Once upon a time there flickered a possibility that I might venture to Australia, there to compile a travel guide to the place. So I spent a fair amount of time soaking up information about the various whys and wherefores of the down-under realm.
Among the things I learned was that Australians, and particularly Australian males, can tend towards a relationship with alcohol that is somewhat reminiscent of that of early Americans. Which is, put simply: there can never be too much to drink. I learned that there had even occurred the coining of a word—”chunder”—to describe that process by which Australian males stumble out of pubs to spatter onto the ground their stomach contents, so that they might then be sufficiently emptied to return to the pub to consume more beverages. This practice was even immortalized in “Down Under,” the 1981 anthem from the Australian band Men At Work:
I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
The high alcohol content ever-present in the bodies of these chunderers encourages them to engage in pursuits that would not often appeal to people when they are Ordinary. To wit, in some pubs the chunderers compete in contests to see who can furthest hurl a human dwarf.
I admit to experiencing some concern when I learned that some of these men, when not drinking and chundering and hurling dwarves, pilot upon the nation’s highways vehicles called “road trains”—endless diesel-powered assemblages linking so many freight-trailers that the things can become longer than many towns. In Australia these behemoths replaced camel trains; camels, it is true, have been known to bite and spit and buck, but rarely has it been reported that a camel plunged into a beer/vomit/beer cycle, and then stumbled out into the night to blearily guide tens of thousands of pounds of metal at alarming speeds along the asphalt.
I next learned that some elements of this drinking culture have ventured across the water to take root in the somewhat-neighboring isles of New Zealand. Though no road trains travel that nation’s roads, and chundering is less of a national sport. Still, when the Googles informed me this morning that in a pub down in Wellington they are today cheerily guzzling horse semen, I was not surprised.
Apparently in New Zealand there is a beer monikered Monteith’s. The brewer of this hops-broth annually sponsors something called the Beer & Wild Food Challenge, wherein the nation’s food and booze joints, as well as common chunderers, are encouraged “to create New Zealand’s ultimate wild food dish matched perfectly to a Monteith’s beer.”
There in Wellington, at the Green Man Pub, chef Jason Varley has chosen to answer the Monteith’s challenge with a “meal of seared Asian duck and pork and paua spring rolls.” This is served with “Hoihoi tatea, or horse semen drink.”
Varley himself describes the drink as “okay,” and “like custard.”
He claims to the press that the concoction to this point seems most favored by women.
“Ladies thought it was great—a couple were going to go home and get their husbands to eat grass,” he said.
But Mr. Varley added that some women had their concerns.
“A couple of them were worried they might bear children with long faces,” he joked.
Men have not been so keen on the concoction.
“The men were very stand-offish. But a few have manned-up and said it is palatable.”
It’s news to me that horse semen is touted by some as a health brew “due to the possibility of boosted testosterone levels due to the DHEA hormone.” But then almost everything is news to me.
Green Man co-owner Steve Drummond concedes that no one has consumed his pub’s Hoihoi tatea a second time.
“I don’t think anyone’s had a particular taste for it[;] no one’s addicted to it, lets put it that way,” he said.
The Green Man Pub does not seem to have yet climbed even into bottom position on the Monteith “leaderboard.” Currently the top spot on that roster is occupied by Auckland’s Ribier Restaurant, and its offering of “Royal Hare Force.” So, bottoms up, all you Green men and women. Time’s a-wastin’.