Australian History #2 – the Vegemite Sandwich

Having revealed myself (when you’ve finished gagging, keep reading) as a citizen of the Great Southern Land during one of my comments in fattyville someone asked (can’t remember who, sorry), and I quote, "WTF is a vegemite sandwich?"  So again I will attempt to fill a void created by the inward focus of the American education system.

 

Vegemite is a cultural icon to Australians.  It is a badge of uniqueness worn proudly.  It carries arguably more historical significance than the kangaroo, koala, emu and Gallipoli combined.  It is the quintessential ingredient in many recipes.  It is the cornerstone of the school lunchbox. 

 

Vegemite is a powerful tool in the culinary world.  No other food combines smoothness and tanginess with such harmony.  It’s medicinal and psychological powers are unparalleled.  Vegemite heals schoolyard scrapes.  It is a calming agent in times of turmoil and confusion (it was vegemite sandwiches for lunch on my wedding day).  Australians abroad seek solace in the familiarity of something so special.  It probably cures cancer, but we’re not letting that secret out of the country. 

 

Only Australians know the true power of this miracle.  To the untrained eye it looks like melted pitch.  To the untrained tongue it tastes so unique as to be almost indescribable.

 

The question that was posed of me, I suspect, was based on a hit song from the mid-eighties.  A song which, along with Waltzing Matilda, has shared the title of Australia’s unofficial national anthem.  The song is Down Under by Men At Work.  I obtained the lyrics from Music Lyrics Domain and have checked them against the song directly from its original vinyl album and it is word perfect.  I call your attention to the second verse.  We are everywhere and we recognise each other by this miracle food.

 

Down Under Lyrics

by Men At Work

 
Travelling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said,
 
"Do you come from a land down under?
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover."
 
Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said,
 
"I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover."
 
Lying in a den in Bombay
With a slack jaw, and not much to say
I said to the man, "Are you trying to tempt me
Because I come from the land of plenty?"
And he said,
 
"Oh! Do you come from a land down under? (oh yeah yeah)
Where women glow and men plunder?
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover."

 

 

This brings us to the actual subject of the question, the vegemite sandwich.  There isn’t much to say.  While it is a most basic of sandwiches, it is also the single most significant invention in Australian history.  I have included a photograph to assist with the details, but put simply – 2 slices of bread, some sort of grease or lubricant (whatever you feel comfortable clogging your arteries with) and the hallowed ingredient, vegemite.  No lettuce.  No mayo.  Nothing.  It’s culinary purity places it very close to God.  Many school lunches also include a slice of cheese in the sandwich.

 

There you go, another free history lesson. 

 

For those of you wondering about the pink princess, here is a photo from lunchtime Sunday.  She insisted on having noodles hanging out of her mouth for the camera.

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18 Responses to Australian History #2 – the Vegemite Sandwich

  1. Ariane says:

    But I’m still confused on the true nature of this Vegemite. What is its consistency, its flavor? It looks a little like beef bullion, judging from the jar… Is it animal, plant, or mineral? Jelly?And, by the way, the Princess is really just too cute. That photo there actually forced a squealing "Awwwww," showing a side far more mushy than I am generally wont to reveal.

  2. AO says:

    okay, i followed all the links and i get the whole vegemite thing now. although i’m not sure i’ll find it in the states, but i’ll look for it just to tell you i tried it.my question is from the 4th verse, second line: ‘where beer does flow and men chunder’. i get the beer does flow part, really. (in fact, a fosters with a little bit of ice floating in its head is pure heaven.) but WTF is ‘men chunder’???btw, thank god the princess looks like her mother.

  3. Daniel says:

    Vegemite?Australian?muttermutter. Next thing you’ll be claiming that Russell Crowe is, too.For nikared’s benefit, allow me to take this one on behalf of the down underians: chundering is vomiting. Upchucking. Barfing. Hurling. The creation of a pavement pizza. Often known to happen following overconsumption of Orstrylyun beer.A.Toad, I refer you to Terry Pratchett. He addressed the nature and origin of Vegemite in ‘The Last Continent’, which was about EcksEcksEcksEcks, a place on the Discworld which, while not being Australia, was quite… australian.In that book, Rincewind the wizard went back in time, got drunk in the middle of nowhere whilst surrounded by thirsty sheep, and decided to make soup from beer and chopped-up vegetables. He passed out while it was still cooking, and the gunk that was left in the pot the next morning somehow became a cultural icon.That’s actually a pretty good way of describing the taste.Also, BIG Mike hasn’t described the *other* canonical sandwich, which is Vegemite and potato chips.

