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An Australia Day Showdown: Meat Pie Vs Hot Dog

by V (writer), Venice!, January 11, 2007

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Australia day, celebrated on January 26th is fast approaching and all around Los Angeles, ‘G’day L.A.’ events are in motion. Australia Day commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788 and is our official, national day - despite continuing to be shrouded with controversy. L.A. hosts ‘Australia Week’ from the 11th to the 20th of January, in the lead up to the big day. It showcases all things Australian from food, wine, film, arts, lifestyle, trade and investment to indigenous culture and tourism.

Events are scattered across the city (and country), with Bristol Farms in L.A. and San Francisco and Citarella in New York, having commenced displays and sampling of Australian wines, cheeses and other gourmet produce. The showcase commenced the 3rd of January and will finish on the 31st of January. There are myriad exhibitions, exhibits, trade days, shows and galas to attend for which tickets can be bought and information sought at www.australia-week.com. This year’s Australia Week honors the late ‘Crocodile Hunter.’

But something else significant and Australian-related is going on in the City of Angels. Last year, during Australia Week 2006, Vili's - one of Australia's largest meat pie companies - sold 4000 meat pies. Let me first explain just what a meat pie is.

The meat pie is sacred to Australians. It has the same cultural significance to an Australian as the hot dog has to an American. If they didn't sell pies at the Rugby or the Cricket, men wouldn't go. If they didn't serve them in bars, pubs, gas stations and convenience stores, incidents of violence would erupt. If they stopped making them all together, the country would descend into anarchy.

Meat pies, as the word pie would indicate are round pastry cases with tops - we call them lids - filled with, more often than not, a mysterious mix of minced meat in standard thick gravy. Meat pies are not supposed to be fancy. If you want fancy, eat a quiche or a goat's curd tart. Pies should not be the target of improvements or beautification, they should be kept simple - meat and tomato sauce (ketchup), that's it.

Pies need to be eaten with two hands, no knives and forks. That'd be the same kind of person who eats a slice of pizza or a hot dog with a knife and fork. You will find some large-scale pie shops (they sell only meat pies, not dessert pies) that go into the arena of different choices of pies, such as steak and onion, Guinness, chicken and leek (although that's a bit big-city pretentious), steak and mushroom etc; this is permitted.

Every single Australian has a very specific way they eat their pie. It's like a side that you sleep on in bed or the order with which you wash dishes. Some people squeeze tomato sauce all over the top of the lid. Some eat the lid first then squeeze sauce into the pie and eat the rest. Some impale the lid of the pie with the sauce bottle and squeeze the sauce into it - this is very common and shop owners hate this because then the sauce bottle has meat and pastry all over it. Personally, I put sauce all over the lid evenly, and then I carefully pry the rim of the lid from the body, edging my way around its circumference. Then, I flip the lid so it is upside down, sauce side submerged and bottom now facing up, which has usually brought with it a little of the meat and gravy. Then, ripping strips from the lid, I eat the lid first and then I eat the rest.

Back in Australia, two of the biggest pie companies, Melbourne based, “Four N’ Twenty” and Adelaide based, “Vili’s” are about to expand into the US Market. To the tune of billions of export dollars and with a distribution deal with food giant, US Foodservices, Vili’s is about to place this humble, far from nutritious, Aussie comfort food in their own carts on the street corners of New York City, in restaurants, pubs, clubs and sporting venues. Vili’s is also teaming up with celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck to bring Vili’s pies into the Staples Center. Four N’ Twenty are pursing sports stadiums, convenience stores, airlines, amusement parks and college campuses.

US Foodservices understand that it will be a challenge bringing Americans around to associating the pie with savory rather than the typically sweet, that they are used to. They are considering calling them “Shepherd’s Pie,” for the purposes of the American market that has a history with the Irish and British, so may better understand that.

Certainly there can be no competition with the Pie Vs Hot Dog here in the U.S., but time will tell whether or not American taste buds can make room for the all-Australian meat pie. But with the U.S.A. being a 300 million-strong marketplace, it’s worth a try.


About the Writer

V is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on An Australia Day Showdown: Meat Pie Vs Hot Dog

Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Noa on January 11, 2007 at 10:51 am
Most excellent! Must give one of those a try!
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Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Venditto on October 28, 2007 at 02:15 pm
This is the most delicious thing I've read in quite some time.
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