September 03, 2015

Horse 1972 - Vegemite: The Ludicrous Condiment

Apart from the fact that I'm convinced that I was born in the wrong country by historical accident and will support England in every possible sporting endeavour, there are some things where my unwanted Australianess still shines through. Among these are my irrational love of Tim Tams, pie floaters and my defence of the ute as the greatest form of motor car yet devised. Also included though, is my liking of Vegemite, which by all accounts should be inedible.

Vegemite is made from ground up bits of ISIS, crude oil, mashed up and strained penguins, treacle, hatred, tar, charcoal, liquefied rubber and spent brewer's yeast. It has roughly the same consistency and viscosity as Silastic and a taste similar to salted bile. Vegemite is nasty nasty stuff, which unless fed to children before the age of 8, remains as unpalatable and inedible as a plate of cold sick (not that warm sick is edible either for that matter).

I was sat sitting in a coffee shop with a client of ours who wanted to take me out of the office and into a warm, upholstered place, when two bits of toast came out that were super thick and cut into 'soldiers'. I have to say that that thin layer of Vegemite which was scraped over the toast like children's chalk on the pavement, was thirteen kinds of deliciousness, when it had no right to be. On one hand I had a cup of coffee which was made by some Italian company and supposed to be the height of sophistication and on the other, I had a piece of toast which was covered in a substance which can be found (or should be found) in every pantry in the country. Vegemite is no respecter of class or income. Some would call that egalitarianism but the truth is closer to ubiquitousness.

This is an enigma wrapped in a riddle; wrapped in a conundrum; wrapped in a puzzle; wrapped in baked goods. There is no logical reason why this black sludge, the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel of the fermented drippings of Hades should taste so wonderful and yet it does. The fact that Vegemite doesn't really have an expiry date should come as no surprise to anyone. I bet that after we've all wiped ourselves out in a nuclear war and we've twisted the dragon's tail to the point where nuclear fire has rained down upon everything and destroyed all life on this planet as we know it, that all the jars of Vegemite in the world will still pass food safety standards and be fit for consumption by a race of people who no longer exists. Forget the cockroaches, it will be Vegemite which goes on to outlive us all. If we wanted to leave a record of ourselves in the universe, we should have just put a jar of Vegemite on Voyager 2; that way in 10,000 years when it meets up with some alien race, they'll conclude that we were all hard as nails.

I can understand a British obsession with toast an marmalade because there isn't very much which isn't improved by citrus and the French practice of adding herbs and garlic and olive oil to a lovely piece of crusty baguette is obviously something which has been honed over years of collective experience but Vegemite? Nope. That's just irrational. Even Vegemite's British cousin Marmite has had in its advert campaigns that you either love it or loathe it; at the point you're admitting to the public that great swathes of the population are going to be annoyed by your product, you know you're dealing with weapons grade insanity. Yet here I am extolling the virtues of a product which most of the world, quite rightly, thinks is both weird and strange.

Something as sweet as honey would be sensible this early in the morning and there is something to be said for the utility of peanut butter. Nutella can be put on toast but there isn't anyone alive who has the ability to show adequate restraint when it comes to Nutella. Nutella is best eaten directly out of the jar and the correct amount of Nutella to eat is "more". Vegemite isn't like that.
The famous advert says "We're happy little Vegemites; as bright as bright can be. We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast lunch and tea." Clearly this was written by a moron. Unless you happened to be some extreme fan of toast, I can't even begin to think of what context, or even how such a thing would even be possible. Maybe you could use Vegemite as some sort of additive for stocks and soups but otherwise the song is just spouting gibberish. No sane person would think about eating a tablespoonful of the stuff in one go; not even our onion eating Prime Minister would think about that. Vegemite is its own moderator of temperance and I can think of very few things in the world like that. People who don't like Vegemite are usually those unsuspecting souls who have eaten vast globs of the stuff in one go because they weren't told in advance of the nature of the beast; even Mrs Rollo has been converted by its salty wiles, which either indicates that her Americanism is fading with time or that Vegemite is so Australian that it swamps all common sense.

Therein lies the riddle that is Vegemite. It has every right to be horrible and it isn't. It should by logic be disgusting and it isn't. The product of an American corporation like Kraft Foods is one of the most Australian things that anyone can think of and its very existence is so baffling that not even common sense can be applied to it. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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