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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Vegemite: WTF Mate?

But, I mean, what do you really expect from a country whose Prime Minister, Harold Holt, on December 18th, 1967 simply vanished while walking along a beach in Victoria.  I mean, really.  He’s walking along, and then he’s gone. No trace of him was ever found.

And not only does Australia have vanishing prime ministers and 10 out of the 10 most poisonous snakes on earth, they have that oozing dark fecal matter in a bottle that they endearingly call “vegemite.”

This is one unnatural food product that shockingly enough hasn’t caught on in the United States.  I’m sure it’s available somewhere, but most Americans have never even heard of it.  Fortunately.  The English have a similar product called Marmite.

So what exactly is Vegemite?

From the official website itself:

Vegemite dates back to 1922 when the Fred Walker Company, which became Kraft Walker Foods in 1926 and Kraft Foods Limited in 1950, hired a young chemist to develop a spread from one of the richest known natural sources of the vitamin B group – Brewers Yeast.

Following months of laboratory tests, Dr. Cyril P Callister, who became the nation’s leading food technologist of the 1920s and 30s developed a tasty spreadable paste. It came in a two ounce (57g) amber glass jar capped with a Phoenix seal with the label “Pure Vegetable Extract.

Tasty. Not only was it developed by a chemist (it has more in common with a Twinkie than you thought!) it had to be approved by the British Medical Association in 1939.

Australians rave over it.  I’ve tried it several times and have been unable to figure out what makes it good.  It tastes kind of like mold scrapings from an old barn added to a pound of salt, mixed with a dollop of horse dung, ground well, and spread on toast.  The subtler flavors are not within my meager powers of description.  You’ll just have to try it yourself.

The Vegemite website is worth a look – they have the entire history of the product and recipes (with “yummy” rather suspiciously bracketed in quotation marks, as though to say, “We’re simply implying that some people may find this product appetizing, but this is not the official opinion and merely represents a few crackpot loonies off somewhere in the bush.”  Isn’t that what putting single words in quotation marks usually means?)

You can send Vegemite e-cards, look at old advertising, see how their packaging has changed over the long and exciting years, see a timeline, read a poem about Vegemite, purchase Vegemite memorabilia – there’s even a link called the “Litte Aussie Vegemite Reader.” I’m afraid to look.

Now here is the clincher, here is the thing that prompted this rant:

Uber-delicious

Imagine the previously described taste mixed with processed cheese product – and you have Vegemite Cheesybite! Perfect, as the Vegemite homepage animation suggests, as a dip for crackers, celery, and carrots.

Someday, someday, if enough Australians force me to keep trying this appalling yeast by-product until my taste buds commit suicide, I might learn to like it. Until then, I stand firmly by the belief that this was never meant to be eaten by mortal human.

I am now off to go consume cheesy snacks.

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So, I was having a bit of a think the other day. I know, that doesn’t happen often.

Somewhere in Lima. It's amazing how the mind lets one down after only a few years.

I was trying to figure out where this need to travel comes from and when I first realized how awesome it is. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I’m slightly obsessed with it.  But I haven’t always been like this.  Indeed, I was once a small child with an affinity for road trips and no inkling that a few short years later I would be addicted to something outside my power to control.

I think it must have been Peru. More specifically, it was when a llama decided to chase us on Machu Picchu. (Macchu Pichu? I can never remember.)

I know what you’re thinking. What did I do to that poor llama? Nothing. He came out of nowhere like an avenging angel with a spitting problem and lunged toward us with destruction written in his bugged-out eyes.  We had no choice but to run and hope we didn’t fall off the side of the mountain, a thing which is easier to do than you might imagine.

What was I doing in Peru? It was my very first trip out of the country as a wee tenth grader on a school trip.  There were tour buses, there was bottled water and jungle cabins and a scenic train and ruins and cathedrals. My god were there cathedrals.  Our tour guides just could not get enough of cathedrals.  It was a guided “educational” trip which meant they wouldn’t let us try the Inca beer, which looked slightly like a milkshake and probably like it could kill you. I believe it was made out of corn and Incan spit.

