January 26th is Australia Day, the official National Day of Australia.
It marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
In modern Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society* and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community.
*Editor’s note: Some indigenous Australians, may not be celebrants Australia Day. Having been pushed aside by the British, they label Australia Day as “Invasion Day,” and stage protests instead. Here’s the history.
Honor it by eating something Australian. Suggestions:
Burger and beetroot. Yes, instead of a slice of cheese, a slice of beet is a favored burger topping.
Dukkah, a seasoning mix popularly served with olive oil and bread.
Kiwifruit (photo #1).
Lamingtons (photo #2), a chocolate-dipped sponge covered with desiccated coconut, another happy kitchen accident. A maid accidentally dropped the Governor of Queensland’s (Lord Lamington) sponge cake into chocolate. It can be served in squares or turned into a layer cake. Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver.
Pavlova (photo #2), a meringue shell filled with fresh fruits. Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver.
Shrimp on the barbie.
Tim Tam Biscuits, a beloved chocolate biscuit is made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate filling and coated in melted chocolate
Vegemite (photo #4), the iconic Australian sandwich spread. See more below.
Beer: We haven’t seen these top-rated Australian beers on our store shelves, but maybe you’ll have some luck.
Lemon myrtle, a relative of lemon verbena.
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WHAT EXACTLY IS VEGEMITE?
As with Shake ‘n Bake, a product created as a way to use up Grape-Nuts crumbs that were sifted out during production, Vegemite was born of the desire to use, rather than toss, manufacturing leftovers.
In 1922 an Australian businessman commissioned a young chemist, Cyril Callister, to develop a spread from used brewer’s yeast that was dumped into the trash. The British had a similar, successful product, Marmite.
The name Vegemite was drawn from a hat of entries from a national naming competition.
The spread was marketed as “delicious on sandwiches and toast, and improving the flavours of soups, stews and gravies.” Since then, it has become a go-to spread for breakfast toast and for sandwiches.
More modern additions include Vegemite-cheese sandwiches, Vegemite and avocado toast, Vegemite pizza, and Vegemite scrolls, rolled biscuits with Vegemite and grated cheese.
The “Happy Little Vegemites” jingle was first heard on the radio in 1954. The subsequent television commercial is below.
By total area, Australia is the sixth largest contry in the world, with the world’s thirteenth largest economy and the fifth highest per capita GDP.
Well-known Australian fauna are the monotremes: platypus and koala.
The name Australia is derived from the Latin australis, meaning southern.
Australia has the most reptile varieties of any country, with 755 species.
Before Michael Phelps was the world’s swimming hero, there was Ian Thorpe, fondly called the “Torpedo.” Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian. At the 2000 Olympics, he won three gold and two silver medals, and was the most successful athlete at those Olympics. He also became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Aquatics Championships, in 2001.
 The most recognizable Australian food in the U.S. is the kiwi, which is available in both green and gold varieties (photo of SunGold kiwi courtesy Zespri).  Lamington is a sponge cake topped with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. Here’s a recipe from Jaime Oliver.  Pavlova is a meringue ring filled with fruit, created to honor the ballerina Anna Pavlova (here’s the recipe from Jamie Oliver).  Vegemite: as important to Australians as peanut butter is to Americans (photo courtesy Dean-Wilmot-Bauer Media).