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The Australian Kitchen

Chop. Slice. Blend. Stir. Mix. Rinse. Mash. Fry. Pop. Steam. Cook. Boil. Grill. Smoke. Dry. Rest. Bake. Fillet. Season. Drizzle. Mix. Beat. Slimmer. Serve. Eat.

In November 2015, Australia launched a new food channel: The Food Network. Not that this country lacks any cooking show. During prime time you can get inspired by Aussies BBQ Heroes, Jamie Oliver’s Superfood, Chopped, The Spirit of Japan, Inferno Kitchen, UK Bakes, Cabinet’s Kitchen and a dozen of others. Despite the huge range of these programs, it seemed viewers were in the need of something more. Quite funny, in my opinion, as Australia doesn´t really have decent food culture.

Every single European I come across has been complaining about the same thing: Australian food sucks. The bread is too soft, the coffees are too weak, soda’s are incredibly sweet and artifical. Above all: who came up to create Vegemite chocolate?! No, Australia is not a country like France or Italy where you could go to just because of its kitchen. France can be named in one sentence with croissant, crêpe, brie en Boeuf Bourguignon. Italy just breaths pizza and pasta. Perhaps Australia can be described with sausage rolls or pies. Not the chocolate pie or Dutch apple pie, but minced beef pie. It comes with a dash of ketchup and if you’re lucky, it had been made the same day. If not – what most likely the case is – you will probably munch it after a good night out.

The cooking shows are a big puzzle for me, as there is no point in broadcasting them. Why look at them and not use them? Sure, Jamie Oliver can provide you great ideas for dinner and it is quite entertaining but how likely is it you are actually going to put this in practice? Nihil, I assume. It is a real shame, as Australia has many farmers and produces a lot of fresh vegetables, meat and dairy. However, most of the harvest will be exported to other countries and Australia ends up importing more products. For example: the Passionfruit Christmas Pudding has been created in England from imported ingredients and exported to Australia. Same for the Belgian Chocolate Cake, made in Belgium – I guess this is actually a good thing – and the kiwi’s are imported from Italy. You start to wonder if this country keeps anything for themselves and if they are able to cook something more than a mashed avocado toast.

Well, there is one thing Australians are bloody good at doing: the barbecue. It is the French gourmet pan, the Italian pizza oven and the Belium deepfrying pan. All hail, make way for the Australian Barbecue! You cannot live without a barbecue unless you deny that you are in Australia. There are options for vegetarian and vegans so no one will be left behind. Every household owns at least one of these smoking hot grills. Either working on gas or with – flavoured! – coals: char grill, steam, woodfire, spit, portable or smoking. Australia has the answer. There are free electric barbecues in parks if your backgarden is too small. Every day, the council cleans them but on the country side, you might be a bit unlucky. Most rest areas have designed barbecue pits so that you could still light the barbie, if you could not afford a portable on – and also to prevent bushfires.

Knowing this, the only understandable cooking show which makes sense, is Aussie Barbecue Heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals pick something up from this show. Three couples have to face different barbecue challanges such as “create a dish with prawns, sweet chili and basil, within 30 minutes!” or “give me a fushion steak!” It is far more interesting than Australia’s Master Chef with the tension around Sally’s dish and the question if the eggs of her quinea salad are boiled on the point or not.

To wrap up the Australian kitchen, you will need 3 things. Pie – preferable a few days old, reheated – a barbecue – to create excellent steaks – and an ice cold beer – but due to the heat, it is more likely a warm one. I haven’t discussed the matter “beer” but as most students among us know what a beer is, it seemed irrelevant to me to elaborate on that subject. There are no extrodinairy beers here: think about a simple beer and reduce the alcohol to 3.5% and that is your Australian beer. However, you never know what Jamie Oliver comes up with and turns it into a gourmet superfood. This country is full of surprises.

So there you go: pie, barbecue and a beer that goes along with it. Simple and easy, that is Australian food culture. Who needs Passionfruit Christmas Pudding anyway?

