The last few places I have traveled to outside this country have had very exotic food choices. Japan, China, Peru, etc. Mostly I’ve had to navigate food through pictures, gestures and general trial and error.
Traveling to Australia, however, was like being on a relaxing vacation. No signs I didn’t understand, no food that was questionable as to its contents, no looking around in wonder when I heard a conversation in English instead of the native tongue. Instead, I navigated the country quite easily, able to decipher any and all slang terms and recognizing all the food that the country has to offer.
Oddly enough, no one had kangaroo meat on the menu, so that was something I walked away not trying.
Most everything else was something I’ve eaten before. Meat pies anyone? Ginger beer? Sarsparilla?
What Australia definitely boasts is some of my favorite fish and chips ever. Those who know me are gaping at their computer screens right about now. Fish? Really?
Yes, fish. I grew up in a family that did not touch fish with a 10-foot pole. It was the one food my mother and uncle refused to eat as children and so it fell off the menu. My mom will indulge in the occasional can of tuna, although my uncle still will not kiss my aunt if she even had any for lunch that day. Both will eat shrimp and rarely lobster, but otherwise no fish sticks on my plate as a kid. No sushi, no salmon, no nothing.
My Dad’s house wasn’t all that different, although when kids weren’t home they’d occasionally break out some frozen fish, I don’t ever remember being offered some fish sticks or anything. And as you know, when you’re not given a certain flavor as a child it is really hit or miss when it comes to eating it as an adult. My Grandma would eat fish at restaurants but I never was brave enough to try it. Instead I had tuna from a can and was sometimes offered a gelatinous blob of white stuff that smelled horrible at Passover (Gefilte fish) and that was all I knew of fish. (Well, besides those that swim in the ocean like these fishes at the Great Barrier Reef)
Then we moved to Oregon. A place where everyone eats salmon and the lines for sushi go out the door. Suddenly my non-eating of fish ways were odd and I was the only one to turn my nose up at a nice cedar-plank salmon fillet. Cedar-plank salmon fillets were not on the menu in my house in the suburbs of New York. Oh, what we were missing!
I started to give into the fish peer pressure at sushi restaurants and a philly roll was my first introduction to what is now a love of limited sushi. I’m still picky, and will only eat certain types of fish. I don’t experiment (no eel, thank you!) and it’s rare I find a fish I truly love.
Where is that tangent going? To Whiting. This, my friends, is the fish I discovered high in the Blue Mountains (in doing my research just now, it looks like my imitation crab is made with a type of Whiting most often, so probably I’ve loved it for a while without knowing it). It was amazing. Meaty, mild and no taste of fish whatsoever (I may like fish, I just don’t like my fish tasting like fish.) Not to mention it was served with probably the most amazing tartar sauce (I found the chef and got the recipe!) and I begged for extra to eat with my fries it was that good.
After that I ordered fish and chips at pretty much every meal trying to find that good Whiting again. Alas, mostly it was just regular ol’ white fish. But still good.