32C, snow, sleet, hail and everything else that drives outdoor eating inside.

Diversity.

Not just for food but cultures and people. It was incredible to walk down the street and see different nationalities and cultures living in one area. Melbourne, in my opinion is the most diverse city in Australia.

Gardens, boulevards, and parks.

Parliament Garden

Parliament Gardens

Like Toronto, Melbourne is full of green space. We’d walk past numerous parks and will the streetcars going by, the large open areas, it felt as though we were walking into High Park.

If you’re ever on this side of the world and are pinning for a bit of Toronto, then head over to Melbourne for a few days. With its mixtures of cultures, from Europe, Asia and of course Australia, it’ll satisfy any craving. Bonus: no Rob Ford.

 

From maple syrup, double-doubles and beavers to Vegemite, flat whites and kangaroos

My guy and I moved from Mississauga to Brisbane back in April 2012. Our plan was to live in Brisbane for two years then head back to the Great White North where we’d again face the realities of family and non-family commitments, four distinct seasons and possibly a polar vortex. Living in a tropical climate has its perks for sure.

Brisbane’s population just surpassed 1.8 million making it the third largest city in Australia. Not as many as Toronto’s 2.7 million, but they’re getting there. Despite the third from the top ranking, there’s still a sense of small town living that you don’t experience in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and which you certainly don’t experience in Toronto. Is it the noticeable lack of commuter traffic, really quiet neighbourhoods and plenty of sandy, beautiful beaches that lends to this sense of space?

Here’s a promotional video from VisitBrisbane.com.au

For those of you contemplating a move to Brisbane, here’s the nitty-gritty from an insider ex pat.

The good

The weather in Brisbane is simply amazing. Countless days of nothing but blue skies. Seriously. Not even the white fluffy kind in the distance. Same with the beaches. They’re breathtaking. There are so many beaches that there’s no need to cram everyone onto one so there’s always space to spread out and get comfy.

There’s nothing quite like the taste of Vegemite. Really. Having never tried it before coming to Australia, we heard a lot about it and made sure it was one of the first items on our grocery list. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s salty, savoury, and yeasty. My guy describes it as “super concentrated, salty pan drippings”. That’s a pretty good description. It’s actually quite healthy as it’s made up of all the B vitamins. All in a salty flavour bomb.

Vegemite ... yummy salt bomb

Vegemite … yummy salt bomb

Kangaroo is delicious. It’s lean, flavourful and best served medium-rare. That’s all I’m going to say.

I don’t drink coffee, but I hear a flat white is the best coffee. Ever. If you want to order one in North America, it’s a ‘no-foam cappuccino’. It’s from Australia/New Zealand. Many Aussies who visit North America are heart-broken (and sometimes fuming) when they can’t get a decent flat white abroad.

The bad

Despite being geographically located near many Asian countries, Brisbane’s cultural diversity is nothing like Toronto’s. This is probably one of the things that disappoints me most about being here. We were so privileged to have lived in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. We saw a diverse view of different cultures and had access to any and all type of cuisine. Brisbane is just starting to embrace the different cultures which reside within but it’s a long road to get to where Toronto is. Melbourne and Sydney are up there with decades of immigration from all over the world contributing to its diversity in food, landscape, and architecture. It took ages to find a Vietnamese restaurant who could make a decent phở and it’s still not as good as the one we get back in Toronto. They have Mexican and Italian restaurants here, but they’re more “Mexican’ish” or “Italian’ish”. I think the issue is that they’re catering to the Brisbane palate, where their idea of cheesecake is cream cheese and sugar spread onto a pre-baked cookie base. I’m sorry but that’s not a cheesecake. That’s what I throw together when I’m craving something fast and sweet to eat and don’t mind being ghetto. Same with hot dogs or sausages. They deserve the respect of a proper sausage/hot dog bun, not a slice of white bread.

Television and movies are far behind that there’s no wonder people download movies illegally. If you want to watch shows as they air on regular cable in North America, you have to pay for premium cable or wait weeks, months sometimes even years before you can watch it. Australia just aired the first season of their version of The Bachelor. Welcome to 2002!!! The movie 12 Years a Slave is only just being released this week.

Need I say more?

The ugly

Chauvinism is alive and well here. And it’s accepted. That’s right, not just tolerated, but accepted. I once had a supervisor tell me that the next person they hired in the department would have to be male because the group they would be working with didn’t want to work with a female. The supervisor was male. Is that even legal? I put it forward to HR but nothing came of it. A male was hired for the role, just in case you were wondering. Is this due to the small town mentality where men run businesses and women get together with other women only for coffee catch ups and brunch all while wearing pricey yoga gear and full make-up? This whole ‘full make-up yoga outfit wearing’ thing kills me. Are you going to the gym or out for eggs benny? Does that crazy expensive shiny watch have a timer so you know when to transition from a run to a walk? I don’t get it.

Australia has a drinking culture unlike anything I’ve seen in North America. It’s as though people want to find any excuse to drink and drink to excess. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people stumbling out of bars completely drunk off their faces. The route I walked to into work in the morning had me passing by three bars and after a football, rugby or cricket match, there was always remnants of someone’s sick on the sidewalk. Not pleasant and not pleasant to think about as Australia loves sports so there’s always a game on and yes, another reason to drink. Melbourne Cup is a notorious event for people drinking to excess. The horse race, held annually in November, is all about drinking. The main race is held around lunchtime and only lasts for 10 minutes… tops. People get dolled up in their finery, ladies wear fascinators, men wear suits and they look fantastic. The drinking starts at 10:30am and doesn’t stop until 8pm. I’ve seen extremely large men stumbling home, walking out in front of traffic and almost causing accidents because they were too intoxicated to walk. Tragically, there has been a number of alcohol-fuelled deaths. The number of ‘king hits’ (what we call a sucker punch to the head) are on the increase as a result of booze-fuelled violence.

So, having gone through the good and the bad of living in Brisbane, I can honestly say it’s been a great experience; one that I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life. We’re set to head back this June and I’m sure it will be difficult to leave such a wonderful and beautiful place.