Sizzling Sydney

You could almost hear the city breathing. Aah rain! It was a relief. After Christmas it hadn’t rained anymore. Now, when the first drops fell on the heated pavement, it was like water on the barbeque. Sizzling. Ssszzz
Sydney’s temperatures have been up between 25-35 degrees, week in, week out. It calls out for a day at the beach and that is exactally what most Sydneians do. The sandy shores of Manly, Bondi and Congee are overcrowed with enthusiastic surfers, bomshells and beach boys. We walked along Manly beach, zigzagging between the visitors, tourists and ice cream-eaters. Nothing special, in our opinion, but then again I’m not a true Sydneian and not a true sunbather. A beach is a beach. Sand ‘n’ sea, water ‘n’ earth, yelling children ‘n’ sand castles. Recently there was a shark spotted in the area. How exciting.

The famous ferry to Manly was everything execpt enjoyable. On a Sunday, when the public transport is only $2,5 for a full day, the whole city had the same of going to Manly. The line to the ferry terminal was incredible long but luckily the boat has a capacity of 1000 passengers. Within 15 minutes we sailed off. The Indian family next to us had at least one camera per person: ready to capture Australia’s biggest harbour with splendid views.

Our dissapointment wasn’t a surprise. It is a natural thing what occurs when you are travelling for a longer time. Being spoiled with breathtaking views, lakes, waterfalls, indigenous sites and stunning routes make everything look normal. Nothing is special anymore and comparisments with previous experiences ruin your present visit. I’ll give an example: when we were at Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand, we said to each other: “Oh look, another big lake.” But of course, although it is beautiful, an overload of beautiful things will accostom you to it. As soon we were back in Auckland, we realized how astonishing our journey has been. Take a look at your holiday pictures, maybe you will be surprised too.

Back to Manly, Sydneys famous overcrowed beach. Why is this beach so populair? What makes this sandy shore so special? If you ask me, it looked more like a public catwalk than a recreational area. The amount of trained bodies walking around made me feel like it was Baywatch Live. Yes, it was nice to walk on the boulevard, to watch surfers cathing their waves and to enjoy the sunshine. But can’t you do that on any other ordinairy beach? Don’t get me wrong, I like beaches. Perhaps the sand in my cheese sandwich and the screaming children around me make it an unpleasant experience.

A few days after we tackled Manly Beach it started to rain. The showers were more than welcome because of the high temperatures of the last few weeks. Maybe the Sydneians wouldn’t have admitted it but 23 degrees instead of 35 is very pleasant. On the news people complained that this autumn weather isn’t summer. Perhaps they were annoyed that they couldn’t go to Manly Beach. Fair enough, there are more things you cannot do when it is raining. No sizzle on the barbie. No tanning, drippin’ ice cream, an ice cold schooner or thongs and skirts.

Personally I only see one downside of the relatively cool weather of the past days. Namely, I have hanged my laundry up to dry. But it doesn’t.

My way to make money with Martin Lamberts Löwenbrück

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As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My way to make money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work.

This week we interview a student about his summer job as a waiter in the States. Martin Lamberts Lowenbruck is a 23 year old student in the second year of the European Studies program. Born and raised in the USA, he holds a German passport due to his German parents. His German ancestry was one of the reasons that triggered his interest in Europe and come to Maastricht for his studies.

My job…
I work as a ‘waitstaff’ of a seaside restaurant named Jackie’s Too in Ogunquit, Maine, USA. Opened in the 60’s, the restaurant now serves as a tourist attraction for Americans and French Canadians alike, serving both lunch and dinner every day, all year-round. I’ve been working summers at Jackie’s restaurant since 2012, and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of returning this summer for work, albeit for only a short time, as my work schedule in the Netherlands requires my return.

I like my job because…
I enjoy working at Jackie’s too for several reasons, not least of which is the beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean over Perkin’s Cove. The restaurant is located directly on the shore, with only a few metres between the waves and the restaurant veranda during high tide. The smell of the cold ocean on a warm morning is one of life’s simple pleasures. The ocean has always been close to home.

A regular day looks like…
I spend about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week at the restaurant. Starting work at 10:00 means I usually leave work between 4 and 5 PM, depending on how busy the day was. With tips for excellent service included, you can expect to earn around $120 to $170 for 6 hours of work, making $20 per hour isn’t bad.

