July 07, 2004


The Great Vegemite Airlift offer closes today. Vegemite samples are so far destined for multiple US zones from New York to San Francisco, and throughout Asia, with a special bulk sample addressed to US Army ordnance corps in Bagram, Afghanistan. Want in on this tasty Australian treat? Simply forward your postal details and wait apprehensively.

UPDATE. New Vegemite shipment zones include Canada, Texas, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, and Florida. Thanks to Vegehegemonolopolism, America and Canada will soon be the seventh and eighth Australian states!

Posted by Tim Blair at July 7, 2004 04:19 AM

A couple of years back I mistook vegemite for the sweet barley malt my mom used to give my sisters and I when we were kids. I'm still a bit traumatized by that mistake.

Posted by: Samantha at July 7, 2004 at 04:39 AM

Sending that stuff here (the U.S.) should be considered an act of war. Don't make us get all medieval on your country.

Posted by: Rossz at July 7, 2004 at 04:50 AM

Rossz, too late. I know an ex-pat Brit who likes to spread it on his toast. I got a jar of the stuff from his wife. You can probably find it in ethnic food stores in most big cities in the US. Of course probably only immigrants by the stuff.

Posted by: Samantha at July 7, 2004 at 05:01 AM

Never! Never, I say! We shall fight on the beaches, on the streets, in the markets, on the overpass outside I-87 by my house, wherever we must to ensure that peanut butter remains supreme over such evil foreign influences!

Posted by: Mark from Monroe at July 7, 2004 at 05:18 AM

To the barricades, ye sons of freedom!

Don't fire 'till you see the yellow of their jars!

(what can I say - I'm a joiner...)

We must stem the tide of this evil Aussie "food" product! Do it for the peanuts!

Posted by: mojo at July 7, 2004 at 05:44 AM

Better dead than spread.


Posted by: Brian O'Connell at July 7, 2004 at 06:02 AM

Tim, you've been had. You can get Vegemite in Ohio.

Posted by: Charles at July 7, 2004 at 07:06 AM

I say to Tim Blair as I said to all who have joined this worldwide vegemite giveaway, I have nothing to offer but butter, jelly, toast, and ... more toast. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many hours of spreading and tasting.

You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage breakfast be means of toast, butter, perchance marmalade. Breakfast with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage breakfast against a monstrous spreadible never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of brewery cooking. That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is vegemite. Vegemite at all costs - Vegemite in spite of all terrors - Vegemite, however brown and yeasty the taste may be, for without vegemite there is no... well, yes, there will still be breakfast, because I do have a jar of Chunky Jif in my cabinet.

Posted by: Rebecca at July 7, 2004 at 07:08 AM

Given the size of the packet, make that minutes of spreading and tasting.

Posted by: Rebecca at July 7, 2004 at 07:09 AM


Did you have to stop and count the syllables to make sure you got them all?

Posted by: Rebecca at July 7, 2004 at 07:11 AM

"America and Canada will soon be the seventh and eighth Australian states!"

HA!! Finally proof of what I've been saying for years - Globalization isn't Americanization, it's Australianization! Additional proof is of course Rupert Murdoch's global sucess as well as a number of Oscar Winners over the past several years.

Posted by: Adam Schmidt at July 7, 2004 at 07:31 AM

"As I'm sure you remember, in the late 1980s the US experienced a short-lived infatuation with Australian culture. For some bizarre reason, the Aussies thought this would be a permanent thing. Of course, it wasn't."

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at July 7, 2004 at 07:56 AM

My first exposure to Vegemite was in 1982. I figured that if you could not find heavily salted axle grease to spread on your toast, Vegemite made an acceptable substitute. Nonetheless, I brought back a jar for my ex-wife (well, she wasn't my ex then, she was still the future ex-Mrs. Skubinna).

She liked it. Should have guessed.

