Vegemite an Australian Staple

Ryan Alger 5.10.2019
This is a shelf filled with vegemite (Photo: Maksym Kozlenko).

Vegemite is considered a classic in Australian cuisine. It is a food spread and it has quickly worked its way into just about anything from a cinnamon roll to bolognese. The most popular form however is a vegemite sandwich. A vegemite sandwich of course is just bread with vegemite along with anything else you might want to add.

With it’s fame vegemite has made a few appearances in Australian music, most notably in “Down Under” by Men at Work saying, “you handed me a vegemite sandwich”. Vegemite is even a topic of discussions with politicians, in 2011 Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama discussed it and it ended with Obama claiming it was horrible.

So how did vegemite become so distinct in the first place? It all started in 1919 after import of marmite to Australia was disrupted. Dr. Cyril P. Callister was hired to make a formula to fill this void while making it from used yeast to keep it cheap.

Initially vegemite was marketed as a child's health food likely due to it’s high vitamin B contents, however with Marmite being reintroduced sales were poor. In 1928 the name was changed to Parwill for the marketing campaign that involved the pun of “Marmite but Parwill” which sounded like ma might but pa will. This campaign failed and the original name was restored in 1935.

In the same year Vegemite finally had its first breakthrough in marketing. Fred Walker the owner of Vegemite was a joint owner of the Kraft Walker Cheese Company so he decided that vegemite would be given away free with cheese bought from the joint venture. This was followed by a 1937 competition promoting vegemite that had big prizes with the most expensive one being a car. The products popularity skyrocketed.

However the final event that brings vegemite to where it is today goes back to it’s high amount of vitamin B and other nutrients which got it selected for Australian soldiers rations. This not only put vegemite in peoples hands but also minds with phrases such as “Vegemite keeping fighting men fighting fit”. With the publicity of these three events it's no surprise that vegemite is in just about every Australian home.

Here is a piece of bread with with gluten free vegemite and avacados on top (Photo: Vegemite).

Finally we move to a topic much debated, is vegemite any good? As it is an Australian staple there clearly are people who find it appetizing. However nearly every time you here of the stuff it’s followed by it’s supposedly horrid taste.

So I decided to taste this spread for myself. Starting off upon opening the jar you’re met with a strong odor that is so bizarre I cannot describe yet I believe is most surly revolting. As vegemite is a spread, I put some on a piece of bread. The taste had salt along with a strong zing and a tad bit of bitterness. The after taste I can only describe as rubber lingers for quite a long time.

To elaborate on how strong this stuff is, all that in an overwhelming quantity was in about one cubic millimeter. So in short it was miserable but strangely enough I can very easily see it being rather enjoyable after acclimating to the overbearing taste. So while it’s taste is debatable, vegemite is truly unique.