Australia vs Peru – Food Comparison List

A natural effect of migration is comparison. As a total stranger, a new migrant will automatically start comparing everything, starting probably with the weather, the direction of the traffic, the politeness (or lack of) of people, the public transport, and of course, the food. Believe it or not, there are people who just don’t care about food and would eat anything anywhere. I don’t know if they are “taste-blind” or if their bodies were designed to use food as a fuel only and not as a stimulant for the senses, kind of similar to what sex is for animals and some people. (Moving even further away from the sex analogy, a few years ago, a former coworker bought earphones for less than a dollar. I tried them and, as expected, the sound was horrendous. But he couldn’t hear the difference between them and mine. So I guess I could rely on this anecdote to talk about “taste-deaf” people, too.)

Anyway, considering my obsession with food, and being a cook myself (still waiting to use my skills and certificate professionally), the minute I landed in Australia, I started noticing the differences. This happened on May 2008, when Alvaro and I came for the first time to activate our visas. We stayed at a hostel in Newtown, a few blocks away from the Buddhist centre. We shopped at Franklins, a convenient supermarket nearby (they open from 7 am to midnight) and bought the basics for breakfasts and snacking: muesli, milk, bread, cheese, fruit (usually bananas and cherries), nuts, jerky, etc. We noticed bananas had less taste than Peruvian ones, and tried real jerky for the first time; the other stuff was pretty much the same. And then one day I bought a small jar of Vegemite, just because I couldn’t leave Australia without tasting it. The next morning I spread a thin layer of the stuff on my toast and couldn’t eat more than two bites. The good thing is that there was a community shelf in the hostel’s kitchen, so somebody else benefitted from my stupid purchase. During those 10 days we spent in Sydney two things really amazed us (food-wise): the variety of options for eating out and the fact that passionfruit is sweet here. In Peru you cannot eat the fruit straight, you must blend it with water and sugar before. I made mental notes about these and other observations.

Fast forward one year, we were back in Sydney. Our perspective had changed because we were no longer behaving like tourists, but like unemployed new migrants. That involved a lot of analysis of what, where and when to shop for food. Fortunately I got a job fairly soon; unfortunately the cost of living is much greater here than in Lima. In other words, I still look at the price tags and try to balance quality and value. I’m still exploring, although sometimes I forget that I should be trying new stuff instead of going back to the same basic ingredients. One good thing is that I get bored easily, so I’m not the kind of person who can eat the same dish every day, not even every week. In my constant search for variety I’ve had great, good, average and terrible meals, but that’s what’s all about: trial and error. I’m nowhere near having tried every single fruit, vegetable, meat, herb or spice available, no one will ever be, but I do my best at reminding myself to taste something unknown (or untried in Australia) at least every week.

This is how I came up with this list, which shows what food-related things I like more here or in Peru, depending on flavour or other reasons. There is a “same (or about the same)” category with foods I think are as tasty here as there. This list will always be a work in progress, so I’ll keep updating it. The purpose, I guess, is eating more of what’s best in either country. If anyone else ever reads it, it might be useful as a travel tip.

Best in Australia

Flavour

  • Beef
  • Bread
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Full fat milk
  • Full fat yogurt
  • Gelato
  • “Gourmet” cheeses
  • Lamb
  • Lemons
  • Passionfruit
  • Processed potato chips
  • Pumpkins
  • Sausages
  • Wine

Other reasons

  • Berries (availability)
  • Bread (variety)
  • Capsicum (size)
  • Dips (variety)
  • Easiyo (convenience)
  • Eggplant (size)
  • Ginger (size)
  • Kangaroo meat (availability)
  • Lychees (available fresh)
  • Mochis (sold at supermarkets)
  • Non-dairy milks (variety)
  • Olive oil (price compared to others)
  • Organic food (availability)
  • Pumpkins (variety)
  • Rhubarb (availability)
  • Sugar (variety)
  • Sundried tomatos (sold at supermarkets)
  • Tahini (availability)
  • Thai and Vietnamese restaurants (availability)
  • Tofu (variety)
  • Vegetarian sausages/burgers (convenience)
  • Wholemeal flour (sold at supermarkets)

Best in Peru

Flavour

  • Anise seeds
  • Avocadoes
  • Banana chips
  • Bananas
  • Canned tuna
  • Caramel (manjar blanco)
  • Chickens
  • Chillis
  • Corn
  • Desserts (broad but true)
  • Eggs
  • Fresh cheeses
  • Fruit juices
  • Garlic (milder)
  • Lemonade
  • Limes
  • Olives
  • Onions (milder)
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Seafood
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Vanilla esence

Other reasons

  • Amaranth (price and availability)
  • Animal entrails (availability)
  • Avocadoes (price)
  • Bakeries (availability)
  • Barley (available whole)
  • Biscuits (package size)
  • Booze (sold at supermarkets)
  • Cassava (available fresh)
  • Ciruela criolla (availability)
  • Fresh seafood (sold at supermarkets)
  • Granadilla (availability)
  • Infusions (variety)
  • Limes (price)
  • Lucuma (available fresh)
  • Mangoes (price)
  • Purple corn (available fresh)
  • Quinoa (price)
  • Zucchini (size)

Same (or about the same)

Flavour only

  • Apples
  • Asian ingredients
  • Asian vegetables
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beer
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Butter
  • Carrots
  • Cassava (yuca), frozen
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Condensed milk
  • Corn flour
  • Cream
  • Cucumbers
  • Dried fruit
  • Eggplant
  • Evaporated milk
  • Figs
  • Flax seeds
  • Grapes
  • Green beans
  • Herbs
  • Kiwifruit
  • Leek
  • Mandarines
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Oats
  • Oils
  • Oranges
  • Pasta/noodles
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Potato starch
  • Processed cheeses
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Radishes
  • Rice
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnip
  • UHT milk
  • Vinegar
  • Watermelon
  • Wheat germ
  • Zucchini