Monday, December 22, 2008

Customs Down Under

The Australian customs official in Sydney airport was angry at us.

“These could be viable seeds,” he said. He was holding our Ziploc bag of raisins and almonds that we had brought along as trail mix for short hikes in the Outback. I actually hadn’t known that raisins could actually be harmful from a horticulture point of view. Australia ranks among the strictest countries about the food they let cross its borders. Our mistake was that we had opened the packets of raisins and almonds in Chicago, mixed them and packed them in Ziploc bags. He wouldn't allow something that wasn't “commercially packaged” and so he took them away to be destroyed.

We were in Australia earlier this month, narrating this incident at my uncle’s place in Sydney. Two young women who were sisters, family friends of my relatives were visiting. When they heard about our raisins, they launched into their own we-can-top-this story.

The girls had an aunt who was visiting Sydney from India. In preparation for her trip she had prepared a huge batch of sweets for her relatives living in Sydney. But the Australian customs officials wouldn't allow her to carry those sweets past customs.

Any food not already consumed had to be discarded, they insisted. She pleaded but they had their rules, they couldn't allow her to walk past. And so the lady decided on a plan of action. She would herself eat as much of it as she could.

Now, if you know Indian sweets, you know that each cube is solidified heart attack. They have 3 main ingredients: Sugar, ghee (clarified butter) and some flour that gives the sweet its name. But since she had prepared it with love and simply couldn't bear the idea of throwing them away, she sat there, right in front of bemused customs officials and ate them one after another.

Apparently, the lady ate one whole kilogram of the sweets, while her relatives anxiously waited outside to receive her, wondering why she wasn’t coming out.

1 comment:

  1. Raisins cannot germinate and the customs official was wrong. But then it is better not to argue with customs.

    I kind of liked that lady who ate all the sweets. Takes guts to finish a huge packet of sweet. :-)