Posted by: scribe9 | January 25, 2010

Barbecue in the rain

Saturday we had our second and last typical American meal for guests. This time it was a barbecue. It rained, so we were grateful for the cover over our deck. And it was a barbecue, not a barbie–that’s so Australian.

One man praised the burgers, which were just plain beef. (Here they call hamburger “mince.” What one bakes with at Christmas is “fruit mince,” not mincemeat.) He could save himself a lot of trouble; we were underwhelmed with whatever he’d put in the burgers he’d served us. We were able to serve American-style condiments. Heinz ketchup is made here, and it tastes as it does in the US. (Heinz bought Wattie’s, the biggest New Zealand processed foods maker, in 1992. Wattie’s still makes its own tomato sauce, which is what people Down Under call ketchup/catsup, but it’s nothing like Heinz. For a fascinating look at why Heinz is such a dominant force in the market, read “The Ketchup Conundrum” in Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw.  That chapter also discusses mustard, and how Grey Poupon split the market. While you’re at it, read the entire book, which is typical Gladwell–which is to say, intriguing and surprising.) It’s possible to buy American-style mustard here; while it’s not made by French’s, it’s just the right color and flavor.

 The barbecued chicken was a big hit. Aside from one cut-up chicken, the only pieces they sell separately are wingettes and drumsticks, so we got plenty of legs. I made the Williams-Sonoma Basic Barbecue sauce [http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/basic-barbecue-sauce.html], cutting down the pepper significantly.

For the cornbread, I first bought cornmeal flour, and then realized that it was far too fine. At the health-foods store I found polenta of just the right coarseness. A woman who had spent a year in the US remembered cornbread fondly, and asked for the recipe as well as where to find cornmeal.

I made iced tea, which a couple of the adults liked. Only the nine-year-old liked the lemonade made with lemons from the tree in our front lawn; here lemonade means lemon pop.

When it came to beer, I broke my rule about imported goods, and spent some diesel fuel. The only available American beer is Budweiser, and unlike Guinness and Stella Artois, it comes all the way from the home brewery. Rick’s not a fan—we’ve never bought it before, and probably never will again—but most of it got drunk. (We’re not whiskey drinkers, but there’s a lot from the US—Jim Beam seems most popular.)

 With wine, there was no question—I’ve never seen American wine here. It’s all from New Zealand or Australia, except for French champagne. We loyally served New Zealand wine, although not from the very closest wineries.

We were going to serve watermelon, which is readily available. But one of the guests brought a marvelous fruit salad, so we had that instead, with chocolate cupcakes. Here muffins are much like cupcakes, because (aside from the bran muffins) they’re usually made the same way, so all have a cakey texture. If I ever entertain with a quintessentially American dish again, it may well be blueberry muffins.

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