Fry up some fake bacon food product

Breakfast plat with fake vegetarian bacon.

I am a meat eater. I eat kangaroo and I eat bacon. I eat whatever is indigenous to the culture I am visiting.

This morning I ate fake bacon. It was my first time.

That’s because I’m staying with an Australian family that is variously meat-free, gluten-free and dairy-free. Two of them left the house this morning for a two-week sojourn. I faced a kitchen of intriguing leftovers including bacon-style rashers.

According to Life Health Foods‘ Web page they “…look, smell and taste like meat.”

If these brown slices of spongy food product look, smell, or taste like meat, it is a category of meat that us actual meat-eaters would compare to SPAM. Which many of us don’t actually eat.

Dead meat, live chickens

And in a similar line of logic, why would a vegetarian want to eat something that looks, smells, and tastes like meat? I’m the first to acknowledge that meat tastes like dead animal.

On top of the deadness, you have the salts, fats, and preservatives that meat flavour entails.

I’m guessing we have bacon-style rashers so the young ‘uns get a little non-meat protein in their diet. It’s a food novelty.

For others maybe it’s intended as a kind of methadone for meat-eaters—a way to slowly withdraw from the addictive deliciousness of salty, smoky bacon.

On a positive note, I took three fresh, organic eggs from our backyard Isa Brown chickens. I cracked the shells and slid the unfertilized embryos into salted boiling water.

I enjoyed them on toast alongside the vegetarian bacon-style rashers.

Ethical eating is hard.

Isa Brown chickens.
Isa Brown chickens in South Australia.

Dine with MAMILS

Side seating at La Terre Cafe and Bar in Willunga, South Australia. (photo:

La Terre Café and Bar has a French name, but I call it “the bicycle café” for three reasons…

Entry seating at La Terre Cafe and Bar in Willunga, South Australia.

First, the heritage building (a bakery in 1886) is neatly positioned at the foot of the daunting Willunga Hill. The long, winding hill is challenging enough to be part of the route for the annual Tour Down Under road bike race.

Many MAMILS (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra) pedal up the hill on their road bikes. Sometimes they pause here for a fuel stop and I get a chance to chat with them. It’s kinda fun because I’ve worked and written on the bike industry and know more than the average gal about cycling; but they wouldn’t know that looking at my borrowed Fluid sidewalk bike.

Second, owner Bec is friendly as could be and she’s included bicycles as part of the outdoor decor.

Bec, owner of La Terre Cafe and Bar in Willunga, South Australia.
Bec, owner of La Terre Cafe and Bar in Willunga, South Australia.

They’re clunky old mountain bikes, but Bec’s painted them in festive colours, perhaps in the spirit of the Tour. In fact the entire village of Willunga will dress up cycle-style when the Tour Down Under rolls though Willunga January 21, 2017.

Third, La Terre serves a fantastic, all-day breakfast. There’s a wonderful chef/baker in the kitchen who concocts a hearty, meaty “Farmer’s Breakfast” that includes bacon, sausage, greens, grilled tomato, mushrooms, potatos, eggs, toast and a marvelous sweet tomato chutney.

Farmer's breakfast at La Terre cafe in Willunga, South Australia.
Farmer’s breakfast at La Terre cafe in Willunga, South Australia.

It’s a breakfast I can count on to sustain me when I roll out in the 40-degree Celsius heat for a practice-run of cycle-touring South Australia later this month.

Drink with a postmaster, ninja cat, Harley biker, and a snake

Ulrike in a 9-foot python skin as a boa at the Old Bush Inn in Willunga, South Australia.

It started with coffee at the Old Post Office. It ended with a python snake wrapped around my neck.

I was sipping wine with my new friend Mémé at a nearby cellar door when we got chatting with Leith and Sue at the next table. Leith is Willunga’s village postmaster. He told us and Sue moved into the historic Willunga Old Post Office and Telegraph Station earlier in the year.

They invited us to join them for a coffee and tour of their heritage home the next day.

Willunga’s Old Post Office and Telegraph Station

The Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.
The Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia. A second-floor door leads nowhere, while a window next to it is blocked in.

