Blog Archives

America on My Mind.


My ex-pat friend based in Los Angeles recently wrote a piece describing what she misses about Australian food and even though I’ve been back from Atlanta for 13 years, there are still things I miss about America; the things that always seem to come up in conversation with either my husband or other people and that make me quite nostalgic for the good ol’ U S of A. So, in no particular order:

SERVICE:  Great service.  All the time. Across the board.  Can you even imagine a land where …. service providers, repairmen, furniture deliverers and all others of their ilk give you a three-hour window and actually turn up IN THAT WINDOW?

…. Sales Assistants not only acknowledge you but ask “May I help you with something?” rather than “Are ya right?” which comes only after they’ve finished chatting to each other about what-evah,  then looking stunned to discover a customer actually in the store. (Is it so wrong to want to stab them in the eye with a coat hanger?)

…. whole cities have Department Stores that don’t consider staff an optional extra, unlike Sydney where they’re like the Yeti – lots of rumoured sightings but no confirmation of actual existence and

…. restaurants don’t mistake you for Linda Blair’s eye-bulging, head-swivelling possessed person because you’ve been trying for 20 futile minutes to catch a waiter’s eye for more water or the dessert menu or the bill. bad-customer-service

BUFFALO WINGS & HASH BROWNS: Americans can’t make coffee and Australians can’t make hash browns. It seems the fewer the ingredients, the more unpalatable you can make something.  Yes, you can get good coffee in America but it’s made by Australians so chances are, there are Americans in Australia turning out delicious hash browns but I’ve yet to come across them.  Who knew there was so much room for error mixing potatoes, egg and flour? So far, I’ve only tasted the ones that are either crisp enough to pass as cornflakes or so stodgy you could mortar bricks with them. In America, even the diviest of dives will present you with a perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside jagged serve of potato goodness.

Same goes for Buffalo Wings – which, if you don’t already know – are actually chicken wings and are called what they are  in the US because they were invented in Buffalo, New York.  Don’t say you never learn anything from my ramblings.  Anyway… it’s the paprika that gives them that disturbing orange colour but what I wouldn’t give for a little Trekkie technology to be able to beam myself into Atlanta’s ‘Three Dollar Café’ for a plateful. You have a choice of mild, medium or losing feeling in the lower part of your face. All good.

chicken wings   homemadehashbrowns

TURNING RIGHT (our LEFT) ON RED: Everywhere.  Yes, we can do it here but only on 17 random intersections (OK, I made that number up) in random suburbs on roads that cover an urban area of roughly 12,000 square kilometres.  If you don’t know why Sydney-siders would give up their first-borns to the Roads and Traffic Authority for making this a blanket practice then you obviously don’t drive in Sydney.  But wait, there’s more.  It also gives people less of a chance to fiddle with their phones – which is what everyone does at red lights…admit it.

left turn on red                                          left turn on red                                       left turn on red

atlanta outlet

OUTLET MALLS: The Stepford Wives of retail.  (For those of you totally oblivious to the reference, you youngsters you, “The Stepford Wives” was a 1975 sci-fi movie in which all the wives living in a small town called Stepford, looked and behaved the same, you know, like the Eastern Suburbs here.   Ignore the Nicole Kidman 2004 re-make and watch the original.)  So what I’m saying is that every Outlet Mall looks almost the same.  You can probably pick them out from the air.  Rows and rows and rows of stores. But the savings are SERIOUS.  Even designer pieces can be slashed by 85%.  Sydney’s Birkenhead and DFO are less-than-pale imitations because when I see them touting HUGE SAVINGS because something has been reduced by 25%, I want to laugh hysterically and tell them to look up the word “clueless” in the dictionary.  I understand Australian retailers are working with a population of 23 million rather than 317,000 million, thus, incredibly less volume and competition but this won’t stop me from taking an empty suitcase to Honolulu in August when I hit the Waikele Premium Outlets running.

