For more than 30-years, I have wanted to visit and learn about Australia, even before I became a travel writer.
Perhaps my father, stationed in Australia during World War II, sparked my interest. I don’t remember many descriptors that he might have shared when I was a child. I do recollect the sense of awe and wonderment; he told me about the landscape and kangaroos.
Learning about Australia
Many years ago, I gathered travel materials to study about Australia. For a birthday, I received a full-color Australia guidebook. I poured over that until the pages were dog-eared and ratty. I imagined myself being one with the natives, spending countless days driving up the East Coast, taking weeks to make the journey, and stopping in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, finding out-of-the-way places to write home about and share my experiences.
The Great Barrier Reef is not an out-of-the-way place as it can be seen from outer space and is a World Heritage Site. However, I want to see the endangered coral in all its splendor. While I’m not a swimmer, I am still plotting how to get into the water and snorkel where it’s allowed.
The romance of the Outback, steeped in history and folklore, draws me. I want to be one with the Aboriginal tribes. I want to experience their ceremonies and try to understand their view of the world. Not that they will allow me these indulgences, but one can hope to know the locals while learning about Australia
Quigley Down Under is one of my favorite movies. Not only because Tom Selleck is at the top of my favored-actors list, but also because of the educational value, the film provides of the scenery and culture in the giant Land Down Under. Things are vastly different these days, and that too is what I want to know.
Aussies & Yanks
Since becoming a travel writer, I am making Aussie friendships, albeit online and with Zoom. I am asking Yank questions that they seem pleased to answer.
The tune by Men at Work from the album Down Under keeps running through my head. I will admit that I just listened to the words to understand they were singing about Vegemite.
A quick trip to Amazon garnered me Vegemite in little single-serve packages. I thought if I didn’t like it, I could ethically distribute it to all the homeless people residing in downtown Portland, Oregon.
The bright yellow resealable bag of Vegemite sat on the counter for more than a week. While I hadn’t paid attention to comments about it in the past, I seemed to remember that it was distasteful, so I was reluctant to jump in. That’s good because the expiration date on this happy little package is January 21, 2025.
The resealable bag claims ‘happy little’ portions, B vitamins for vitality, and proudly made in Australia since 1923. They are perfect for when you’re out and about because you can take them anywhere! The B vitamins include B1, which is essential for brain function; B2 supports your nervous system; B3, which is necessary for energy release; and folate that helps fight fatigue.
The day finally came. I got out little round salty crackers, opened the peel-off top on one Vegemite package. Peeeeewwww! The fragrance just about knocked me over.
While I am using hyperbole in this passage, I must admit the smell scorched my eyebrows and nose hairs.
Not one to stop in the face of danger, I dipped my knife into the firm concoction and boldly spread a little of the concentrated yeast extract onto the cracker. I wished I had a clothespin to clip my nostrils together so I wouldn’t have to smell this stranger to my senses.
My husband, who eats anything, was stunned by the taste. As he took a big scoop of the Vegemite with a knife, I urged him to take only a tiny bit. I repeatedly said, “smaller, smaller.” He desperately needed something to clear his palate after this sampling.
Leftover brewers’ yeast extract, spices, and vegetables are the ingredients in Vegemite. It is vegan food, as well as kosher (Jewish dietary laws) and halal (Islamic dietary laws). The taste is said to be like beef bouillon or miso (umami).
Not wanting to appear like an ignorant Yank, I timidly asked some of my new Aussie friends about this thing called Vegemite. Here’s what I learned (with much honesty and humor).
Aussies really like Vegemite
Real people that I know enjoy Vegemite. One Aussie friend, Nannette, said she just had a Vegemite, lettuce, and salted chip sandwich for lunch. “It was yummy!! Hadn’t done that for ages!!! Used to do it at school all the time”. She always travels with a tube.
Nannette went on to say in a later post, “All the talk about Vegemite yesterday I had to have a Vegemite and melted cheese toastie last night for supper too!!!”
Danielle tells me, “It’s an umami taste like miso; you don’t need a lot of it to get the effect. Most people have it on toast with margarine or butter and literally scrape it on”.
Vivienne tells me, “I hated Vegemite (and I’m born and bred Australian) until my son started eating it. Now I like it but wouldn’t go out of my way to have some”. She added a PS. “When my kids were little, I’d serve them Vegemite toast and then put Nutella on toast for me, telling them that it was adult Vegemite.”
Marie gave specific instructions – don’t upsize (like we Americans typically do). “But hey, nooooo! Just a light smear of the rich, salty, licorice black spread is all you use. And don’t forget the butter. Butter and Vegemite go together like peaches and cream. Layer on the butter, then a light scraping of Vegemite, and voila!
Marie went on to say, “Not all Australian babies are breastfed. But all Aussie toddlers are introduced to toast with butter and Vegemite as their first solid food. Like mother’s milk to a newborn, Vegemite is the cornerstone of a toddler’s development. We suck and gnaw upon it with our toothless gums, and from there, it remains a ‘go-to’ in our culinary hearts forever.”
We are claiming our fledgling experiment into Vegemite tasting a success because we actually did it. A wise Aussie, Marie Kimber, said to Americans, “So, don’t ever worry about the world coming to an end, because it’s already tomorrow in Australia.”
Perhaps I will give this delicacy another go.
I’m still planning on visiting and learning about Australia, and I’m ready for Vegemite.
About Julie Diebolt Price—Julie is a professional photographer, educator, and journalist. She helps corporations and solo entrepreneurs establish their brand with imagery and business training. She educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures. Learn more about Julie’s work HERE.