Thursday 3 July 2008

When I was 8, my best friend was Jane Thomas. She was English and had the fruit-skin of peaches and cream to prove it. She said interesting words and she drew really cool whimsical stuff. Her whole family had cool accents and their cupboard had interesting things in it like Marmite. I only ate it the once. Yuk. How they could eat it was beyond me.

But Vegemite? Well, that's a different story. Sometimes there's nothing for it but Vegemite on toast. Which could possibly be strange to a panel of taste-testers who have eaten neither, because I'm pretty sure to an uninitiated adult palette they would be on a par of disgustingness. Perhaps they wouldn't even be able to taste the difference. But to me, there was a world of difference. Marmite was just naff.

Barb wanted to know what Marmite tastes like and what you do with it, but I cannae speak with much authority on that. When Vegemite first came into being in the 1920s, though, Marmite dominated the market for dark road tar spreads. Bad sales of Vegemite in the first six years of its existence caused a name change to Parwill (a pun on Marmite, as in, Marmite, but Parwill. Geddit?) Anyway, luckily it was changed from one naff name back to its original naff name.

I think maybe you need to grow up on certain things to be able to eat them as an adult. My cousin eats black pudding, has since she was a child, just loves it. The very thought makes my toes go all curly. But eating black tarlike stuff that could take several layers of paint off your car, and cause your tastebuds to disintegrate? Get 'em while they're young and corrupt their tastebuds. I imagine if you started feeding a child road tar early enough they'd scrape it over their toast as an adult.

It's like eating lamb's brains and stuff like that, and kidneys. I could never eat steak and kidney as a child. I hated the sliminess of the kidney and it just looked horrible, sitting there in dark chunks on the plate. And yet, I had no trouble eating oysters kilpatrick. Or the actual cow itself. Whereas if I grew up vegetarian and you bought a cow to me, with her big heaving udders and those beautiful bashful eyes, the very thought of eating her! would make me shudder. And yet, last night on the phone, when my mum said she was having spaghetti bolognese, my mouth watered. I haven't been eating much meat lately, mainly because of the cost, but does my mouth water at the thought? Oh, yes.

Lamb's brains. My mum used to cook those up for my dad and they would stink out the whole bloody house. They smelt rather like how you would imagine frying brains would smell like but my dad ate them all down, yummy yummy in his tummy. Weird. In some Middle Eastern cultures lamb testicles are a delicacy. I balk at the idea, but am quite happy to chow down on the lamb itself (if I don't think too much about it. If I stop in the middle of the cutlet, even if smeared with mint sauce, and think, this was a frolicking lamb, I lose my appetite). The discrepancy makes little sense. Except to my stomach.

To eat Vegemite on toast, you really need to have a much greater proportion of butter than Vegemite. Here's one I prepared earlier. That piece of toast (rice bread. No wheat for me, thanks) is smothered in cholesterol forming butter and mmm, yum yum yum. And a spread of Vegemite. Not too much or it rips off several layers of my mouth. Some people though are amazing. Some people smother their toast in Vegemite and I can only admire them, while wondering if they will be able to taste anything else for the rest of the day. That stuff is salty, dammit.

Here are the contents of Vegemite, for your foodlish education:

yeast extract (mmm, yum yum!)
mineral salt (just for a bit of added saltiness)
malt extract (from barley)
colour (150d - dark poo brown)
preservative (220)

Yeast is often an evil substance, or at least the versions that we have in Western foods are often the type that contribute to candida overgrowth. Candida is a yeast that lives in everyone's body in varying degrees, but becomes a problem when it proliferates. Causes brainfog and digestion problems and fatigue. But then, so do 400 million other things. The standard Western diet of sugars and certain yeasts contributes to the proliferation of candida, though.

But then, like everything, lump everything into the same category at your peril. Because brewer's yeast, the stuff used to make beer, is actually good for you. Made from the yeast species saccharomyces, which is good for your gut and also contains a lot of chromium, which helps balance your blood sugar levels. So there you go. Always exceptions to every rule.

Vegemite is good for you. Contains shitloads of B group vitamins, those saviours against hormones and bluedom. I have a Vegemite cookbook. I actually typeset the text of it, years ago, working for a firm that specialised in cookbooks. Suffice to say, I have quite a few cookbooks. There are tons of recipes in there to use Vegemite in, like stir fries, sauces. It's savoury taste adds a nice bit of tang. Just don't use too much of it.

I would love to know if anyone from outside of Australia has tasted Vegemite, and what you thought of it.


  1. I've heard of it, but never tasted it. Hmm.. have you ever heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters?

  2. I shared a house once with a swiss backpacker. We told her that Australians eat Vegemite with a spoon, straight from the jar:)

  3. Katherine - no, I haven't heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters but my mouth is watering thinking of them. Can I have a couple dozen, kilpatrick style with bacon and Worcestershire Sauce? Thanks.

    Josh - haha :) Yeah, we Aussies all get around with tongues that have all the tastebuds seared clean off :) I hope she didn't indulge herself :)

  4. LOL! Well... Rocky Mountain Oysters are deep fried Bull's testicles... usually served in pairs. So... I've never tried them, but I have family who like them....

  5. Oh, God, retract that, then. Keep your 2 dozen bull's balls, thanks very much.

    In pairs? How attractive. I wonder what they taste like?

    Yuk. I feel a bit ill.

  6. Personally, I have no desire to find out. ;-)

  7. Rocky Mountain Oysters ... heh :) I've been thinking about that.

    I was wanting to know if when you chewed them they popped, like lychees (I think they pop, from memory?) or if they are full of meat or ...

    This woudl be a good weight loss technique. Just think of bull balls every time you're hungry and voila! No eating! :)

  8. "He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich."

    Do you know how those lyrics toyed with me as a girl? Trying to figure out what the heck he was saying, and if he was saying 'vegemite' (which it sounded like), well, what the heck was that?

    Thanks for finally solving my issues with this song. But it still doesn't sound good to me.

  9. Haha really? What did you think they were saying?

    Did you know that Down Under was actually a kind of ironic song, a bit of a dig at Australia in some ways, but the stupid Aussies co-opted it and took it as an anthem of sorts, in our excitement at winning the America's Cup? We're a bit dumb like that sometimes, duh. All that beer. All those corks on the hats we all wear that bang into our brains and leech them out our ears.

  10. They are meat - they don't pop. ;-)

  11. Thanks, sue, for the illuminating posting on Vegemite. I think I'll pass on that stuff on my toast.
    Have you heard of poutine? That's a French Canadian fast-food made with cheese curds, french fries and some kind of gravy. The kids love it. I have never had the nerve to try it. I believe it is catching on elsewhere.

  12. If they're meat, where does all the sperm fit? See, I might know this if I'd taken notice in science class. But science class was boring as batshit. I would gaze out the window dreamingof whoever I was in love with at the time, and then go home and copiously read off my own bat. They managed to make everything so goddamn, boring, took even the lustre out of satin

    Barbara. Poutine. No, I've never heard of it but yum, it sounds bloody beautiful. Never had curds, and it sits a bit too close to turds in my head, but I imagine taste a lot better. I'm gonna keep an eye out for that one and try it in your honour, if I do :)

  13. Sue, that is a question I do not know the answer to. And I am not inclined to try to find out. My sister says they kind of taste like chicken (???) but are a little rubbery. Um... no thanks. ;-)

  14. How come everything tastes like bloody chicken? :)


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