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Iconic Aussie Food: Vegemite

This is a post in an ongoing series on iconic Aussie food. Be sure to check back for more, or subscribe to my RSS feed to receive updates automatically to your reader.

vegemiteIf ever there was a food that defined a nation, Vegemite would be that for Australia. You either love it or you hate it, and for some reason a majority of the Aussies love it.

If you’ve been following along with me on Twitter or Facebook, there’s a good chance you already know that I am not a fan of Vegemite. It has a strong and unfamiliar flavor that I can’t wrap my head around, and it seems that many Americans also have trouble with its taste. In fact, it is not uncommon for Aussies to comment on how funny it is to watch a foreigner’s face tasting this yeasty beast for the first time.

Heck, even I laugh at them. Here’s a video of my mom and step-dad giving it a go for the first time:

What is Vegemite?

Vegemite is a curious substance. It is a dark brown paste that is usually spread on bread and sandwiches to provide a strong and salty taste. The spread is packed full of B vitamins, so even though it has a high sodium level, it is said to be a healthy addition to an Aussie diet.

The invention of Vegemite in 1922 was a way to use leftover beer waste as a food item. Yes, the icky nasty yeast leftovers from beer processing is what these Aussies like to chomp on.

Cheese & Vegemite

Cheese and Vegemite sandwiches are a big hit in Australia, which lead Kraft to producing a new product in 2009 combining the two into one spread. However, the naming of this product produced quite a controversy when the winner of the contest was chosen as iSnack 2.0. It was hated by the Australian public, so much so that shelves and shelves of the poorly named item were recalled. It has since been renamed as Vegemite Cheesybite.

Love It or Hate It

It seems that you either love Vegemite, or you hate it. Backpacking Australians will often carry a jar of this stuff around with them so they can make something that reminds them of home. Others carry it with them so they can introduce foreigners to this new world.

Take, for instance, Chris of The Aussie Nomad and his Vegemite Challenge. There are several experiences showcased on his site.