Now I don’t remember fact one about the cathedrals or most of the ruins. (Hint to tour guide operators: no one can enjoy that kind of thing for ten hours a day, every day.)

What I do remember is getting chased by a llama off the side of a mountain.  And bargaining with people in the markets for a llama-hair blanket and finger puppets of llamas.  You may notice a certain llama theme here. This is because we were in Peru, whose main exports are llamas and Inca-themed merchandise.

I think back now to the moment I stepped off the plane into the violently yellow Cusco airport.  First of all it was the longest plane ride I’d ever taken so that was exciting, because there was a full travel story in itself on how long and awful it was to be cooped up in a metal box for five hours. Yes, five whole hours.  You can see I had never considered going to Australia at that point in my life.

Forgive me this next part.  I was expecting something rather more third-worldly here.  Other than being intensely yellow, having a propensity for peeling plaster, and a noticeable lack of air-con, the airport was certainly an improvement over certain third-world airports, ones like Chicago O’Hare.

My timid classmates, our chaperone, and I were found by the tour guide and we were shuffled hastily on to a bus complete with curtains in the windows, air-con, and bottled water.  The height of luxury. You must understand that at this point I, coming from a small town in Northern Michigan, had never experienced anything like as advanced as public transportation, international airports, currency exchanges, or malaria pills.

When the hotel we were taken to had open windows on the seventh floor – one careless slip and you’re gone for good – I thought that was a pretty Notable Event.

Anyways I got over it.

But on that guided, air-conditioned, educational trip, I learned several important things.  First, that I never wanted to give my money to tour operators again.  Second, that the world wasn’t, in fact, a terrifyingly disease- and crime- infested place and was in fact Pretty Cool. And third, I learned holyshitIlovethisandthisandIwantogoeverywhererightnow.

So while I still cringe at the amount of money I had to pay for eight days being dragged around every historical site in Peru, that trip was the spark that fueled this traveling obsession and I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s been over two months since I’ve been anywhere and I’m getting the withdrawal shakes: not being able to sleep at night, compulsively budgeting money I don’t even have yet, checking skyscanner on a daily basis, and finding myself on travel websites with no memory of how I got there.  This is going to be a long summer.

You know, I do wonder what I would be doing today if I hadn’t gone to Peru.  I almost cancelled for the stellar reasons that most of my friends weren’t going, it was expensive, and it was rather intimidating. Would I be sitting in a university somewhere wondering why I felt so dissatisfied with life? Or would something else have happened to help me realize how awesome getting in a flying tin can and hurtling to strange destinations full of malaria and yellow fever can be?

On a slightly related note, I’ve decided to learn French.  I made a good effort to learn Hungarian but without an actual speaker here to help me out I just can’t get the pronunciation.  It’s too difficult to try and learn from my limited resources.

But French, French is a piece of cake compared to Hungarian. It’s just like Spanish with a few extra sounds.  You say cafe au lait instead of cafe con leche.  Big deal.  In any case, I can get coffee almost anywhere.

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Did you catch the travel bug along with the stomach bug in Mexico?  If you’re addicted to travel, I’m sorry to say, there’s no cure. It’s like heroin. You’ll need more and more just to feel normal. That’s the good news. The bad news is that others around you might not be so enthusiastic about your obsession as you are.

Corfu

Signs you’re a travel addict:

  • You read guidebooks for fun
  • Your friends flee when they see you coming, because…
  • …you begin every sentence with, “I remember one time in…”
  • You become offended when someone thinks Aussies actually drink Fosters
  • Your passport is with you at all times, just in case.
  • You feel strange not wearing flip flops in the shower
  • A room full of twenty drunk snoring people no longer fazes you
  • After more than a month without traveling, you get the shakes
  • While websurfing, you find yourself on a travel site 10 times out of ten, with no memory of how you got there
  • The vast majority of your Facebook friends live across the world
  • Your bookcase is half-filled with beat up travel guides. The other half has Bill Bryson.
  • When entering public bathrooms, you automatically do a scan for the possible places a flusher could be hiding, and another scan for the person trying to charge you to use the toilet.
  • There are at least twenty euros in your wallet at all times. Just in case. (See passport.)
  • When people ask what your hobbies are, you can’t say a sentence not containing the word travel.
  • You have detailed critiques of the world’s major airlines and judge them by the quality of their in-flight food.
  • You wake up in the morning and you can’t remember where you are.
  • You’re talking to somebody and you can’t remember what country you’re in or what the last country was
  • Kebabs.
  • A hostel shower big enough to turn around in is enough to make your entire day better
  • And…
  • You spend hours every day daydreaming about trips you’ll never take, trips you’ve taken, and people you’ve met on the road.  Doing almost any daily activity (laundry, driving, listening to music) can give you a flashback to a random moment on the road.

