After the dazzling kaleidoscope of barbequed meats in his youth in Australia, James O’Sullivan has forfeited his chance of wearing a kitsch apron by becoming a vegetarian.

SIMILAR to Finns, Australians love a good barbeque. Growing up down under, scorching summers each year were synonymous with avoiding venomous creatures lurking in the tall grass and wrapping a burnt sausage inside a piece of white bread and smothering it in tomato sauce.

THAT’S RIGHT – no paper napkin and dollops of Turun sinappi for us; a sausage wasn’t eaten correctly until sauce was running down my wrist and the cocktail of white bread and accompanying lemonade had launched a sugar high that would last way beyond my bedtime.

SUMMERS were chock full of visits to relatives’ houses to enjoy a barbeque. The ingredients for these family get-togethers are much the same as everywhere: the inebriated uncle, the family game of sport (in our case, cricket), the overly-flirtatious aunt, and the minefield of family issues of which children are blissfully unaware. Oh, and some food would be prepared.

THE MALE host would spend their time hovering around the barbeque and wearing an outrageous apron with something like “kiss the cook” scrawled across it; all the while quaffing cans of beer and nearly setting the garden on fire at random intervals. “Extra flavour,” he would slur, grinning sloppily as he wiped the leaves and soil off another fallen steak.

OTHER than the “barbie,” many other Australian stereotypes such as AC/DC, Kylie Minogue and Foster’s Beer serve as regular curiosities for the inquisitive Finn. But it is the national icon of the kangaroo that commands the most attention. Are they friendly? Are they big? Have I ever seen one? Well, contrary to popular belief, I’ve seen them in various places all around the world — including the meat section of the S-Market in Kemiö, near Turku.

YEP, after many years of being seen as a lower class of meat, kangaroo can now be found in supermarkets worldwide, in a change of heart that would make Skippy turn in his grave. As for Foster’s, well it might come as a surprise, but practically no one drinks Foster’s in Australia.

LIKE FINNS, Australians have a stereotypical image of being heavy drinkers. Even though beer can be purchased in 1.1 litre jugs at the pub, it’s still rare to find a watering hole doing a roaring trade at 9:00 as can be found in Kallio. That said, the prevalence of 24 hour drive-through bottle shops in Australia brings together alcohol and automobiles in an alarmingly convenient manner.

AUSTRALIAN cuisine is truly a cosmopolitan mix of different tastes influenced by the diversity of cultural groups that have migrated there, bringing with them their own unique styles of cooking.

HOWEVER, there is still one food item that could be described as quintessentially Australian: Vegemite. Just as Finns have acquired a taste for salmiakki, it is this salty black spread of concentrated yeast extract that Aussies have been smearing on their morning toast for decades.

TOUTED as the world’s richest known source of vitamin B, Vegemite can even be found in Helsinki, supplying expat Aussies with a comforting taste of home. The rest of the population can casually walk on by, safely none-the-wiser.

James O’Sullivan