While Leith made coffee, Sue led us through the 160-year-old building and pointed out odd features.

For example, the City council at the time taxed buildings according to how many windows they had. When it came time to build an addition for the new telegraph station, the builders added a large glass doorway, but blocked in a window space next to it.

Apparently, you didn’t get taxed for doors.

Wine, quince and a surprise

The four of us settled into the front verandah and Sue and Leith started telling hilarious stories about their days as tour guides and hosts in Adelaide.

Leith disappeared and then reappeared with tall flutes of sparkling red wine.

Sue, Ulrike and Leith at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.
Sue, Ulrike and Leith at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.

After the second or third bottle, Leith brought out a tray of local cheeses, home-baked crackers, and his very own quince chutney paste. He told us he named it “Black Ninja” after his little black cat.

Leith makes the quince in small batches, and local wineries snap it up to offer at their own cellar door tasting rooms.

Meme Thorne with Black Ninja Quince Paste at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.
Meme with Leith’s Black Ninja Quince Paste at the Old Post Office in Willunga, South Australia.

I told a few stories of my own and when Leith heard me say that I’d like to get on a motorcycle to sightsee South Australia, he made a call.

A few minutes later Brett arrived on his Harley-Davidson and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. Did I?

Ulrike on the back of Brett's Harley in Willunga, South Australia.
Ulrike on Brett’s Harley in Willunga, South Australia.

I jumped on the back and Brett roared us out of town, along the winding B34 to Myponga (map), and then north along the coastline back into Willunga.

When we landed I asked Brett what our top speed was. 160 kilometres per hour, he answered.

It was nearing 5 pm and Mémé begged off our spontaneous dinner plans, saying she needed to be  elsewhere.

Sue, Leith and I crossed the road to the Old Bush Inn, which locals call “the top pub” because there are two other pubs on the same road, on the same side of the street, further down the hill. Naturally, they are Willunga’s “middle pub” and “bottom pub.”

Leith told us it was “Rump and Red Night”—a roast beef dinner with a glass of wine for $18.

Brett whipped home and reappeared at the pub with a gift bag for me. I opened it and gingerly pulled out almost three metres (nine feet) of snake skin.

“I thought you might like it,” Brett grinned. “My Inland Python shed it.” Brett does welding, trailer repairs, and building maintenance.

It was beautiful. I gently looped the snake once, twice, three times around my neck like a boa scarf.

Brett promised to help me find a motorcycle of my own and we all settled in for a social dinner.

Biker Brett at the Old Bush Inn (the "top pub") in Willunga, South Australia.
Biker Brett at the Old Bush Inn (the “top pub”) in Willunga, South Australia.

Eat a Ned Kelly

A Ned Kelly pie and iced coffee at Beck's Bakehousing in Noarlunga, South Australia.

“What is a Ned Kelly pie?” I asked the server at Beck’s Bakehouse.

“It’s a meat pie with an egg on top,” she shrugged.

Who is Ned Kelly?” I asked Jared. We were seated outside the Port Noarlunga bakery café with his daughters Tilly and Delilah.

Jared’s eyes lit up. “He was a bush ranger, yeah?” he started. “He was an outlaw, a folk hero, an advocate for the disenfranchised in Australia.”

“What do you mean by ‘ranger'” I prodded as I sipped my iced coffee. “In Canada, a ranger is someone who looks after the forest.”

“Nah, nah, nothing like that! He stole horses and shot a few policeman and he was Irish,” Jared offered. “He defied the British colonizers and got hanged when he was just twenty-five years old.”

“But why did they name a meat pie after him?” I pursued. I looked around from Jared to Tilly to Delilah. They sipped their juice.

“Such is life”

Back at the house I used my brand new Onkaparinga Library card to secure a DVD of the 2003 feature film Ned Kelly. It stars Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom.

Jared and I watched the film and I learned—through the lens of Hollywood cinema—that the real Ned Kelly drank horse blood, hid in the Wombat Ranges, wore a suit of armour,  and fetched a reward of £8,000 for his capture. Enough citizens of the time resonated with his Irish-Australian idealogy that more than 30,000 of them petitioned for his release.