  4. Daniel says:

    Oh, yeah, and Fosters? Heaven? Only when you’re used to *American* beer.Shudder.Speights, now, there’s a *proper* beer…

  5. Sue says:

    First, I should establish my authority for my subsequent authorative post on vegemite. I’ve never seen, smelled, or tasted vegemite. However, I’m working on a PhD in biochemistry, and I use baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) as a model organism.VEGEMITE IS PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!Not really.VEGEMITE IS YEAST GUTS!!!!!!!!That one is true.And remember that yeast are Fungi. So they take yeast used for brewing beer and break them open and seperate the yeast innards from the cell membrane and the cell wall. The innards are partially digested (enzymatically, not anything involving the intestines of any organism). I’m not sure what other additives there are. It should be really healthy, but I’ve heard that a little goes a long way.Botched

  6. Daniel says:

    Oh, and I just noticed the Royal Doulton ‘Bunnykins’ plate that the Pink Princess is eating her noodles from, and had a deja vu moment about my own childhood…People collect those sets now, you know.

  7. Sue says:

    I just listened to the vegemite song (follow BIG’s link to vegemite, and go to heritage link and then the 2nd page of the vegemite history). In the song the kids are saying vegeemite. I’ve always heard it said vegehmite, with the accent on first syllable. Of course, I can’t ever remember hearing an Australian say it. Maybe you could have Robbie McEwen come by and record him saying "vegemite". I only trust Robbie to properly convey all things Australain.BotchedP.S. You must have one gooood looking wife!

  8. agreenmouther says:

    My curiousity is more inline with Toad’s; what are the indgredients of Veggiemite? It’s conspicuously absent from their website….

  9. Daniel says:

    Vegemite doesn’t have ‘ingredients’.Vegemite just *is*. It doesn’t have to explain itself.

  10. Sue says:

    CollegiateCookieMonster, Vegemite is Baker’s (which is the same as brewers) Yeast. Yeasts are fungi. They are single celled eukaryotes (meaning they have a nucleus).See my comment below.Botched

  11. agreenmouther says:

    Botched: I see you on the yeast. I just feel like there’s got be something else in it. Where does the "veggie" in the name come from? How do they advertise it seperately from it’s yeasty origins? I’m more interested in how Kraft packages/reports it.

  12. Ariane says:

    CCM– Nah… guess it’s honestly JUST yeast extract. I finally found where the ansewrs were on that page. You had to go into the kids’ section:http://www.vegemite.com.au/index.cfm?fuseaction=FactsFiction.welcomeIt's just yeast, like Botched said. That really freaks me out. It says there that it used to be called pure vegetable extract, but now is called concentrated yeast extract. That seems to be where the "Vege-" originates from. All right, I cannot believe how much of my life has now gone into this vegemite business. And it’s not like I don’t have homework I ought to be doing.

  13. BIg Mike In Oz says:

    Toad – it’s fungus (sort of) with a consistency like smooth peanut paste, but stickier. That feeling of mush is the soul made from rainbow dust showing through.nikared – you may not find it but you can sleep well at night knowing that the parent company is US owned so even if you can’t sahre in the taste of it, you get to share in the profit from it. I defer to Dan for a colourful explanation of the chunder (refered to in some parts as the technicolour yawn – hence my attempt at humour via the colourful pun above).Dan – Vegemite! Australian! Yes, we invented it, we just don’t own it anymore. Chip and anything sandwiches. I can remember chip and cheese, chip and banana, chip and peanut paste as well as just plain old chip sandwiches. But then again, I’ll walk past a bowl of fruit to make a sandwich consisting of 2 slices of bread (no butter) and tomato sauce (ketchup). Fosters is a punishment not a beer. XXXX (you may kneel at the alter of Fourex) is the only beer in the right thinking part of the country. Rich folks collect Royal Doulton, students on a budget use it like tupperware.Botched – GREAT! Fungus guts on toast, now I feel real healthy. Sorry but Robbie is a couple of hours drive from here and I’m in the middle of exams at the moment. If you pronounce it vedge-ee-might you are halfway to Australian citizenship (the other half is learning the words to Waltzing Matilda).CCM – refer Botched. Or on the label it says: YEAST EXTRACT, SALT, MINERAL SALT(508), MALT EXTRACT(FROM BARLEY), NATURAL COLOUR(150d) (CONTAINS PRESERVATIVE 220), VEGETABLE EXTRACT, NIACIN, THIAMINE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLATE. The major component being yeast extract which is… fungus guts. It is marketed using the song that Botched mentioned. The label just says "VEGEMITE – concentrated yeast extract". Toad knows.This thing really took on a life of it’s own. Vegemite will do that to you.

  14. Fat Cyclist says:

    That is one of the cutest little girls i have ever seen. i love that she wanted to have the noodles haning out of her mouth, too.

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