True Love Is Making the Vegemite Toast

'Veggie Toast'

Sydney 

In ‘Spot the Odd One Out’, I received some wonderful comments about the contents of our breakfast in Paris.

Paris Breakfast

The mystery item was, of course, the little jar of Vegemite. I’m coming to the end of a jar of it in Sydney, so this seems an appropriate time to follow up on my earlier post with my own opinion of this iconic Australian product. 

If you’d rather just have the executive summary of my view, which is no doubt obvious from the title of this post, it’s the following: it’s about love, or I wouldn’t make Clive his Vegemite toast every day. 

Of course, I start the day with ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ delivered to me in bed. Clive also makes the first part of our breakfast, since I have ‘issues’ with exploding porridge in the microwave. Then, I make our toast, mine with peanut butter, his with Vegemite. 

What Is Vegemite, Exactly? 

Wikipedia describes Vegemite as a ‘food paste’. It is made from ‘used brewers’ yeast extract’, a by-product of beer manufacturing. I suppose many food products are made with ‘used’ ingredients, but the word does nothing to reassure me. 

A Sensual Experience 

Vegemite provides quite a few sensual experiences, all of them unpleasant for this writer. 

Firstly, I find the sight of Vegemite completely off-putting. Its colour is dark brown and without becoming crude, I trust it is obvious what it could be said to resemble. The bright yellow and red label comes across to me as trying to fool us, saying ‘Look! This product is bright and delicious!’ But inside, it is still a mysterious dark brown substance. 

A New Jar of Vegemite

When you open a new jar of Vegemite, you see a smooth surface. I can hardly stand to look at it. 

As the contents gradually get used, the visual image goes from bad to worse. The rim of the jar becomes streaked with brown and the inside gets all smeary.

A Used Jar of Vegemite

More repulsive to me than the sight of Vegemite is its smell. It gives off a strong, putrid (to me) odour which I cannot bear – in the jar, on toast, or on anyone’s breath. Fortunately, the aroma doesn’t waft very far on its own; you have to be close to Vegemite to smell it.

When I took the photographs for this post, I had to lean over to get the camera close to the jar. I was inadvertently hit with a strong whiff of the stuff, but usually I can avoid smelling it. 

Vegemite’s texture is thick and grainy, much thicker, for example, than peanut butter. Vegemite must be kept refrigerated after opening, so when you go to spread it, it tends to glom onto the knife in cold, sticky blobs. On the rare times I get a spot of Vegemite on a finger (shudder shudder), it will not simply rinse off under the faucet; you have to scrub it off. Admittedly, peanut butter wouldn’t easily rinse off, either, but then again, I would just lick peanut butter off my finger. 

The All-Important Taste Test 

I could probably overcome my revulsion to the sight, smell, and texture of Vegemite if I thought it tasted good. In France, I’ve had horrifically runny, smelly cheeses that surprised with their fabulous taste. This is, however, not the case for me with Vegemite. 

I asked Clive what he likes about Vegemite’s taste. He described the high salt content as giving it flavour, and especially, even though it contains no beef, that it has a beefy flavour. He didn’t have Vegemite as a child growing up in England, but thinks he had a ‘head start’ because his family did eat a similar product, Marmite. 

Clive says Vegemite is definitely an acquired taste, and as many Aussies have told me, most people spread it too thickly the first time they try it, which puts them off it for life. 

The key to enjoying Vegemite, says just about everyone, is to spread it thinly. 

How to Make Vegemite Toast 

My first boss in Australia told me most Americans spread Vegemite like peanut butter, much too thickly. Clive says, ‘That’s fatal.’ The first time I tried Vegemite, it was spread thinly but the taste still put me off it for life. 

Butter is always spread first, then Vegemite. Apparently the heat of the toast, perhaps mixed with the grease of the butter, helps the Vegemite ‘dissolve’ and become more easily spreadable than it would otherwise be straight from the fridge. Sometimes Clive will have a cheese and Vegemite sandwich on bread, and in that case, the Vegemite also becomes easier to spread once it’s combined with butter. 

I always place the Vegemite jar on the kitchen counter so it’s as far away from me as possible while still within arm’s reach – not right under my nose and on the opposite side of the cutting board from the peanut butter jar, so no contamination can occur. Naturally I use two separate knives for Clive’s and my toast, and immediately after spreading the Vegemite, the knife goes as far back in the dishwasher as possible. 

Then, voilà! Veggie toast!  

Veggie Toast (slightly blobby, tsk tsk)

As much as Aussies diminutise words, ‘veggie’ as a noun usually means vegetable. Aussies never say ‘Veggie’ for Vegemite on its own, but as an adjective, ‘Veggie’ with ‘toast’ is a common expression in spoken conversation and on menus and cafe blackboards. 

There’s no equivalent to Vegemite in the U.S., as far as I’m aware, although it’s widely available in England and, as KimB noted (thanks, Kim!), at WH Smith in Paris. 

Vegemite in Song 

A famous Australian advertising jingle sung by children in the 1950’s went as follows: 

     We’re happy little Vegemites

     As bright as bright can be.

     We all enjoy our Vegemite

     For breakfast, lunch, and tea. 

[Note: ‘tea’ is supper, or dinner – for more on the subject of ‘tea’ vs. dinner, see ‘Sunday Roast: A Proper Dinner’.] 

Probably better-known to my northern hemisphere friends is the Men at Work song ‘Down Under’ which includes: 

     I said, ‘Do you speak-a my language?’

     He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich. 

Vegemite sandwiches are a school lunch staple here, similar to peanut butter and jelly (American ‘jelly’ = English/Australian ‘jam’) in the United States. While I obviously don’t like Vegemite sandwiches, I have adopted the language enough to say ‘busy little Vegemites’ when Clive and I talk with his grandsons, or reflect on how much we have to do.  

