I'm Australian. I apologise for this fairly regularly but conversation always comes back around to my nationality and, in the end, I am an Australian first, a person second. After I finish saying how beautiful the view of Sydney Harbour is from the top of Uluru; how Great White sharks aren’t so bad once you get to know them; and explaining that yes, nine out of ten creatures here will try to kill you but only if you try to hurt them or go near them or they come near you; conversation inevitably comes around to food.
Vegemite® is a regular point of gastronomic discussion when talking with those not familiar with the foods Downunder. For the uninformed, Vegemite is a yeast extract paste made from brewery leftovers and it has a few vegetables and spices in it too -- because we’re not barbarians, we like a bit of flavour in our food. The thing with Vegemite is this: You will probably hate it and there’s not much I can do about that. Most Australians love it though because a strong taste sensation in your mouth makes it easier to ignore the dingo that’s dragging away your baby and the spider that’s sitting in the corner planning to steal your soul.
Vegemite arose once more in a discussion that I was involved in recently. I was asked my favourite way to enjoy it. I explained that the best way to have Vegemite is to spread it sparingly over freshly buttered toast and top it off with a few slices of Koala Cheese®. This relatively nonchalant remark caused a stir in the conversation because in order to make Koala Cheese, you need to have Koala milk and in order to have Koala milk, you need to milk a Koala and milking a koala was scoffed at by all. So, I have decided to enlighten you to some secret Australian Knowledge.
How to milk a Koala
“Luke! That’s absurd, koalas do not give milk,” is what you might say and you would be quite correct. Koalas do not give milk, you bloody well have to go and get it. If you think a koala is going to wander up to you and hand over a carton of koala milk, I’m afraid you are severely mistaken.
Koalas are not cows or crocodiles. You can’t just walk up to a koala and start filling a bucket with milk. No, you need the right tools. And I don’t care how much you moisturise your hands or how small your little fingers are, if you just wrap your clumsy digits around a koala’s nipples and start pumping, you will die. You will die hideously and painfully and the Australian government will have to cover up another death of a tourist who came here and tried to milk the animals. Koalas are ferocious, malicious beasts. If you have ever heard of someone being savagely beaten by four dingos and a gang of crocodiles, they were probably just too afraid to say they were mauled by a koala because they feared the koala would hunt them down to finish the job.
To milk a koala you need the following:
- Koala nipple tweezers. These are specially made tweezers that match the five-point-star shape of a koala’s nipples. Don’t think you can go trying this with any old tweezers because if you do, the next anyone will hear about you is when your family receives your thumbs in the mail along with a photo of a koala wearing your skin.
- A bag of puppies, kittens or Skittles®. In the wild, koalas feed mostly on puppies and when they can’t find puppies they will eat kittens too — but only the cutest ones. At some point in the last twenty years they have also developed a liking for Skittles; no one knows why but it is assumed that a koala once ate a small child who was carrying Skittles and subsequently developed a liking for them. You could try other types of confectionery but given that you won’t get to try again if you’re wrong, it is best to stick with puppies, kittens or Skittles.
- A thimble. Koalas give very little milk, usually about a thimble per koala. They will give a little bit more if they are very angry but getting milk from an angry koala is like shaving a bear with a pencil sharpener, it’s not worth the risk.
- (Optional) A suit of plate mail armour. The amour will do nothing to stop a koala's claws should things go wrong, but you might feel more confident surrounded by metal plates.
- Many Australian tourist spots will boast that you can see koalas at their location, so finding an area to set up your milking grounds shouldn't be much of a problem. Once you are out in the bush, take a few moments to psych yourself up — maybe hug a puppy or a kitty if that is your chosen bait.
- Leave your bag of bait under a tree and fall back to a distance where you can watch the bag safely. To attract a koalas attention, start singing lullabies as this will make the koala think that babies are around and it will come down from the trees.
- When it realises there are no babies, the koala will start to eat the bait. If you chose puppies or kittens, this can be difficult to watch so you might want to pop some headphones in and read a book until it is over. Koalas are greedy so it will eat everything, and, assuming you brought enough bait, it will be too bloated to move.
- You can now approach the koala, preferably from downwind. When it sees you coming it will start flailing wildly with its claws but you should be okay provided you stay out of the arc of its swing. It won’t be able to get up and lunge at your throat because it will be too full on puppies, kittens or skittles.
- When you are close enough, reach out with your koala tweezers and start squeezing milk into the thimble, being careful to avoid the thrashing arms. Act quickly because a koala has a very fast metabolism and will have digested the food and be up and about in a very short time.
- Congratulations! You have just milked your first koala.
- (Optional) Repeat steps 1-6 20-30 times until you have enough milk to make cheese.
So now you know the secret to one of Australia’s culinary marvels. Vegemite and Koala cheese.