Vegemite, it puts a rose in every cheek
In every culture there are foods adored by locals that outsiders back away from. Just as the French love their escargot or Scots’ their Haggis, we Aussies have an obsession with Vegemite. A passion not shared by many who are not from the land down under.
I’m an Aussie and I can’t deny I love Vegemite. After all, I was bought up on it. This is a food as Australian as you can get. Vegemite is one of our most popular foods, with more than 22 million jars sold each year. Us “Happy Little Vegemites” enjoy it breakfast, lunch and tea, or so the song goes. The Vegemite jingle, written in 1954 for promotion of Australia’s favourite spread, is said to be better known lyrically than our National Anthem.
Instructions are simple; spread on hot buttered toast as soon as possible, apply a very thin, even spread. Another serving suggestion is to spread onto hot buttered crumpets or Sao biscuits. Saos, are light and crumbly in texture, best eaten as a light snack, topped with butter and Vegemite. For generations, the Sao sandwich has been squeezed to create “worms” that wriggle through the holes in the biscuit and eaten as an after school snack. And of course packed in every Aussie kid’s lunchbox is a Vegemite Sanger! For some added variety Mum would whack in some cheese.
So that’s breakfast and lunch, (even a snack) taken care of, but doesn’t the song mention dinner too? Yes, our Mother’s ensured we were dished up a tasty dinner by improving the flavour of our soups, stews and gravies with the addition of Vegemite.
This dark brown paste with its salty, bitter taste is quintessentially part of every Australian diet and no doubt an important victory for patriotic taste buds throughout the world, is best described as “an acquired taste”.
Just what is this spread and how did it come to be? It was developed by Dr Cyril P Callister in 1920 for the Fred Walker Company and made from the richest known natural source of Vitamin B, brewer’s yeast. Ninety years later this recipe remains unchanged. Despite the efforts of Fred Walker Company (which later became Kraft Food Company), it took 14 years of perseverance for this product to gain popularity, due to the reputation of Marmite.
Finally, a breakthrough in 1937, a national competition with the major prize being a Pontiac car lead to sales nationwide and an endorsement from the British Medical Association recommending Vegemite as a source rich in Vitamin B. National recognition and acceptance to become a staple food in every Australian home took 20 years from its development. It’s a good thing Aussie’s are battlers and not scared to fight for what they believe in.
Thanks to the hard work and persistence of the Fred Walker Company and the catchy little advertising jingle this amazing dark spread is now part of Australian history and taken abroad by our troops and Aussie travellers as a keepsake of a great taste and memories from home.
Which side of the fence do you sit? Does Vegemite put a rose in your cheeks?