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Has been having technical difficulties. WordPress apparently feels it is no longer necessary to upload my photographs.

And Fabulous Friday Photos without photos is rather more challenging, as you may be able to imagine.

Fabulous Friday Photos is on hiatus until I can figure out an alternative to this rather problematic issue.

It could be my computer, it could be my admittedly shitty internet connection, or it could be WordPress.  Since nothing on my end of the line has changed, I’m going to blame it on WordPress.

Free servers anyways, what are they thinking, not working correctly?

Grr.

In the meantime I suggest you read An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser; we shall reconvene soon to discuss this fine piece of literature, and until then I bid thee a fond adieu.

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“It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase, “pretty as an airport” appear.”

~Douglas Adams

Almost everyone has flown at least once in their lives. The first time or two is exciting.  But when you do it a lot, there are certain things that just become obnoxious–and I’m not talking about airport security.

1.) The person in front of you in the security checkpoint line that takes years to remove their jacket, clean out their pockets, undo their briefcase, take out their laptop, take off their shoes, and then load everything appropriately into the bins.

No, I don’t care how much stuff you’ve got, have it all ready to toss in the bins when you get to the conveyor belt.  It’s not really that difficult.  Most people manage it.  Why are you flying again?

2.) The person who sits near you on the flight and complains incessantly about everything.

When you get offered, “chicken or beef,” those are your options.  No, the flight attendant does not know where this chicken was slaughtered and what its living conditions were like. No, there are no seats with more legroom. No, you are not any more special than any of the other people shoved into cattle class.  Yes, those are the only movies on offer.  No, if you wanted the vegetarian option you should have requested so BEFORE you got on the flight. Yes, the seats are cramped.  Yes, this is a seven-hour flight. I hope you get deep-vein thrombosis and die on the flight. At least then you would provide me with some mild entertainment.  If you wanted better conditions, you should have upgraded to first class.

3.) The person who sits next to you and then tries to convert you to Christianity/Tupperware/Disneyland.

Guess what? I really don’t care. You’re annoying.  And if I sense what your mission is before I’ve spoken, I might just pretend I don’t speak English.

4.) Ryanair.

I just hate Ryanair. With a passion. They should be bombed off the face of the planet.

Ryanair logo

Ryanair's new logo.

5.) Homeland Security–TSA

In no country that I’ve ever been in has airport security been so insane as in the United States.  I know, 9/11 and then that attempted bombing over Christmas, but let’s face it guys: you are NEVER going to be able to stop 100% of the people who are determined to hijack a plane for whatever nefarious reason.  Even if you really went gung-ho on this, the bad guys will find ways to get past security.  But the thing is, it’s just security theater.  I’ve taken contraband items through security before and haven’t been caught. (Oh no! A bottle of liquid over 100 ml!)  The “enhanced” security is just there to make the mass of sheep-like citizens feel more secure, much like lock-down drills in public schools that appeared after the Columbine tragedy.

Guess what. It doesn’t make me feel safer, it just takes up more of my time and irritates me. I might even enjoy flying if it wasn’t for insane Homeland Security and the TSA…

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Street I stayed off of

A typical winter day in Budapest.

You know you’ve lived in Hungary for awhile when you start laughing at these–but you know they’re true.  Thanks to the Kesident for pointing this out on his blog. I met Kes in Budapest over the holidays.  He’d recently moved there permanently. Why? Because Budapest is awesome.

Even if you’ve never been to Hungary you’ll probably find this amusing and intriguing:

You Know You’re Hungarian When…

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