Like many other children growing up in Australia, I was served Vegemite regularly. On toast for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch and after school snacks, it was a favourite treat.
Later I got more creative – on crumpets with egg, or in toasted cheese sandwiches. It is pretty darn good with avocado and tomato as well.
When my parents-in-law visited us in Queensland we sent them back to Holland with small plastic containers of Vegemite. I forgot to mention that you use it sparingly – the results were apparently hilarious.
So what is Vegemite?
Made from yeast extract, it is a dark brown spread. It tastes salty, and slightly bitter.
Now – you are either a Vegemite lover, or a Vegemite hater. There’s no middle ground with this stuff.
I’d like to announce officially: I am a LOVER.
Travelling overseas was a problem – I actually got my father to mail me jars of the stuff. No ‘fair dinkum aussie sheila’ can live without it for too long.
Vegemite first turned up on the Australian market in 1923. The name was chosen from a hat by the daughter of the Chairman of Frank Walker & Co., who owned the trademark until it was transferred to Kraft.
So – enough history.
Everyday I was told how good Vegemite was for me. It is one of the richest sources of vitamin B, but that’s not why it is so popular.
Vegemite is a cultural icon in Australia. Even if you are not a fan – you know about it and can probably sing the Vegemite song.
Luckily I can get it easily here in New Zealand. It has been around here for over 50 years.
But Kiwi’s had their own spread.
Like Vegemite somewhat, but sweeter. Probably that comes from the addition of sugar and caramel. You eat it the same way that Vegemite is eaten, and it looks similar, but to a true Vegemite aficionado – it just ain’t the same. .
Like Vegemite, you are either a lover or a hater.
Me – I’m a hater. The Danes aren’t too keen on it either – they recently banned its sale in Denmark. Trouble is they banned Vegemite as well.
Poor Princess Mary. She’s either going to have to start smuggling the stuff in or get used to buttered bread with skæreost, or white Danish cheese, strawberry jam, or wienerbrød, and coffee.
Now back to Marmite for a moment.
Marmite – the New Zealand version came into being with World War 1. Up until then the Kiwi’s imported the stuff from Britain. In 1919 Sanitarium was granted the right to sell Marmite here in The Land of the Long White Cloud.
So the taste for this little spread – well, spread. It was even claimed that during World War II that it helped strengthen Kiwi troops.
Marketing has been known to stretch the truth occasionally.
These days you no longer get either in their little glass jars. Pity – they came in handy as substitute wine glasses back in the day. Or rum, or tequila, or vodka glasses for that matter.
Happily the Kiwi’s, unlike the Danes know a good thing when they taste it. Or at least half of them do.
These days New Zealand is split on the Vegemite/Marmite debate.
And a heated debate it is. Having a boring night? Just ask this question and watch the fur fly as both sides argue their point.
Are you a Vegemiter or a Marmiter. Because believe me – you are never both !!!
For an interesting read on the Aussie food experience you might want to check out Vegemite Experience