Vegemite, Australia’s culinary triumph

2003 is the 80th anniversary of the creation of Vegemite, a unique part of the Australian kitchen and perhaps our most distinctive culinary creation.
Vegemite is a yeast extract that is used as a spread on toast, although it can be used as a flavouring in other recipies. It is, however, far more commonly used as a spread on toast or for sandwiches.
It is asserted that all Australians consume vegemite; my own observation is that this is not true but probably 50% of Australian households will have a jar of vegemite somewhere in the kitchen. It is also commonly asserted that no other nation in the world can stand vegemite, and this is closer to the truth. Most visitors to Australia that sample it blanche and the common sentiment is “How can you eat this shit?”.
This is often exacerbated by the great fun that Australians take in persuading the helpless and bewildered visitor to eat it by the teaspoon. Vegemite is as strong as horseradish and moderation is the key to enjoying it.
Vegemite is a black spread in texture. It’s taste is very difficult to describe, but it is bitter. It leaves a tang in the mouth after eating. Some people have compared it to British marmite; all I will say is that it is more bitter then marmite. I don’t know if I am alone in this, but this tang has the effect of making coffee taste sweeter, and in a nice way. Therefore, whenever I have vegemite toast, a cup of coffee is an essential accessory.
My vegemite favourite is probably spread on English muffins with butter, washed down with coffee.
Why vegemite? It is an acquired taste, but since Australian children generally acquire it at a very early age, it has become part of the Australian way of life. But how did it become so? My guess is that vegemite became popular in the Depression, where it’s relative cheapness and strong flavour gradually won over the palates of Australians who could not easily afford the traditional condiments.
The onset of the second world war would have driven exported alternatives out of the market, and by the time the prosperity of the 1950’s returned, enough Australians had acquired the taste for it to be part of Australia’s kitchens.
The company has also been a heavy advertiser, and they have been upbeat in promoting it’s health benefits. Vegemite is very heavy in vitamin B.
Without these factors, I do doubt that enough Australians would have persevered with it for Vegemite to become a culinary icon. (Hear the song)

Advertisements

8 comments

  1. bigwig

    I said , “Do you speak-a my language?”
    He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.

    I’ve wanted a taste ever since.

  2. Alan K. Henderson

    Every time I heard that Men At Work song on the radio in the ’80s, I’d think to myself, “It sounds like they’re saying ‘vegemite,’ but that’s not a real word.”
    Gotta work up a menu with all the “weird” foods of the world stuffed into one meal. What goes with vegemite and haggis?

  3. Michael Jennings

    My mother made me vegemite sandwiches for lunch every day for five or six years when I was at primary school. After that I decided I had had enough, and I haven’t had one since.

  4. american_gal

    I’m American and I ADORE vegemite. The stuff is perfection. I even got a big jar for my 23rd birthday. I need to order a jar soon because I eat so much of it.

  5. Sohair

    I am an Arab female, my Australian friend gave me a small jar to try.. and I loved it… I have one on my disk at work… Vegemite with crackers is just excellent