Australians love to say that they are the only people on Earth who eat the national symbols on their coat of arms.
But is it true? Sadly, no.
The coats of arms of Andorra, Indonesia, Moldova and Iceland feature cattle on them – an ingredient that you will (reputedly) find in any neighbourhood McDonalds.
Horses feature on the coats of arms and menus, I’ll wager, of Burkino Faso, Mongolia, and Lesotho.
Antiguans or Chileans, we’re sure, would not turn their noses up at some venison, nor would any hungry Bahaman refuse a nice marlin steak. Likewise the fish on the Barbados coat of arms appears to have undergone some kind of radical Piscean form of botox injection, but I’m sure one would still go down rather well in a nice beer-batter. Like most of us, Solomon Islanders eat sharks, their national symbol, and a common ingredient in many fish and chip shops around the world.
The tribesmen of Botswana reportedly still eat their national symbol, the zebra. On the Ivory Coast, elephants are still killed and eaten for their meat; camels have more than one reason to be nervous in Eritrea; polar bears are on the menu in Greenland – yes really. Armadillos are a traditional dish in Grenada. Namibians and residents of Niger still like their antelope, if they can catch them; Peruvians love their llamas – fried, crumbed, on bread with tomato sauce – you name it.
Thankfully, New Zealand probably does not qualify. While their coat of arms features two people to symbolize the meeting of cultures, it is now too many years since anyone can recall the Maori practice of eating those who were defeated in battle.
But sadly, it turns out the claim that Australians are the only people in the world to eat their national symbols is not quite correct – times about 20. It appears we may have underestimated the presence of people in other countries and their need to eat.
Why do we allow this falsehood to flourish? My guess is because it sounds like a good yarn. It‘s something we love to tell foreigners because it implies a kind of Crocodile Dundee frontierism that we would like others to believe about us. It makes us feel good to say it, so there is no motivation to spoil it by checking it for the truth.