Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Covert Ops: Cuisine Edition

I took a quick look around. The waitress was busy with other customers and the patrons at the table next to us were engrossed in conversation. Perfect timing. I raised my camera and snapped a covert picture. A spy couldn’t have done a better job.

This past spring, when I was on staff at the Pacific Orientation Course, my housemate and I had draped ourselves across the couches of our flat, sweating in the humidity, and dreamily compiled a list of foods we desperately missed. She later blogged about it right before she headed back to the US for a quick trip—you can read about it here.

Around the world, the presence of food holds a deep and unrivaled place in culture—it’s how we bond, celebrate, mourn, comfort, and show love. We take dinners to new moms and hold potlucks after church. We eat certain foods at Christmas (like lefse!) and bake cakes for birthdays; there is the traditions of Saturday morning breakfast and who could forget your grandmother’s unsurpassed cookies? Our preferences, tastes, and associations are entrenched within us from the moment we begin to show a fondness for our own mother’s milk and are moulded by every meal you eat afterwards. So, even though you can learn to appreciate and even love the penchants and quirks of a different food culture, you will always retain a certain partiality for food from your own life and world.

And that includes missionaries working in Papua New Guinea (PNG). So, when I went to Cairns, Australia for a week-long vacation this past June, I thought you might enjoy seeing some photos of what got me so terribly excited. :)

My first meal was breakfast. Well, it was actually lunch, but I ate breakfast food. Why? Because the “traditional” American-style breakfast with bacon and sausage and eggs and cheese and fresh orange juice is all quite expensive in PNG. (And, the bacon and sausage here aren’t very good anyway, so why spend the money?)

Then, we decided that since prices are expensive in Cairns, we would make at least one meal a day in our kitchen flat. But lest you think that we skimped on that meal, think again—just take a look at all these DELICACIES!!  Sliced cheese, sliced meat (ham!!), grapes, apples, pretzels (not stale or soggy), and whole-wheat sliced bread! :)

The next day, our large meal was a hamburger and chips. Mmmmmmmm, real hamburger!!

PIZZA with real cheese and lots of it!!! Ohhh, yum :) And which one did I pick? The one with bacon, oh yes.

And then I walked into a grocery store again and couldn’t help but buy more extravagant cuisine fit for a king’s table: blueberries (I swear angels started singing the Hallelujah Chorus), cashews (the same size packet in PNG would cost well over $20), Toblerone (perhaps $30 in our store), and Snickers...because I wanted it (and because it was less than a dollar. Oh my word—are these prices real?)

The next day, we were wandering around the zoo and got hungry. So, Belgian Waffles were on the menu as a delectable and unexpected treat (especially when theirs come with ICE CREAM!)

Speaking of ice cream, I will just post one representative photo of my ice cream consumption—not only did Australia provide dozens of flavours to chose from but (get this!) they were all made with real cream and dairy products and hadn’t been thawed and refrozen about 15 times. Ohhhh, deliciousness! (In PNG, choices in your thawed-and-refrozen ice cream flavour are an unexpected privilege and may be limited to deciding between turquoise blue and hot pink.)

Notice the brand "ColdRock." Sound familiar, my US American friends?

At the beach, we got hungry...and what did I find they offered? A BACON sandwich with all the fixings. Yum.

I had been craving Mexican food, but I wasn’t sure what I could find in this tropical tourist town...but, lo and behold, real tasty fajitas, Australian-style! Hooray! (And I did I mention the various thickshakes I enjoyed? Oh yes, don’t forget those. And the real hot chocolate too!)

And last, but not least, I also must comment on the restaurant service itself: the clean tables (and clean floor and clean room...), the menu that was completely understandable (rather than half of it written in Chinese or Thai), the actual availability of all the items listed on the menu, the quick food delivery, the accurate food delivery, the paying for your check at the table...

...and waiters who look the other way when you take pictures of your amazing food.:)