But those are just words. For true love in action, it’s making the Vegemite toast. Maybe I’m a ‘happy little Vegemite’ after all.

Here’s the 1950′s commercial (found on the Internet): 

 

  

Cheers and happy eating, whatever your preferences may be.

About these ads

14 Responses

  1. It definitely IS true love!! A brilliant exposition on the nasty stuff. I particularly loved this sentence:

    Vegemite provides quite a few sensual experiences, all of them unpleasant for this writer.

    I don’t know if having my tea brought to me in bed would be enough to get me to make vegemite toast. You’re a better woman than I!!

    Hello and Happy Ides of March to you and Clive.

  2. Hi Carolyn… great to see you back blogging.. wondered what had happened to you :-)

    True love in this house is making Marmite Toast. I cannot eat Vegemite.. nothing like Marmite.

    And guess what! I spied a little pot of it in OUR cupboard must of been there a year!! I think Arni bought it in Australia thinking it was like Marmite, got a shock !! Ha ha ..

  3. Yuck, Yuck, and more Yuck! John eats Marmite and I cannot stand to smell it. I think he smells like he’s been chewing vitamins after and the smell puts me off.

    I have never made John his Marmite toast. He just said the face I would make bringing to him would put him off it too.

    He just said to tell you he thinks Vegemite is bland by comparison to Marmite.

  4. I truely believe Vegemite is a taste aquired in childhood, when you often dont get a choice concerning what you eat. I wasnt given much Vegemite as a child and therefore have never aquired the taste for it. Subsequently I dont give it to my kids and therefore they have never acquired the taste for it. My husband on the other hand was feed it from an early age by his Vegemite loving parents, so doesnt mind the occasional piece of vegemite toast or a vegemite sanga (sandwich for those international readers).

  5. It smells so bad to me that I’ve never managed to taste it. Give me peanut butter-but not for breakfast.

  6. Hi Caroline,
    as one who also suffers a vegemite-loving partner I refer you to 10CC’s “The things we do for love”. Nowhere in that song does it say to put vegemite on toast for love.
    Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! :)
    Cheerio
    Phil

  7. Well…. I must admit to a new, crazy thing of mine: I love vegemite toast! I came upon this discovery quite by accident. I was hungry, I had some lovely bread, I wanted more than just butter on the toast and I decided to try some vegemite as it sort of smelled ok… and now I eat it for most lunches! Sorry… :)

  8. Hi, came across your post from Michelloui’s blog Mid-Atlantic! I’m a Kiwi expat living in the UK and I recently posted about the joys of Vegemite here – http://www.vegemitevix.com/2010/03/31/101-uses-of-vegemite/

    A fellow expat Brit living in Catalunya decided to take up the challenge and wrote about the far superior spread, Marmite here = http://www.veryboredincatalunya.com/2010/03/war-of-brown-stuff.html in War of the Brown Stuff.

    I wonder which side you’d weigh in on? ;-p

  9. Carolyn– loved catching up with you here on this blog.Interesting to say the least.My life has changed a whole lot as well over the last couple of years.I am mainly on facebook nowadays.I do blog, but have slowed down on that since last fall actually.Find me under April Schatzi Johnson.

  10. Thanks for the great comments, everyone! KimB, yes it’s definitely worth a nice cup of tea! :)

    Anne, Marmite toast – eek! Maybe Arni got more Vegemite last weekend at the Formula 1 in Melbourne!?!

    Elizabeth, Marmite makes Vegemite bland – now that is indeed a scary thought. Mrschipndale, thanks for confirming re ‘acquired taste’ and for the reference to a Vegemite sanga — love it!

    Linda, peanut butter on toast for brekkie is very nice! Phil, I didn’t realise your spouse was another Vegemite person! Le jour de gloire indeed :)

    Michelloui, I thought it was Americans who didn’t like Vegemite but you’ve changed that — good on ya for liking it (though I wonder how you came to Vegemite vs Marmite!?).

    Vegemite Vix, welcome and thanks for your comment and links! April, welcome to you, too – so great to hear from you here – and so happy you are enjoying life. Hope to get on Facebook one of these days and will look for you there.

    Cheers all!

  11. Spotted this BBC feature about ‘Selling Marmite to India’
    It might amuse you Carolyn, especially in view of your probable change of residency.
    You never know, you might grow to love it. !

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/2010/05/theos-adventure-capitalists-can-you-sell-marmite-to-india.shtml

  12. John, very interesting and amusing indeed. SMART stray dog, if I may say so … and Marmite in powder form!? Oh dear.

    Thanks for the link — always something to learn about these ‘substances’. I will have to leave it to you and Clive to actually eat them, though.

    Cheers :)

  13. I’m a British, Australian and Canadian citizen and so I love Marmite and Vegemite (both deliciously savoury).

    We’re lucky here to have a Cobbs Bakery (an Aussie franchise export, I believe) which makes “Cheesymite Scrolls” with Vegemite. Absolutely delicious.

    Try Vegemite (or marmite) with butter and cheese on a baked potato.

    Yum!

  14. Kat, welcome and thanks for your comment!

    Cobbs Bakery sounds interesting; I haven’t seen it (or that franchise brand) here in Sydney si will have to check into it. Just the thought of any ‘Mite’ on scrolls is not for me, but I’m sure Clive would find it tasty :)

    The potato idea is ‘interesting’ too — I guess the warmth of the potato would be similar to toast in helping the ‘Mite’ product to spread and merge with the butter. Shudder shudder.

    I’m glad you enjoy these things though! Cheers and thanks for visiting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers

%d bloggers like this: