Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vegemite

"He just smiled, and made me a vegemite sandwich." -- Men at Work

Vegemite is an Australian staple.  It's one of the first foods fed to Australian babies.  It's a phenomenal source of B vitamins.  I've heard the taste described as "distinctive," and been cautioned that I won't like it.  We know that it's sold by Kraft, and it's a yeast extract.  So yeah, if we're trying the Australian experience, we needed to experience Vegemite.  We ordered a jar of it from a website.

When we got it, the first thing I did was open the jar and smell it.  Well, I've smelled worse things, I guess.  I think everyone has a different description of what it smells like, but my stab at it is a mixture between beef bouillon and boiling beer wort.** -- like yeasty barley malt with beef undertones.  I swiped my pinky finger in it and tasted it...kind of like salty beef-yeast malt.  Kind of icky, to tell the truth.

Vegemite Toast

Well, Sunday morning came and we'd put off having traditional Vegemite for breakfast, as we read the Aussies do.  On toast.  So I toasted two slices of bread, (not six...I've heard that we probably wouldn't like it, so I figured baby steps) spread a liberal amount of Vegemite on them, and cut them into toast points.  When spreading, I would describe the color and consistency of Vegemite as somewhat akin to axle grease, or maybe really dark Vaseline.

Anyway, I carried the toast points to the table, and distributed them amongst us.  The kids looked skeptical, and we admonished them that they had to at least swallow ONE bite...there would be no spitting.  We agreed to eat on the count of three.  One...  Two....  Three...

...and we all bit down on our Vegemite toast.  The initial flavor wasn't good, but wasn't too awful.  Rather like the smell, actually.  Salty, yeasty (I guess) and sort of tangy...

... that was for the first 1.4 seconds.  Then all hell broke loose in my mouth, and from the sound of it, in everyone else's mouth as well.  A sort of strangled howl loosed forth from all of us at the same time.  Hands started flapping, eyes started watering, and at least one of us spun around in place a few times.  During the following 2.3 seconds I debated whether the contents of my mouth were, in fact, swallowable, or whether someone had actually shat in my mouth when I wasn't looking.  I came to the conclusion, as I lunged across the kitchen for the trash can, that neither scenario was possible, and I spit it out into the garbage.

This was not happening in a vacuum, mind you.  Behind and around me, bedlam was breaking loose.  In my peripheral vision, I could see what looked like a dozen people rushing back and forth and spinning around.  Person after child after person bent over the garbage can and spat.  I looked over at the twins, trapped in their high chairs, and they were inconsolable.  I carried the can over and they blew out the vegemite slurry in their mouths.  Poor Elouise had big, sad tears and a look on her face that said, "Why, daddy?  Why would you do this to us?"

But things didn't stop here.  Vegemite toast appears to have adhesive qualities similar to spackle, and we immediately found that even after spitting, the flavor remains, as do little bits and specks in your teeth.  I didn't know if I should use my beleaguered tongue to scrape out the Vegemite -- thus tasting it more -- or leave it in my teeth -- thus tasting it more. I found iced tea in the refrigerator and swigged, and swished, and spit...and found marginal relief.  Unthinking, I upended the nearly empty jug in the sink as Angel screamed "NOOoooo!" over her outstretched hands.

The kids were still crying, by the way.

I sprinted across the house and out into the garage, where the beverage fridge sits, and found a 2-liter of diet orange soda.  I brought it back and poured glasses for all of the kids and handed it back to my red-faced wife.  There was a disgusting chorus of gargling and swishing, and we all, finally, found some relief from the oral putrefaction.

Whereupon we went out for brunch.

Vegemite Sucks

** beer wort is the raw barley malt / water / hops mixture that one boils for an hour before putting in a bucket with yeast to ferment for two weeks.  It's a heady aroma, malty, yeasty and warm-smelling.  If you've ever driven by a distillery, it's much the same.

7 comments:

  1. I've actually seen a recipe for a Vegemite Milkshake. Tons of Aussie's love it on tomato sandwiches and over pancakes. The most popular is how you tried it except buttering the toast first. The other alternative is on cheese sandwiches.

    Never tried it myself but always wanted to. You should sail some my way.
    Tony

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  2. I can't see as how buttering the toast would make things any better. Maybe I would've wondered if someone had shat *butter* in my mouth. There was a recipe for Vegemite Lamb Chops on the jar. Waste of perfectly good lamb if you ask me.
    --Nick

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    1. Just had the lambchops from the recipe on the jar and they were great!

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  3. hahahaha this is hilarious!
    Buttering the toast actually does make it taste a lot better for people who are not used to the taste, js as an Australian. Also if you are ever willing to try it again, i say don't use so much, its like someone exploded vegemite all over your toast.
    anyways props to you for trying it! =]

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  4. I found your site when I was trying to find a picture of Vegemite toast. As an Australian, trust me you must butter it first! Make sure the butter melts too. And don't put too much on if you're a 'beginner', maybe half of what you have in the picture there.

    Good luck, if you're brave enough to try it again. :P

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  5. There was an article by a woman who wrote about liking Vegemite as indicative of being raised in Australia and that for many, you had to have had it since you were young to really appreciate it.

    As an American who lives in Australia, I tolerate it. Actually Vegemite came up with a new version called "Cheesymite" which is like Vegemite & Velveeta Cheese combined. I really like it and it's tasty spread on crackers.

    Yes, I agree with everyone else - you MUST butter the toast liberally. And you need to put only about a 1/4 of what you spread on your toast. Nigella Lawson does it very fancy with Marmite (English version). She whips butter so it's very fluffy & then adds the Marmite and spreads the beautifully creamy spread onto bread for her children.

    Vegemite is very nutritious and is full of complex B vitamins. I know, it was a bit of a shock to the system but with just tiny amounts, you may like it one day. :)

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  6. I think you used too much. Mind you, I suppose it's an acquired taste - when I was younger my friends and I would eat it straight out of the little packets you could get at mother's day breakfasts. It's my favourite spread in the world! You should try it again, with less vegemite, more butter. I also put avocado on mine. It's bloody beautiful.

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