Don your singa*, grab your thongs*, crack a tinny* and make a snag* sanga*: (Translation: put on your vest and flip-flops, grab a beer and make a sausage sandwich.) Australia Day is 26 January and, to celebrate, we’re toasting weird and wonderful things from Australia. Strewth mate, there are quite a few.
They’re not bears; they’re arboreal herbivorous marsupials. They’re also not stoners (that’s just an urban myth), but they are massive layabouts: koalas rest for 18 to 20 hours a day, dozing in the eucalyptus trees that also double up as their breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Can I eat it? No, mate: it’s an endangered species.
2. KEITH URBAN
Nicole Kidman’s husband. Does music (country). Appears on American Idol.
Can I eat it? Ask Nicole.
3. PIE FLOATER
Winner of our ‘least-temptingly-named-snack-ever’ award, pie floater is a pea-and-pie-lover’s dream come true: a meat pie submerged in pea soup, with optional ketchup for an extra splash of colour. Last seen in Adelaide and Sydney.
Can I eat it? Do you mind eating thick green sludge with a pastry centre? If not, sure.
They eat grass, they don’t need much water, they sometimes sound like dogs barking and they have boxing moves like Muhammad Ali. Because of their insanely long feet, kangaroos can’t walk normally; instead, to move slowly, a ’roo uses its tail to form a tripod with its two forelimbs, then raises its hind feet forward, in a form of locomotion called ‘crawl-walking’. Sounds tiring.
Can I eat it? Yes, but it’s tough: try kangaroo carpaccio.
5. WITCHETTY GRUBS
Large, white, wood-eating larvae of several moths that feed on the roots of the Witchetty bush, found in central Australia.
Can I eat it? Definitely, follow the Aboriginals’ example and eat them raw or cooked lightly in hot ashes – they’re full of protein. You may have watched various ‘celebrities’ try them (with varying degrees of success/appreciation) in I’m a Celebrity…
6. DAGWOOD DOGS
A sausage on a stick, coated in batter. If Stella Artois did lollipops… They’re also known as Pluto Pups, and make regular appearances at Australian music festivals, fairs and sporting events.
Can I eat it? How healthy is your heart?
Introducing Australia’s winged killing machines/feathery giant daggers. An average cassowary measures six foot tall, weighs 100 pounds and gallops at 30 miles an hour. Don’t mess with their middle toes: dagger-like, five-inch claws. Unfortunately for their enemies, these big birds have a talent for kicking. Cassowary? Cassoscary.
Can I eat it? You won’t get close enough.
Look away, monogamous Marmite-lovers, this is not for your eyes (or gob). Australia’s take on dark, sticky, odd-tasting savoury spreads was developed in 1922 in Melbourne by Cyril P. Callister, using leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. It’s malty, salty and rich in umami. Umyummy.
Can I eat it? Er, yes: smear on toast.
9. GIANT JELLYFISH
A bonkers new type of jellyfish – the Keesingia gigas jellyfish – was recently discovered off the coast of Western Australia. It caused a lot of confusion to aquatic boffins, due to its bewildering lack of tentacles. (Jellyfish usually rely on their tentacles to catch their food.)
Can I eat it? You don’t want to: it’s linked to the potentially deadly Irukandji syndrome, which is about as fun as it sounds.
10. TINY JELLYFISH
Good things don’t always come in small packages. Take the Irukandji jellyfish, which is found in Australia’s marine waters and measures a teeny tiny 1cm. Small but frightful: Irukandji have a nasty habit of firing stingers into their victims.
Can I eat it? See above.
Make a sponge cake, chop it into squares, cover in chocolate paste, coat with desiccated coconuts. You might see lamingtons served in two halves, with whipped cream or jam piped in between. The cake takes its name from Lord Lamington, who served as governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. Thank you, Lord Lamington.
Can I eat it? You betcha. Look out for a lemon version, too (New Zealand also has a raspberry variety).
12. TASMANIAN DEVILS
The Looney Tunes’ take on Tasmanian devils isn’t far off: early European settlers first called these pugnacious little marsupials ‘devils’ after witnessing their ferocious fits of temper when rubbed the wrong way (top tip: don’t try to take their mate, food or life). They smell bad and screech bad.
Can I eat it? Play safe and stick with bacon. You know where you are with bacon.
Looking for something to keep you warm at night? Big fan of Horlicks and don’t mind spending all day in your pyjamas? You’ll probably love Milo: Australia’s chocolate and malt powder drink. Don’t be surprised if you feel Olympics-ready after one cup: the product is named after the famous ancient athlete Milo of Croton and his legendary strength.
Can I eat it? Yes, it’s also a snack bar and breakfast cereal. The powder can be eaten on its own, if you’re weird, but most people add three teaspoons to a cup of hot or cold milk or water.
14. MUSK STICKS
Less dangerous (and olfactorily offensive) than they sound, musk sticks are actually a madcap Australian sweet treat; a colourful version of British candy sticks, if you like. These distinctive flamingo-pink sugar sticks have a floral aroma and taste, inspired by musk perfume.
Can I eat it? Yes, just don’t tell your dentist.
15. POTATO SCALLOPS
Basically a glorified potato cake: dipped in batter (grease is the word) and deep-fried. Move over, chips, there’s a new potato-based, heart-attack-snack in town.
Can I eat it? Yes, preferably with battered, deep-fried gummy shark.
If you want to hop on a plane and see these exotic curiosities for yourself, take a peek at our boutique hotels in Australia.
Collage by Anne White. Images via Shutterstock.