Sole Sister

Cruising in the single lane


Happy little Vegemite

Emergency Vegemite rations are on the essential-item list for most Aussies traveling abroad. Yet offer some to other nationals and their reaction is rarely short of disgust.  Taste preferences, particularly those that are intrinsic to a culture, form early in life.

I am currently witnessing my 20-month-old grandson acquire a taste for unique components of Japanese and Korean food, much of which is harvested from the sea.  He is already a confirmed steamed rice eater, and loves a bowl seasoned with dashi and flaked bonito, but could you imagine the average Aussie kid scoffing down fare such as seaweed and dried anchovy mix?  However, when you consider the iodine and calcium content there’s no arguing those ingredients beat the sugar and fat contained in many Western processed snacks.

IMG_0959He also loves salmon skin crisps, with a soy seasoning, a specialty of my daughter-in-law’s native Hokkaido. This snowy northern island, best known to Aussies for its perfect powder, is famous for its fresh salmon. Those who visit in late summer and autumn can witness the streams and rivers teeming with salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn, an amazing sight. Salmon skin is rich in Omega-3 oils and, my daughter-in-law tells me, also collagen. So the salmon skin crisps are a pretty healthy snack and a beauty treatment all in one!

IMG_0004Salmon heading upstream to spawn in a Hokkaido waterway.

But my grandson’s Aussie genes are not being neglected with Nanna making sure he gets his regular servings of Vegemite on bread and butter to develop that idiosyncratic Aussie taste.

And speaking of Vegemite, our iconic spread – of which apparently 22 million jars are sold a year – turns 90 this week. Happy birthday Vegemite!


Purple haze

They may inject fear in the hearts of exam-shy Queensland students but otherwise the annual purple haze that transforms Brisbane is celebrated. Much as I dread the thought of the long, hot summer days ahead the first bursting of jacarandas blooms heralding spring always brings pleasure.


Queenslanders have long had a love affair with the jacaranda although it is not a native, but indigenous to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America. One of the best loved works in the Queensland Art Gallery Under the Jacaranda features a tree that was a landmark in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens, which adjoined the grounds of the Brisbane Technical College, where the painting’s artist Godfrey Rivers taught from 1891 to 1915. The work depicts Rivers and his wife, Selina, taking tea under the shade of the tree in full bloom. The specimen is said to the first jacaranda brought to Australia which probably explains why Queenslanders are so possessive of them.


Brisbane isn’t the only city to fall in love with the jacaranda. Ipswich has made it a feature tree celebrating with an annual festival at Goodna and the Grafton Jacaranda Festival is a fixture on the Northern New South Wales tourist calendar. Sydney has its fair share. Overseas the South African capital Pretoria develops its own purple haze at this time of year and Nepal and Bhutan are jacaranda lovers.


Under the Jacaranda

St Mary's church IpswichSt Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich.

Oh, and while on the subject of seasonal purple hazes, welcome back to those other little puffs of purple – the agapanthus.