Jackie did her bit to dispel the bad rap that American food gets globally.
“Australia is inundated with American fast-food chains. Their concept of American food is totally corrupted. But they love great food, so I decided to do what I could to teach them about our cuisine.”
She taught a class on regional American cooking from the South, combining recipes from her ancestors with ones she picked up along the way.
“Australians love spicy food. It goes with the climate and there is a lot Southeast Asian influence in their food culture. So they loved the piquant flavors of our Southern roots. Between the classes, and then my ‘eatertainment’ shows, they really learned more of an appreciation for American cooking and food culture.”
Jackie kept her favorite American holiday very alive Down Under, cooking up a huge annual Thanksgiving dinner even though it’s not celebrated there.
“At first, I was shocked. Turkeys in Australia are not very big. They look like big chickens, similar to a good-sized oven-stuffer roaster, and they are can be quite pricey, especially if you come from a country where they were often given away for free.
For my Aussie Thanksgivings, my good friend Chris (from Ohio, of course) would special-order the biggest bird they had from the organic poultry stand in the market. He would attract a small crowd when he picked it up, their eyes popping out. Most of them had never seen such a large bird, especially not in November. You only ever have a whole turkey at Christmas.
At the first Australian Christmas I went to, I witnessed some unusual turkey-related behavior. My mother-in-law cooked a whole turkey, served the breasts and gave the legs to the dog! I couldn’t believe it!”
For Jackie “throwing the turkey on the barby” was a necessity.
“First of all, the average Australian oven was never meant to fit an American-sized turkey. Even if you could get it to fit, you’d never be able to cook any side dishes. So the Weber it is and it does a great job. I recall a particularly large bird where we thought we might have to take turns sitting on the Weber’s lid to hold it in. Plus, it’s pretty hot down under in November and hotter still at Christmas. You try to do anything to keep from having the oven blasting. You wind up transforming traditional American dishes into salads wherever you can.”
Now that Jackie’s back in America, her Aussie friends have decided to carry on the tradition and cook up Thanksgiving dinners. Jackie’s happy they learned American food goes way beyond hot dogs and McDonald’s.