From the Land That Brought You Vegemite, a New Breakfast Treat
Avocado on Raisin Bread in Sydney
There I am, once again. Eyes wide open, thoughts a-fluttering, not a hint of sleepiness. Even though is 4:30 am, and I am in bed. A bed miles away from the one I slept in the night before.
Oh, jet lag. You unrelenting son of a bitch.
(In Spanish, jet lag is male. English has been my working language on and off for over seven years, but some habits die hard.)
After a decade on the road, I thought it would get easier. It has not.
My very first experience with severe jet lag was, as it is for many Europeans, in Australia. I was 21, a senior in college, about to embark on a year abroad in Sydney.
I could barely remember when my infatuation with Australia started. I had dreamed about the land down under for so long. I was so ready to take it all in, if only I could get some sleep.
Luckily for me, I was introduced to the Aussie remedy nice and early, when I woke my landlord at 5:45 one morning in a jet-lagged haze a few days after I landed. The poor guy opened the door after a few knocks, all bleary-eyed and messy-haired, and invited me in.
While I rambled on about something or other, he brewed some coffee and brought me something to eat: smashed avocado on raisin toast. He had yet to utter a word.
I absentmindedly took a bite, not even processing that I had never had avocados before, and that the bread had raisins in it, not minding to even pause my chattering. He stopped me cold with the first words he had said to me: “Do you like it?” The clock marked a little past 6 am.
The question made me think about what I was eating for the first time. Did I like it? I usually had toast for breakfast, but it was plain, white bread with butter on it. Simple flavors.
This was salty and sweet and creamy and crunchy all at once, as if the food gods had decided to throw it all together and let me choose the taste quality that I enjoyed the most. I slowly chewed it for a few seconds, pondering.
“You know what, I actually do,” I said. It wasn’t a lie.
“It’s an Aussie thing. Avocado is nature’s butter,” he said. “You’ll have this plenty other times.”
I would come to learn during my stay that Australians take breakfast seriously. In the years since my first visit, I have found that Australia is the unofficial breakfast destination, with travel and food bloggers singing the beauty of brekkie.
In the upcoming months I would munch on blueberry bread with butter, not only eat but love Vegemite with cheese on toast, and learn to make flat whites during a stint as a barista at a local coffee shop.
I would even have raisin toast with simple butter a few times, but smashed avocado won every time. It always managed to bring me back to that first week, even when I finally got used to eat it at a less extreme breakfast hour.
My year in Australia kicked off my nomadic life, and ten years since I cried of happiness upon seeing the Opera House from the plane, I still think about Sydney on a daily basis.
I find glimpses of the country here and there, in every coffee shop offering flat whites and fellow travelers who generously spare a spread of their Vegemite. Avocado toast has remained a godsend in every new batch of blurry first days after I land somewhere several time zones over, and I have tried to replicate the dish all around the world whenever I find myself unable to sleep at 4 am – including whenever I am back in Spain, to my parent’s bewilderment.
Closest I’ve come is Mexico, which I now call home, and where I have reached a compromise. Avocados are indeed better, but I’ve had to learn to make do with five-grain bread. Raisin toast is, simply, nowhere to be found.