A few years later, I was stationed at Naval Air Station, Lemoore, California. We had an RAAF detachment there, since Lemoore was the Navy's primary F-18 base and the Aussies were buying a bunch of them. I mentioned to the RAAF Flight Lieutenant in passing my wife's inexplicable taste for Vegemite.

A week later, he marched into my office and dropped a jar, tied with a bow, on my desk. He'd sent a priority request back to Oz and the next flight up brought it in. Somehow it got past security at the flight line...

From then on, for the rest of my time at Lemoore, he brought a monthly jar of the stuff for my wife, compliemnts of the RAAF. I suspect that the reason she divorced me was my transfer to places where Vegemite was not available.

So perhaps I ought to modify my harsh opinion of the product. Obviously, some good can come from it. So long as you don't take it internally.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at July 7, 2004 at 08:51 AM


Oz's gift to the world must have a history laced with adventure, romance and derring-do.

Please, tell us The Story of Vegemite.

Posted by: Sam at July 7, 2004 at 08:58 AM


Is Vegemite good for puncture wounds?

Posted by: sam at July 7, 2004 at 09:01 AM

Can we in America be New New South Wales? Or Northwest New South Wales?

Samantha, I once had a similar experience. A colleague and I met with some vendors at a dark neighborhood bar and I ordered the roast beef sandwich. When it came out it had one of those little plastic condiment bowls filled with cole slaw. I took a fork and dug right in to the cole slaw... or rather horseradish, as it turned out.

Posted by: Bob71 at July 7, 2004 at 09:19 AM

Invading our shores with barely edible food by-products? We shall retaliate with Spam!!!

Posted by: Sortelli at July 7, 2004 at 10:08 AM

Thanks to Vegehegemonolopolism, America and Canada will soon be the seventh and eighth Australian states!

Pixy counts on fingers... So, what happened? Did we trade Tasmania to the Japanese in return for a guaranteed supply of shiny gadgets and cute cartoon characters? Sounds fair to me, but I hadn't read about it in the papers... Oh, right.

(P.S. Darn facts! I knew that the Northern Territory had had a referendum on statehood a few years back. Didn't realise that they'd voted no. Tim's count is right, everyone. Ignore me, I'm not here...)

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 7, 2004 at 10:28 AM

Invading our shores with barely edible food by-products? We shall retaliate with Spam!!!

I think you mean "pretaliate".

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 7, 2004 at 10:30 AM

Will it get past quarentine?

Posted by: Andjam at July 7, 2004 at 11:21 AM

I think you mean pretaliate.

Er no, Pixy, if the weapon was Spam, that would be Meataliate.
The VegeMighty Australians shall crush the puny Americans!

Posted by: TimT at July 7, 2004 at 12:02 PM

While on the Vegemite thing - yummy stuff - has anybody noticed that the Marmite we can buy in Aust is not the same as the Marmite in the UK. I much prefer the UK variety and brought a large back a few weeks ago.

Posted by: John at July 7, 2004 at 12:21 PM

Say, Tim, don't forget to send a packet to your old pal Lileks... I'm sure he'll have something to add to your upcoming collection of Vegemite Reviews. If he doesn't like it, he could always add it to his Gallery of Regrettable Foods...

Posted by: Paul H at July 7, 2004 at 01:10 PM

Vegemite, schmegemite. I'll bet no one in Australia is man enough to eat my father's favorite snack: Saltine crackers (salted ones, stacked with slices of liverwurst, chunks of Kraft sharp cheddar cheese (he used to speak wistfully of how wonderful Limburger cheese tasted but my mother refused to allow him to bring any into the house), with horseradish on the side along with sweet pickled gherkins. All washed down with whatever rancid cheap American beer he was drinking that decade. To this day I can't look at a jar of sweet pickles without shuddering.

And as a side note, I don't know what frightens me more, Rooty the Horseradish, or Cucu the Pickled Gherkin.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 7, 2004 at 01:35 PM

Invading our shores with barely edible food by-products? We shall retaliate with Spam!!!