After a hostage-taking, gun battle, and capture in Glenrowan, Ned Kelly died by hanging in 1880. Rumour has it that his last words were, “Such is life.”

“Okay,” I turned Jared when the film credits started rolling. “But why is a meat pie with egg and cheese on top called a ‘Ned Kelly’ pie?”

“I dunno,” he answered. “I guess we’ll have to watch the documentary too.”

We did, but my meat pie question remains unanswered.

Watch Outlawed – The Real Ned Kelly from ABC (Documentary, 52:18):


Smash an avocado, pile it on toast

Smashed avocado on toast a favourite with hipsters in Australia.

According to Bernard Salt, you are a wastrel hipster if you order smashed avocado on toast for brunch. Wrote Salt in The Australian magazine in an opinion piece titled Moralisers, We Need  You! (October 2016),

“I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this?… Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.”

Naturally, the op-ed raised a furor, as observed in Millennials react to Bernard Salt’s attack on smashed avo where “His words have caused millennials to spit out their soy flat whites in disgust.”

“Bernard salt can pry my smashed avocado from my cold dead hands” tweeted Simon Xmarse. “Skipped smashed avocado for breakfast this morning. Excited to buy a house next week.” responded Tony Broderick.

As a visitor from the hipster neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant in Vancouver, Canada, I have mixed feelings about this.

I’m a foreigner who really likes avocados, especially for brunch. At home it’s a treat you might see next to your eggs benny—two or three slivers of avocado alongside your heritage tomatoes and organic yams. It will not be cheap.

Here, it is a part of an admittedly expensive brunch, but that price tag includes tax, and there’s no tipping.

I admit I may be a mature hipster. But I also own an apartment with a paid-off mortgage. Does that make me a Moralizer (as Salt puts it) who is entitled to eat over-priced avocado breakfasts as I look down my nose at younger people who share my love of smashed green stuff on grainy toast?

It’s a trivial topic at first pass, but it touches on an issue that is huge to cities such as Sydney and Vancouver: housing affordability.

Hard-w0rking people can’t afford to buy a home because global market issues—foreign investment, aggressive developers, slow-moving policy-makers, and Airbnb greed—are sucking it out of their hands. These are the same hands that merely want to enjoy an open-faced vegetable sandwich.

Today I settled on a compromise: a couple of ripe, New Zealand avocados from Coles (two for $5 AUS); scooped out with a round spoon, piled on multi-grain bread moistened with Nuttelex, and sprinkled with a tasty spice mixture. A salt mixture, to be exact.

I miss out on the hipster bistro culture here in the kitchen (sorry Jared and Ruth), but I do get to defy Salt and his posse of Moralizers in my own, rebelliously East Van way.

Grab a Coopers from the Esky, next to the barbie

Ice? Check. Beer? Check. Chicken and sausages? Check. Barbie? Fire it up.

It’s Sunday evening and my hosts Jared and Ruth tell me they’ve invited some friends over for a barbeque. Naturally, we’ll need some ice in the Esky (portable cooler) to keep the Coopers (pale ale) frosty.

Jared preps the retro grill, Ruth marinates the chicken, I sweep the shed (covered patio area), Delilah wipes the kids’ table, and Tilly tunes her guitar.

There’ll be three little kids running around, three guitars jamming, one dad bongo-drumming, a backyard fire burning, stars twinkling, and me pushing twigs into the fire and quietly taking it all in.

Jared Thomas at home with the barbeque in South Australia.
Jared Thomas grills up some chicken skewers on the barbie at home in South Australia.

Flirt with a biplane pilot

Coffee milkshake at Adelaide Biplanes museum near Aldinga, South Australia.

I imagined that if I arrived at the Adelaide Biplanes aerodrome on a bicycle in a breezy summer dress, I could flirt with a pilot and sweet-talk my way into his cockpit.

That didn’t quite happen. I did cycle a few kilometres from McLaren Vale to the airfield and museum, and I did scan my radar for pilots, but the place was quiet and none were to be found.