The thing that makes the job hard…
The hardest part of the job, as in all realms of the service industry, are terrible customers. These very patrons, however, can be what makes the job great. Working busy hours and running food on a 100º day will certainly run you down, especially when a customer heckles for minutes at a time over simple things like water or napkins. Despite shortcomings and unpleasant guests, however, good service is usually rewarded with a good tip, unless you’re serving Canadians. The French Canadians, in keeping with good European tradition, generally do not tip the server, assuming it is already included in the bill. If lucky, I can expect a 5% tip from even the sweetest Canadians; they simply don’t understand customs, despite returning every year. The reason tips are such a big deal for the service industry in the USA is because of the low wages servers receive. Servers do not qualify for minimum wage (around $8.00), because they generally receive tips. When the tips are not received, servers essentially work for free.

The job gives me…
Apart from the location, the rest of the waitstaff is comprised of people from all over the world. Having become acquainted with numerous international employees from Eastern Europe last year, I have now had the pleasure of getting to know a few South Africans, Jamaicans, and seasonal workers. The international and cultural exposure that this job has to offer was one of the hidden gems of working in Ogunquit. People rarely realise how much of the tourist industry in Maine survives off the work of young aspiring guest workers. The cultural and worldly experience gained by the locals is just an added benefit.

I didn’t expect the job to be…
as stressful as it is sometimes. Nevertheless, I also didn’t expect the job to be so rewarding. As a server, it’s important to have the ability to sell yourself. The server’s ability to give the customer a nice experience is the fulcrum on which earnings turn. This line of work certainly puts more responsibility on the server for good wages.

Later in life I’ll…
not work in the restaurant industry. It is certainly a high-stress job and teases one’s patience. It’s ideal for young and energetic people who need something to do for a summer. For the seasoned employees, I have nothing but respect, as they toil daily in one of the harder industries. These people serve others when they are not working. I aspire a career in journalism or maybe life will surprise me.

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Update. Summer> Maastricht> INKOM

I apologise for not posting any blogs in a while, I have been very busy what with family summer holidays (apparently wifi access is almost impossible to get in the north of Scotland…), student finance applications, working in Maastricht and seeing all my friends and family in Edinburgh.

[Not all of these things however, are unrelated – as you will see in my post ‘Student Study Finance: A Blessay’ there is a lot to be done when applying for student finance.]

Although excuses out of the way, I have posted 3-for-the-price-of-one blogs in one dollop – so there is more than enough blog-ness to be getting on with.

The summer holidays drawing to an end for many, and as I write this there is a raging storm outside which pretty much signals the end to sun, ice-cream and shorts…

Behind me is my family holiday to the Isle of Skye, off the West coast of Scotland (see above re: lack of internet), as are my rounds of family/friends catching up with in Edinburgh. Also behind me are the days of stressing about study finance, my job in Maastricht and moving apartments. It was really nice seeing my friends and family who I have missed massively and now I am back in Maastricht. I have been working in Maastricht for most of August and can’t wait for my uni friends to return! J

Ahead for many a Maastricht student is returning to the city of cobbles, or the settling in for the first time for the many 1st year students arriving this August/September. Therefore it also goes without saying that a large amount of students will be looking forward to the huge introduction party in Maastricht: INKOM.

INKOM (for those who don’t know) is a city-wide introduction festival  for 5 days with parties, info events, parades and lots more! See http://www.inkom.nl/?lang=en for details.

I will be covering the various events of INKOM in FULL (or as full as I can make it without collapsing from the awesomeness of it all). So if you want to know what is hot/not/medium/weird/too dutch/not dutch enough/too drunken/too sober/must bring your own umbrella, drink, food, clothes or flying elephant – then this is the place to keep checking up on for INKOM updates! J

Also ahead of many is the beginning of a new academic year – which means new books, new stationary, new friends (optional), new tutors, new courses and lots of other new interesting stuffys and thingys.

With that can also come lots of renewed nerves/anxiety about starting up again. Especially for those starting first year.

I, personally am a little nervy (eg. will my new courses be too difficult?, will I be able to hold down a job on top of this?, will I make new friends or will my pet dragon put people off…. etc etc). So I have been doing lots of relax-y/chill-y things like saunas, face masks, long baths, good movies (and bad ones) as well as a good dose of cola (my latest addiction).

For now I hope you enjoy my two other “informative” blogs and good luck with the start of uni again!