A Beginner's Guide to Vegemite

vegemite jars  

One of my blog posts about grocery shopping in Australia mentioned Vegemite. As Vegemite neophytes, we've evidently got a lot to learn. But of course, Kiwis and Aussies have had a lifetime to truly experience the wonders of this delicacy. We received lots of comments and recommendations about trying Vegemite and the proper way to eat it. Today, January 26th, is Australia Day and we thought this was the day to give Vegemite a try, paying attention to all the hints we received.


vegemite at the bottom of the beer barrel1


Vegemite, in case you didn't know, is a yeast substance and a by-product of beer production here in Australia. Supposedly the first guy to come up with the recipe was looking for a vitamin B source during the war years. He probably had left-over yeast sludge from making his home brew. Anyhow, the result is Vegemite and Aussie's eat it the way Americans eat peanut butter … in great quantities and with gusto.


Vegemite cheesybite


Supermarkets provide lots of shelf space for Vegemite and Vegemite wannabes. I also found another option which is Vegemite Cheesybite, a combination of Vegemite yeast product and long life cream cheese. Doesn't that make your heart flutter?

Over Thanksgiving dinner, our Aussie friends were coerced into trying pumpkin pie. They'd never tried it before. “Why turn a veggie into a fruit pie?” Craig asked. Everyone politely ate some. No one spit it out, but they didn't ask for seconds either.

The discussion somehow turned to Vegemite. I pulled out a small, unopened jar from the locker.

“Why not try it now?” Craig prompted.

“No”, I responded quickly. “We want to photograph it just in case David vomits or spits it out. We want to capture it on video or YouTube, but not at the dinner table.”


vegemite cracker worms


Jody added, “When we were kids we'd spread butter on Vita Weet crackers and then the Vegemite and squeeze the crackers together till all the butter and Vegemite oozed through the cracker holes like little worms. Then we licked it off.” That sounded appealing and very promising.

“Hold on to that jar. It'll be worth gold to any Australian in another part of the world where you can't get Vegemite.” Aha, an investment prospect.

Wendy and Ian laughed. Ian said “Spread on the butter first. You need a layer of butter and then the Vegemite.” “You don't need much”, added Wendy.

Leanne, an Aussie friend, e-mailed from Fiji after she read the post: “Less is better”.

That point became very clear to us.

Then Steve from Auckland sent an email. He distinguished between Marmite and Vegemite.

“To the uninitiated, it's like comparing the taste of used engine oil from a diesel versus a gasoline engine. That doesn’t stop the arguments between proponents of Vegemite vs Marmite from becoming similar to intensity and extent as your average religious war. Vegemite appears to be more popular in Australia … Marmite was originally an English brand though the NZ version is apparently not the same as the UK version. Since NZ’s Marmite production facilities were in Christchurch and were badly damaged by the earthquakes, there has been a shortage of Marmite in NZ as the factory is still not up and running again …. This has been widely reported as Marmageddon.” This is obviously serious stuff.

Steve went on to say, “My wife likes to eat Marmite and chip sandwiches … a concoction involving spreading Marmite on fresh, fluffy white bread and then a layer of potato crisps topped with another slice of bread. I commonly refer to this as a crime against the gastronomic universe. This doesn’t deter her at all.” We liked Steve's input. It really gave some personality to the discussion.

I was wondering if Vegemite was available in the USA and a quick internet search revealed that it's available through Amazon.... “It's Vegemite, it's good and it's available in America. It gets to the point where you don't care how much it costs, as long as you have it.” So, Americans reading this have the opportunity to experience Vegemite without having to come to Australia. Though we highly recommend the trip.

Witness our first taste of Vegemite.



Happy Australia Day!

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