Spam? That's nothing. At least it's pork and ham.

No, what you have to watch out for is any of the
Armour Food Products. The bad:

Armour Treet.

The ugly:
Armour Potted Meat

The horrid:
Armour Pork Brains in Milk (Mmmm...1000 cal per serving)

So, keep that Vegemite away (But send us some Bovril)


Posted by: cheshirecat at July 7, 2004 at 01:37 PM

Oh, and one more thing...

MUSK Life Savers?

What the hell?


Posted by: cheshirecat at July 7, 2004 at 01:48 PM

I was given a tour of a brewery in North Korea and explained that we use the stuff scaped from the bottom of the vats to make Vegemite. My North Koran hosts simply refused to believe me (even when I was backed up by other Australians).

North Koreans will eat grass, poisonous acorns, dirt and even some types of excrement, but they refused to even entertain the possibility that someone, somewhere would be willing to eat Vegemite.

On a tangent - is it really true that Americans don't eat either beetroot or pumpkin "straight up"? A couple of visitors we had two weeks ago insisted that pumpkin is only ever eaten as pumpkin pie and that the concept of beetroot in a hamburger or as part of a salad was completely unknown to them. Is that true?

Posted by: Russell at July 7, 2004 at 01:51 PM

Russell, for the most part, yep, it's true. Hereabouts, pumpkins are for carving at Halloween and making into pie (and the occasional cake).

Beetroot, which I'm assuming is a way of saying "beets," on the other hand, ARE eaten. Sometimes in salads (diced or sliced), sometimes boiled or steamed as a veggie side. I've never heard of it being used in a burger though.

Andrea, your father sounds like my grandfather... he's the one who taught me to drink pickle juice right from the jar.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 7, 2004 at 02:03 PM

G'day Wonderduck,

Our beetroot is dark purple (near enough to violet) and its juice stains anything it comes in contact with a sort of purply-pink. The beets I've been served in the US were sort of grayish.

My wife makes her own baby-food out of pumpkin - so by the time my kids have a choice of what to eat they wouldn't touch pumpkin to save their lives. Australian's commonly roast pumpkin along with potatoes and serve it as part of a general roast meal (beef or lamb, with other vegies).

Posted by: Russell at July 7, 2004 at 02:11 PM

Please excuse errant apostrophe on "Australian's"

Posted by: Russell at July 7, 2004 at 02:13 PM

Russell: who the heck did you hang around with? For one thing, what you were served sounds like turnips, not beets. (They both smell bad and taste more or less the same to me.) Our beets are purplish red just like yours. Also, perhaps you were in the Midwest? (Or New York City -- what one ethnic group in NYC doesn't know about any other ethnic group on earth would fill a library.) But in Florida at least I know that many Latin American and Caribbean dishes use pumpkin like a vegetable. Standard whitebread/WASP American cuisine only knows it as the orange stuff in the can that you make into a pie and/or the big orange vegetable that you hollow out and carve faces into for Halloween. (We'd throw the pulp away and save the seeds to make a necklace.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 7, 2004 at 02:21 PM

The horrid:
Armour Pork Brains in Milk (Mmmm...1000 cal per serving)

I'm sorry....the "1000" refers to the percentage of recommended daily CHLORESTERAL allowance.


Heart attack in a pan, baby.

Posted by: cheshirecat at July 7, 2004 at 02:23 PM

The anticipation here at Bagram AF is mounting. I must say I am not sure if I am going to become a vegemite addict - devoted only to scoring my next jar - or recoil in horror at the mere mention of the name in future.
I have promised Mr. B a review as soon as we can crack open the goods and start spreading.

Posted by: Major John at July 7, 2004 at 02:25 PM

Australia has WMDs! Crikey! Send in the UN inspection team!

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson at July 7, 2004 at 02:30 PM

Mmmmmm... BRAAAAAAAins!...

