Thursday, December 09, 2010

What's So Good About Vegemite?

"Nothing," Kristen would confidently respond to the question posed on the jar of Vegemite. Although unquestionably uncharitable, that response wouldn't be an entirely unfair one. Vegemite, after all, does have a striking visual resemblance to road tar. It even smells a bit like tar and has a flavour that is disconcertingly similar to how one might imagine tar would taste if it were ever sampled. But, like the saying goes, "When in Rome..." Vegemite is stocked in every Australian supermarket, is found in every Aussie pantry we have wandered into and have even encountered it tucked into easily accessible pockets in the traveling Aussie's backpack in case of emergency. It is, in other words, the Australian spread. What type of spread, you ask? It is concentrated yeast extract from yeast grown on barley. That might be why Kristen says it tastes a bit like Guinness. Love it (j) or loathe it (k), its early history is at least somewhat interesting and a bit of joke. Let's see if you get.

The original concentrated yeast extract on the market was the British product called Marmite. After looking around and seeing how many of his fellow countrymen and women enjoyed (and ultimately paid for) their jars of concentrated yeast extract imported all the way from Britain, an enterprising Aussie man went into business in the early 1920's manufacturing an Australian made concentrated yeast extract. By doing so, not only did he smile all the way to the bank, but he created a product that oozed with Australian pride and, to this day, even if a bit tongue and cheek, is a national icon.

What's the joke? Its name. Playing off the name Marmite, he, in a hilarious act of subtlety, named his product Parwill. Do you get it? If Ma might, Pa will: Marmite, Parwill. Don't feel bad if you didn't get it: most people didn't. This led to the decision to hold a nationwide naming contest. As you probably already suspected, it was here that the name Vegemite was submitted and it has stuck ever since. Now there is something you can all file away in your very own Vault of Useless Facts.

As a final observation, Kristen and I have noticed something quite peculiar about our own jar of Vegemite. While every other spread/food we have stored in our campervan pantry has in some way wavered, or become runny, or has just become more pliable than it might normally be when not sitting in this Australian heat, our Vegemite has remained unfazed and has resisted any sort of physical reaction to the intense Australian summer climate. In fact, the only other thing that we have noticed to be as stoic in the face of this heat are the Australian highways themselves. Forgive me for wondering...


Anonymous said...

If it looks and smells like road tar Jon .....must be ///yuk

Dad P

Anonymous said...

So Australia isn't noted for it's cusine?????