Instead, I ordered a thick coffee milkshake and watched a small plane practice taking off and landing from the comfort of the airfield’s vintage-themed café.

Says the Adelaide Biplanes website,

“Based at the vintage and charming Aldinga Airfield, Adelaide Biplanes is all about delivering some of the most awesome flying experiences it’s possible to imagine. From the joy and sheer romance of a gentle Waco biplane flight at 1,000 feet, along the scenic Adelaide south coast, or a vintage Tiger Moth flight with a stunning sunset as your personal backdrop, to an extreme Great Lakes biplane open cockpit Aerobatic Flight that offers a totally unique, adrenalin-pumping experience, that literally puts all your senses on overload. To the ultimate buzz of actually learning to fly at the most motivating, challengingly-fun, inspiringly-easy going and singularly safe Flying School. At Adelaide Biplanes, we have a passion for pretty much everything there is to do with aeroplanes.”

I was grounded this time, but rumour has it Santa Claus has logged a flight plan with the tiny airport. Maybe I’ll bump into the big fella next time around.

Cafe and museum at the Adelaide Biplanes airport near Aldinga, South Australia.
Cafe and museum at the Adelaide Biplanes airport near Aldinga, South Australia.

Nibble a toasty jaffle

Ham and cheese toasty at Country Cup cafe in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

I first heard mention of toasties at our night of camping in Wirrina Cove.

Ruth called them jaffles and I had no idea what she was talking about. I wondered if it was a blend of words like jandals. Jandals are a New Zealand contraction of “Japanese sandals,” also known as flip-flops or thongs. However, in Vancouver, thongs are a type of  uncomfortable women’s underwear. Some of us call them “butt floss.”

But I digress.

this morning I cycled to the neighbouring village of McLaren Vale to buy some sensitive-teeth toothpaste that doesn’t cost 22 dollars (as I was shocked to discover at the Willunga local pharmacy).

I stepped into Country Cup and ordered a long black with milk and a ham-and-cheese toastie—my first! I found it was similar to the North American grilled cheese sandwich, but without the grilled part.

I could have asked for some sauce (ketchup) to go with it, but I was happy to nibble this tasty bit of brekkie tucker with my coffee.


Eat kangaroo

Bag of "Gourmet Game" frozen kangaroo meat on an Australian food counter.

I’m staying with Jared and Ruth and their girls Tilly and Delilah. They’re a modern family who try to live consciously.

That includes food. One member of the family is gluten-free, another dairy-free, and another meat-free, depending on the day of the week.

Tonight’s meal is a fusion affair: Italian-style spaghetti bolognese with ground, organic, locally-sourced kangaroo substituting for beef.

According to local company, kangaroo meat is:

“…one of the most sustainable, lean and delicious meats that Australia produces. Kangaroo is a 100% natural lean meat that is sustainably and ethically sourced from the open ranges of Australia. Kangaroos are free-ranging animals, the range over extensive pastoral areas of Australia, graze on natural vegetation and are harvested in their own environment…”

Eat kangaroo.

Order a long black

Cup and saucer of coffee on a cafe table at The Farm in South Willunga, Australia.

I just want a plain cup of coffee. But I discover that I must decide between a flat white and a long black.

I use Google to look up the Australian version of an ‘Americano misto’ and see that a long black is an approximate equivalent, just add milk.

Since I already know how to speak English, I use this language expertise to order “A long black with milk, please.” It seems to work.

√ Order a long black.

This long black is in a garden setting at The Farm, in South Willunga. It’s a cafe, winery, cellar door, olive grove, vineyard, and bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

Refuse pie as refuse

Garbage can at railway station says "No pies" in Lindfield, Australia.

Pie is trash, according to a garbage can at North Sydney’s Lindfield railway station.

It is foul and in need of disposing along with plastic bags, yogurt containers. and—diapers.

I dispute that. Pie is a delectable, flaky pastry filled with fruits or savoury fillings. It is delightful warm and with a cup of good coffee.

Pie is not akin to dirty nappies, City of Sydney train system.

Pie is not trash.

Question the wisdom of a garbage can.