Friday, 14 October 2011

Oh Glorious Vegemite!!

Being such an international university the Enquiry Unit is like a mini league of nations.  We all have our favourite national dishes and enjoy swapping notes.  We had a debate the other day about which was better – marmite or vegemite.  As I consider there to be no contest, I thought it was time to write in defence of my national icon.

A recent news article caught my eye.   In August the Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was flying to New York from Mexico when he was stopped by authorities suspicious of the jar of dark brown liquid in his cabin baggage.  He tweeted that it ‘required foreign ministerial intervention’ to explain that it was his breakfast and was good very good for you. This followed another story about an encounter between the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Barack Obama.  He had the audacity to describe the hallowed substance "a quasi-vegetable by-product paste that you smear all over your toast", then pronouncing it "horrible". I must say – I thought Obama had impeccable taste until I read that – he has now gone down in my estimation somewhat!
…and woes betide anyone that dares mess with the special recipe. Kraft, the makers of Vegemite, developed a new, creamier, cheesy version and asked the public to suggest a name.  Web designer Dean Robbins won after submitting the name iSnack2.0. However, Kraft had to scrap the name after public outcry that it was "the worst name ever" and "unAustralian".
One respondent demanded that poor Dean should be forced to run down the main street of Sydney "wearing nothing but a generous lathering of old-fashioned Vegemite as retribution for his cultural crime".

Vegemite was invented in Australia in1923 as a way to utilise yeast extract left over from the beer brewing process.  My dad told me that they had the idea of naming it Pa-wont in response to the (in any self respecting Aussie’s opinion) far inferior British product Marmite!  It is an acquired taste like coffee and olives and for true acclimatisation, one needs to be raised on the wonderful stuff.  My mother used to make rusks for us when we were babies and flavour them with vegemite.  She also used it to flavour stews and soups and every time she added it would warn us not to tell Dad or he wouldn’t eat it!
Whenever I have a guest arriving from Oz who asks what to bring – my answer is always the same – a decent sized jar of vegemite!  How sublime to dip my knife into a whole 1 kilo jar of the wonderful stuff! Him- at- home cannot understand my love of the stuff and as I prepare one of my all time favourite snacks of ryvita or oatcakes with vegemite and extra mature cheddar cheese, he never fails to remark that, once again, I am spoiling a perfectly good oat cake/ryvita!  I sort of have to forgive him because he is British and pretty perfect in every other way!
The Vegemite Girls
I thought I would see what else has been written about the lovely stuff and these were some of my favourites from the Urban dictionary:
·         Very potent in strong doses, able to render your taste buds on the verge of withering up and dying. If you've grown up around Vegemite then this will have no effect on you.

·         Thick brown brewer's yeast paste from the Land Down Under. The slightest dollop on the end of a toothpick touched to a slug's back will incapacitate it in a matter of seconds, and render it a salty and torturous pool of black ooze in just under a minute effectively creating another couple ounces of Vegemite to dab on one's toast.

·         A semi edible dark brown paste. Traditionally used by Australians to disgust foreigners. Highly effective on North Americans.
 "Try this Chip, It's called vegemite. It tastes like nutella".

spread THINLY on toast or bread, with or without butter.
If spread too thickly, vegemite is inedible, even for Aussies.

When I left Oz so many centuries ago, being such a well-prepared traveller and a former girl guide, I made sure I packed two very important items – my vegemite and my snake bite kit.  I still have the snake bite kit, but still haven’t had a chance to use it. Maybe snakes, being very wise, know that I am so well fortified by my daily intake of vegemite they wouldn’t get near me!


    Strewth mate. Had to read the Pa-wont bit twice before I got it. Fair suck of the sauce bottle!

    ☺ He He! Well written.

  2. Thanks for your comment!
    You wouldn't happen to be a fellow Oz would you?

  3. Love the vegemite dresses.