What does beer, vegetables, and toast have in common?
In truth, not much, unless you’re talking about Vegemite!
For many Australians at home or abroad, Vegemite has been a pantry staple and regular breakfast, lunch, and snack time addition for their entire lives. For those of us who didn’t grow up downunder, we wrinkle our noses and say “vege-what?!”, and the British? They scoff at it and claim it is bastardized version of their precious Marmite.
Anyone who has heard of or seen Vegemite before, it was most likely in a movie or TV show where some mischievous Aussies played a joke on unsuspecting foreigners by convincing them the best way to try the nation’s favourite spread was to down a giant spoonful of it in one go. Though it may look like an odd version of Nutella, I can assure you that it is not, and treating it like so often comes with disastrous results.
As I (Julie) have been traveling throughout Western Australia for the last month, I have learned much about Aussie culture, slang, and general way of life, and have tried the famed Australian condiment. So what is this sticky, dark brown paste, exactly? Let’s stop playing sillybuggers and backroll into the world of Vegemite.
In the Beginning, there was Vegemite…
Okay, not exactly. Despite Vegemite being an internationally recognized symbol of Australia, the spread has only been part of an Aussie’s balanced brekky for less than 100 years. That’s right: Vegemite was created in Melbourne in 1922 after chemist CP Callister was propositioned by food manufacturer to create a similar product to the British Marmite.
Keep in mind: Australia is a relatively young country. Though the aboriginal peoples have been there for thousands of years, the British only began settling it in the late 1700s, with the majority of the people sent there being convicted criminals sent over to do most of the labour for the farmers and colony members. It is thought that roughly twenty-two percent of living Australians can trace their ancestry back to a convicted criminal.
If it’s not a nut butter, then what the heck is it?
Vegemite is made from leftover yeast from brewing beer, along with the addition of some vegetable additives and spices. It wasn’t overly popular for its first eight years, but then began to catch on when Fred Walker was able to begin marketing it alongside Kraft’s processed cheese product.
As with many things in that time, Vegemite finally made its move to becoming one of the number one products in Australian’s pantries during World War Two, when the Australian army had no access to Marmite and therefore had to be supplied with Vegemite instead. By the 1950s and 60s, Vegemite had become known as an Australian food, and has been associated with the country ever since.
The Etiquette to Eating Vegemite
As someone who has tried Vegemite but did not grow up eating it, I will say this: It is a bit of an acquired taste. It has a salty flavour that is probably unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before, unless of course you grew up eating Marmite (sorry, Brits, but let’s be real: They’re are very similar.) The reason why most non-aussies think vegemite is disgusting is because they eat it incorrectly, either with a very thick layer of the stuff or (gasp!) just eating a spoonful like it’s Nutella.
Do. Not. Do. This.
It is a sure-fire way to gag and get a good laugh out of the person who tricked you into eating it like that. No, the correct way to consume Vegemite is as follows:
Step 1: Toast your bread.
Step 2: Spread a thin layer of butter on said toast.
Step 3: Spread a thin layer of Vegemite on top. I repeat: Thin! This is an instance you do not want to be generous, especially if it’s your first time trying the spread.
Step 4: Keep an open mind and think about what you are tasting, i.e. don’t just reject it immediately because it is different from what you are used to. Give it a few bites.
Get Your Full Aussie Brekky On
Now that you know how to properly prepare and eat Vegemite, you are one step closer to being a true Aussie. Alongside your Vegemite on toast, you may wish to include some avo, snag, bum nuts, sauteed mushies, and a proper coffee. Enjoy!