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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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