A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Australia's Vegemite: new use for road kill?

February 18, 1994

Dear Cecil:

My girlfriend is Australian and, like every other Aussie, likes to eat Vegemite on her toast in the mornings. I understand this product has its origins in Australia and that every bloke and sheila grows up eating it. I personally find the stuff vile and my uncle (who is married to an Australian) says the stuff reminds him of squished cockroaches. What is the origin of this uniquely Australian yeast extract?

Cecil replies:

One stretches the limits of the English language to describe Vegemite. One of Cecil's correspondents writes, "Years ago my casual experiments suggest that 1 in 10 Americans like it. The other nine had descriptions like, really rotten broccoli, rancid soy sauce, or burnt axle grease." That gives you the flavor of it, so to speak. My personal view is that the stuff ain't bad, considering it looks like something you'd find growing in a petri dish. Vegemite is a concentrated yeast extract made at a plant in Melbourne from the leftovers of a local brewery. Not a very promising beginning, but the English, who gave the world warm beer, have something vaguely similar called Marmite. Vegemite is salty enough to kill crabgrass but its defenders note say it is a rich source of vitamin B. The stuff became popular around World War Two, no doubt because it gave the stay-at-homes a taste of conditions at the front. Hard though it is to believe, the stuff is made by a subsidiary of Kraft. No doubt it'll show up here soon. Resist.

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