WHOLEFOODS & THE WAFFLE HOUSE: Wholefoods is a one-stop, pesticide and preservative-free nirvana for anyone organically inclined.  It aims to carry as many minimally processed foods as possible ranging over every food group but also stocks supermarket staples such as laundry supplies and cosmetics.  They have my undying love and gratitude because due to their range of organic baby food, I didn’t have to peel, puree or pulverise a single fruit or vegetable when my son was a baby. And when you’d finished your shopping, there was a pre-prepared food section with seating and a microwave for a quick bite before hauling everything home.  Again, the mitigating factor is population so it was only minimally more expensive than regular supermarkets.  Unfortunately that is far from the case here and I’m not that invested to pay the sometimes, exorbitant difference.

Whole-Foods-Market-store-Detroit-03 ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

At the other end of the scale is The Waffle House which would be what most people think of as a Greasy spoon, a colloquial term coined in the USA  for a small, cheap restaurant or diner that typically specialises in fried foods and can I say, Amen to that!  They are the most basic of eateries – an open kitchen, a counter , seating and a jukebox and the one I really, really miss.  Open 24 hours, my husband and I would usually stop there late at night on the way home from somewhere and within minutes of ordering, I would have been served my plate of perfectly cooked eggs, sunny-side up, hash browns and toast.  The menu is quite extensive and if you ever visit and see that iconic yellow sign, don’t judge a book by its cover – it’s the quintessential short-order experience. 

Unfortunately, the fact America is bat-crap crazy about guns constantly garners all the attention but I’m sure many of you have either visited or lived there and have brought home your own favourites.  I would love to hear about them.have-a-nice-day


School: Every day is critical…not…

quote for blog

For the love of God, someone put me on a panel or committee so I can come up with ludicrous conclusions and get paid a bucket-load of money for it. I would be SO great at that job. There was an article in the paper this week that stated, “Findings presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research’s annual conference yesterday claim NAPLAN results show a solitary day off can lead to a decline in academic performance. Unsurprisingly, principals have been quick to warn parents against taking children on a holiday during school term.” I don’t even know where to begin…

What “findings” and who presented them? Who did the research? I’m assuming whoever conducted this study did some kind of comparison between absenteeism and NAPLAN results. How many schools were in the sample? Were they Private? Public? Selective? Religious? Primary School? High School? What socio-economic areas were covered? Were country schools included? Considering how many other factors come into play with the NAPLAN exams themselves, I just can’t get my head around the connection. NAPLAN tests only two subjects; some schools spend weeks teaching to the NAPLAN topics and format; some schools actually ask their ‘less academic’ students to stay home; some parents won’t allow their children to even sit for NAPLAN; some children will be so nervous they ‘choke’. The whole premise is just rubbish.

And it’s interesting that the only connection made was taking kids out of school for holiday trips. What about when they’re sick? After absolutely no research, I guarantee at least 75% of children have at least one day off a year for colds, gastric bugs and whatever else happens to be going around at the time. Apparently they will all be academically disadvantaged; bereft of all hope of ever catching up on those six lessons they missed. My son was absent from school for over a week when he had his appendix removed two years ago but is somehow still managing to do exceedingly well. What about when the kids go away to camp and DON’T DO LESSONS FOR A WHOLE WEEK? Schools should now recognise what irreparable damage they are doing and cease such activities immediately. This point also serves to show how hypocritical it is of some schools to frown upon taking children out during term but are quite happy to send them off to school camps.

We’re very lucky our son attends a school which is very accommodating in that regard especially if it is an overseas trip. Beyond the academic, their stated mission is to send well-rounded young men into the world and what classroom could be better than the world in helping to achieve that aim. If you look at everything as an opportunity to learn, even a trip to Disneyland can be viewed in terms of cultural exploration, a chance to practice social skills or a means of conquering fear. (Stomach-churning rollercoasters anyone?) At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my girlfriends lived in London for a few years and the primary school her kids attended was reform-school strict. Her mother was quite ill and to take them out one week early to return to Australia almost required production of a doctor’s certificate to confirm the gravity of her illness. Ridiculous.

Who better than Albert Einstein, who was not too shabby in the brains department, to provide the last word: The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.