They come from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and other cities throughout Australia and New Zealand. They have come to Minnesota for jobs, for love, for adventure. And throughout the year, they meet to socialize, have fun and enjoy Australian dishes like “The Hamburger With the Lot.” On Sunday, Aug. 4, the Australian New Zealanders American Association (ANZAA) met for its annual summer picnic at Lake Ann. And, I was invited as a guest.
“Did you know, there’s about a 1,000 of us from Australia and New Zealand living here?” Kirstyn Sansom said, Sunday, watching as expats and their families arrived at the Lake Ann picnic shelter. “About 400 belong (to the Twin Cities ANZAA), and I think we’ll get about 100 here today.”
Sansom and her husband live in Chanhassen with their two young sons. She was transferred to the States with her job at Kelly Services in 2007.
While not a mention was made of “shrimp on the barbie,” there was plenty of grilling going on. The three in charge of cooking up Aussie hamburger patties and sausages included former ANZAA presidents Rob Green and Richard McCoy, and current president Neal McMahon.
Earlier in the week, Sansom was enthused about Aussie hamburgers and sausages.
Those who heard about my upcoming Aussie picnic cracked, “Oh, probably kangaroo meat.”
I’m here to report that kangaroo meat was nowhere to be found. Just juicy ground beef. And a whole lot more.
But first things first. I met Sansom in 2016 when she helped to bring a New Zealand artist Graham Hoete, to Chanhassen to paint the Prince mural on the Chanhassen Cinema wall. Sansom used her Aussie connections to make the mural happen.
Earlier this year, we wrote about her niece who came to the States to attend Holy Family Catholic High School on a special student visa. So when Sansom invited me to an Aussie expat picnic, sure, I’ll go.
Neal McMahon is the current president of the ANZAA. “This is my second time. I got paroled and now I’m back again,” he joked. He filled in the history of the ANZAA group.
A group of 3M, Control Data and University of Minnesota Aussie and Kiwi transfers started the Down Under Club as it was originally called, in 1972. Later the name became ANZAA, with “American” added as many of the expats have married Americans.
“Oh, there’s rivalries between the Aussies and the Kiwis,” someone said. “The Americans are the referees.”
There are ANZA groups around the world, wherever a group of convivial Aussies and Kiwis find one another.
Craig and Coral Wilkins of Chanhassen have been in the States for 7 years. Before that, Craig’s job took them to China and Singapore where they belonged to local ANZA clubs.
find each other
Sansom and Coral Wilkins agree that Aussie Central is the meat counter at the Chanhassen Lunds and Byerly’s. They each tell stories of shopping and having one of the butchers at the counter give them the heads up on other Aussies roaming the store.
“I just heard a new one going down that aisle!” a butcher named Jerry, is known to say. “Yeah, there have been a lot of introductions at the butcher counter,” Coral and Kirstyn agree.
They delight in meeting newcomers to the States, in trading stories about having their Australian/Kiwi accents misunderstood—”Ordering Starbucks at the drive through is a nightmare,” they agree. Sansom changed her wine order from “merlot,” which is always misunderstood as a “Miller,” as in beer. “Now I order malbec.”
Besides word of mouth and shopping the meat counter at Lunds Byerly’s, the group has a website—anzaa.com—and a Facebook page—www.facebook.com/anzaamn. You don’t have to be an Aussie or Kiwi to join; just be curious and open to meeting folks from Down Under.
More than a burger
Back to the Aussie burger.
McMahon, who is a flight attendant with Delta Airlines, travels often to Australia, bringing back special items for the expats that can’t be found in the States like vegemite, certain brands of wines, rashies (UV surfing shirts), thongs (Americans call them flip flops), certain dressings and passion fruit pulp. He brought back to the States the special blend of spices and seasonings that give the Aussie sausage its distinctive flavor. The sausage is made in a St. Paul shop for the Aussie picnic.
I’m not a fan of beets. To me, they’ve always tasted like mud. Even pickled. So, I exercised my best game face when told the ingredients that make up “The Hamburger With The Lot.”
According to Sansom, you’ll find this burger throughout Australia and New Zealand, often bought from fish and chip shops as well as a full range of restaurants and cafes.
A bun, a grilled burger from the barbie, some gently fried onion, cheese, bacon, pineapple, even the mention of a fried egg didn’t put me off. Then they mentioned the piece de resistance—a slice of pickled beet.
Really? It was all I could do to maintain a pleasant expression on my face.
I found a seat next to Aussie Rob Green at a picnic table. No longer able to hold back, I confessed my aversion to beets of any kind.
“Me, too,” Green confessed, looking over his shoulder. “I can’t stand beet root. But somehow, it works in this.”
I mentally prepared myself, then took a big bite. At the moment of contact with the pickled beet, I was ready to surreptitiously spit it out into a napkin. But wait a minute.
I tasted burger. I tasted fried egg overeasy, onions, cheese, bacon, pineapple. And pickled beet.
Huh. Not bad. Not bad at all. I went in for another bite. I caught Green’s eye.
“You’re right,” I admitted. “Somehow, it shouldn’t, but it works in this.”