Sunday, June 29, 2008

Get it right Mate! Here's how...

So that the difficulties of ordering a sandwhich in Australia don't befall you, I'd like to share the important tips the Handsome Australian gave to me during our 10 minute sandwhich tutorial. Because if you are like me, you don't like looking the part of the tourist---you want to fit in with the locals and act as if you've been doing this your whole life.

When you first approach the sandwhich counter, you need to be scanning the area behind for a bread selection. It is very rare that you'll find a list of the different breads available, but you can often see them in baskets or stacked up somewhere behind the counter. Check out the selection and see which type of bread you'd like. If you can't see the bread, just have in mind the type that you want your sandwhich on so that you can ask for it FIRST.

Here are some examples of the various types of bread you might encounter:

  • Sliced Bread of various varieties--white, wholemeal (that's Aussie for wheat), rye, sourdough, etc
  • Bread Rolls--Exactly as the name indicates, these are rolls and will take different shapes depending on the particular place and again there will be different varieties--white, wholemeal, with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, etc
  • Focaccia--pronounced foe-CAT-cha is a flat oven baked Italian bread, which may be topped with onions, herbs, or other foodstuffs
  • Turkish Bread or Turkish Roll--is a Middle Eastern style flat bread


Now that you've made your bread choice, the next thing you will be asked is if you'd like margarine (only they'll say marg-a-REEN) or butter (only they'll say butt-A) on your bread. Personally I never heard of such a thing before I came to Australia. So don't be thrown off by this. Just say, "No thanks" if that doesn't appeal to you and ask for the spread that you would like instead. For instance, now is the time to tell them you'd like mustard, mayonaise, pesto, avocado, cream cheese, etc. Again it is important to look at the ingredients on display because the different spreads will vary from cafe to cafe.


Once you've chosen the spread, you should choose the meat you'd like on your sandwhich (if you are going to have meat that is). Have another look at the display case and see what's available--you'll usually find some ham, roast beef, chicken, tuna, pastrami, salami, smoked salmon, or even chicken schnitzel. Again the selection will vary from place to place.


Once you've chosen your meat then it's time to choose your cheese. Generally there aren't too many cheeses to choose from. You are almost guaranteed that Tasty Cheese (that's an Australian Cheddar) will be on offer and maybe one or two other types.


Now it's time to choose salad toppinngs. To speed up the process of choosing individual salad items, the Australians have come up with a shorthand. So when the sandwhich maker asks you if you'd like salad on your sandwhich this is what they mean: Salad = lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, beetroot (that's Australian for beets), and onion (again this can vary from place to place, but this is pretty much the standard). If you say yes to salad, you should specify if you don't want any of those particular ingredients. You might say, "Yes, I'd like salad, but without the onions please." Now if you forget to specify, the sandwhich makers will generally (but not always) confirm that you would like the more controversial of the ingredients ie the beetroot and onion as not everyone likes these. So speak up or you may end up with something you don't want.

You don't have to have salad on your sandwhich or you may prefer some of the more exotic ingredients on offer such as sun-dried tomatoes, grilled eggplant, etc. If this is the case, just let the sandwhich maker know which items you'd like.


While the sandwhich maker is putting the salad or other veggies on your sandwhich, they will also ask you if you'd like salt and pepper on your sandwhich. It'll be something like this, "Would you like salt and pepper (only they'll say pep-AH)? So just reply in the affirmative or negative depending on your personal preference.


Once your sandwhich is complete, the sandwhich maker will generally cut it in half for you and then ask,"Is this for here or take-away?" Which means, will you be eating the sandwhich here at the cafe or will you be having it to go. If you want it to take-away they'll wrap it up for you and if you are having it at the cafe they'll put it on a plate.


Generally the sandwhich maker will ask you if you'd like anything else--this is the time to order your drink, or biscuit (that's Australian for cookie) or anything else that you might like.


Now, as I've said before, I've been here for 8 years, but I still don't understand the pricing system of sandwhiches. Each cafe seems to have a base price that is then added to depending on which ingredients you select. Some ingredients are more dear than others and I've even been charged a different amount for the same sandwhich in the same cafe on different days. So who knows.


I know this whole process sounds quite involved, but once you get it down pat you can get through it all very quickly and maybe even skip a step or two. Here's how I typically order,

"Hi, can I get a wholemeal roll with avacado, salad and tasty cheese, please."

Immediately they know which bread to grab, they know I want avocado as a spread (although they may still ask the butter-margarine question), they know I want the typcial salad ingredients and will most likely confirm the beetroot and onion options, and they know which cheese I'd like. So this means less questions need to be asked and they can get to putting the sandwhich together straight away. Of course the quality of service will vary from place to place and some sandwhich makers have better memories than others. Most can handle having this much information up front while others struggle and still need you to go through the process step by step with them. It's a mixed bag.

Now that you've read this sandwhich ordering tutorial, you can confidently order your lunch at an Australian sandwhich bar and spend the time you've saved pondering the meaning of colourful Australian gems such as "Two Pot Screamer" instead. Enjoy!

Learn the Lingo

Wholemeal bread=wheat bread

Tasty cheese=Australian Cheddar

Salad (for sandwhiches)=lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, onion,



Two Pot Screamer=A person who gets drunk easily. In this case, pot refers to a glass of beer.


kristin said...

If only I'd had the tutorial before I visited! Good thing you'd figured out the sandwich thing by then. I'm still pretty pleased with the yummy sandwiches you made! I'll have to consult this again before I visit in the future! Can I write another sentence that needs an exclamation point?!

floridagirlinsydney said...

I was at another mom's house here for a playdate and she had ham and cheese sandwiches with butter on them (or margarine?)-- I was in awe.. it never occurred to me to ever put butter on a sandwich!