In the comments on The Cow’s last post jedimacfan was moved to ask:

“I suppose the next thing you’re going to tell me is that Outback Steakhouse isn’t really Australian food?”

This reminded me of the one and only time I have ever been to an Outback Steakhouse, near Wilmington NC, and what a jolly old time three of us Australians had therein. And yes, jedimacfan, I’m going to tell you that this isn’t really Australian food. Not even close.

One of the things I remember is that our waiter, dressed in ludicrous faux ‘drover’s attire’ (or something), on hearing one of my friends’ very mild swearing, asked “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” We knew right away that these people had very little experience of Australia.

And then we saw the menu. Oh how we laughed! Let us examine it:

♦Bloomin’ Onion – An Outback Ab-original from Russell’s Marina Bay

The ‘Bloomin’ Onion’ is not an Australian invention. It is certainly not an ‘Ab-original’ invention and I sincerely hope that there is nothing more than a bad pun involved in this description. This is about as close to the wind as you could sail with a gag like this without being racist and/or condescending. As far as ‘Russell’s Marina Bay’ is concerned, well, there is no such place. They just made it up! Look it up on Google – all the hits you get are… yep, the Outback Steakhouse. Also, these are frikkin’ big onions. Where do you even get an onion that size outside the perimeter of a nuclear power plant?

♦Aussie Cheese Fries – Aussie chips topped with Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses and bacon served with spicy ranch dressing

It’s hard to imagine a foodstuff you are less likely to find in Australia. Sushi, yes, Goat curry, sure. kimchi, falafel, Chinese-style pig’s trotters, Thai octopus salad, gado-gado, sucuklu, burek – any of these I could go pick up for dinner right now. Foraging further afield I could get barbecued crocodile, kangaroo steaks, scrambled emu eggs and even roast camel. But sorry folks, no-one serves cheese on top of chips here. It is, I think I am right in saying, pretty much an American idea that you should take perfectly edible food and then completely drown it in melted cheese.

♦”Gold Coast” Coconut Shrimp – Six colossal shrimp dipped in beer batter, rolled in coconut, deep fried to a golden brown and served with marmalade sauce .

As bizarre as this sounds, I have to admit that, yeah, in Queensland that’s entirely possible. The Gold Coast is the Australian twin city to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach. I’m sure jedimacfan will understand the comparison.

♦Walkabout Soup – A unique presentation of an Australian favourite. Reckon!

What? What do they mean by this? Aborigines don’t carry soup on walkabout. It would be utterly idiotic. Indigenous Australians would have NO idea what this was. Furthermore, you could stop anyone on the street here, anyone, and ask them what ‘Walkabout Soup’ was and I will guarantee that not one person other than someone who has been to an Outback Steakhouse would be able to tell you. Reckon.

♦Drover’s Platter – Generous portion of ribs and chicken breast on the Barbie with Aussie chips and cinnamon apples.

Ah, the old traditional Australian cinnamon apples. Yes, they feature a lot in the OS menu. But guess what! WE DON’T EAT CINNAMON APPLES HERE. (Except maybe, like, once every ten years at Christmas time. Maybe). Cinnamon is the dessert equivalent of melted cheese; take any perfectly edible dessert and add cinnamon to it. Genius. I’m surprised no-one in America has yet invented the perfect all-in-one meal: cinnamon coated melted cheese! (In fact I am totally afraid that someone has and I just haven’t heard of it yet).

Botany Bay Fish O’ The Day – Fresh catch, lightly seasoned and grilled, with fresh veggies

You don’t eat anything that comes out of Botany Bay. Or Sydney Harbour for that matter. Seriously. Recently there was a government-issued warning about doing so.

I could go on. Suffice to say that the entire menu is risible in one way or another. There is no ‘Rock Hampton’ although there is a Rockhampton; we have never called mushrooms ‘shrooms'; no-one says ‘Hooley Dooley’ anymore (the last user of this phrase died twenty years back, and he was a hundred and fifty eight); ‘bonzer’ is generally spelled ‘bonza'; and there is not, among the choices of burgers on the OS menu, anything remotely resembling a traditional Australian-style hamburger (and yes, we do have beetroot on hamburgers).

About the only thing that is acceptably Australian on the Outback Steakhouse menu is the wine list. So, if you should find yourself in one of these places, my advice to you is therefore to get completely plastered as quickly as you can on one of our great Australian wines. Hopefully you will wake up the next morning with no hangover and no memory at all of where you’ve been. Then you can come visit us down here sometime and find out what our food is really like.

My shout.