Posted by: mojo at July 7, 2004 at 02:33 PM

With peanut butter and vegemite as pigeon-pair staples on the Australian table, it was only a matter of time before naughty-word-loving children redubbed them P***s Butter and V****amite.

Dreadful, I know. Kids will be kids.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 7, 2004 at 02:42 PM

I smelled Vegemite once.

I hope that the the Vegemite coming to Pennsylvania is going to eastern PA.

I'll have to move if it gets too close to me.

Posted by: John Davies at July 7, 2004 at 02:49 PM

G'day Andrea,

The person making the comments lives in Santa Fe, NM - but I don't know where she was born or raised. The comments were agreed to by people currently living in each of Oak Ridge TN, Washington DC and the tri-cities area (Kennewick/Pasco/Richland) - once again I have no idea where they were born or raised. They seemed a pretty WASP bunch - but then again I am pretty WACP (white anglo-celtic protestant - the Australian equivalent) myself.

The gray thingy was very much like a turnip but they insisted it was a beet (though they emphasised that it was not a "sugar-beet" - not that that meant anything to me anyway).

Posted by: Russell at July 7, 2004 at 02:53 PM

Beets on a burger!? That's just plain wrong! Now we definately have to invade Australia and rescue those poor hamburgers from your evil torture devices (we'll rescue the bikini babes while we're at it).

There are rules about this. Only the following items are allowed on your hamburger:

beef (duh), bun, catsup, bacon (mmm, bacon), tomato, dill/kosher pickle, cheese, lettuce, onion (fresh or grilled). On a rare occassion, chili (no beans, damn it!).

There is some debate about allowing mayonaise on a burger. Only communists add avocado and sprouts.

Posted by: Rossz at July 7, 2004 at 02:58 PM

G'day Rossz,

Many Australians will open a hamburger and throw away any pickle slices that they find there - they will also tend to shudder in horror after biting into a hamburger and finding that someone has put pickle into it.

Things Australians put into hamburgers - beetroot, pineapple, HP sauce, fried egg, chutney ... (did I leave anything out?)

Posted by: Russell at July 7, 2004 at 03:13 PM

Major John


Do not spread the Vegemite on really thick. I'm an Aussie who is not particularly fond of Vegemite so I know what I speak of. The trick is to spread it on your toast really thin, using an amount about the size of a pea - really small. Once you get used to the taste, you can build up.

Also, tell your cooks that it is good for basting bird skin when roasting (smear on thinly) and a little in the gravy pan tastes good.

Any people who can put up with Tobacco dipping should be able to cope with Vegemite.

Stay safe.

Posted by: Razor at July 7, 2004 at 03:22 PM

Major John,

Lesson number one: Don't spread it like peanut butter. Spread it thinly and evenly over hot buttery toast.


Posted by: JakeD at July 7, 2004 at 03:58 PM

G'day Razor and JakeD,

My sons put Vegemite on a spoon and wander around the house licking at it (the littlest one leaves streaks on the walls - ewwwwwwwwwwwww!!).

Posted by: Russell at July 7, 2004 at 04:11 PM

Beets on burgers, yeah, forgot about that. Also was introduced to them at Lemoore by the RAAF guys, along with "grilled" onions (actually just sauteed in margarine). Surprisingly edible, once you get past the idea.

So once in Fremantle I ordered a burger with the works, expecting the beet and onions, but NOT the pineapple ring and fried egg. Hmmm. At least they put a thick slab of pretty good cheese on it, which covered a multitude of sins. There was a slice of ham on it as well. Somebody forgot to explain to the Aussies that there's no more ham in hamburger than there are eggs or cream in an egg cream.

Ya gotta keep an eye on the Aussies. They may seem like regular people, especially if you're from the West Coast, but technically they are a species of foreigner, albeit far less objectionable than most.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at July 7, 2004 at 05:14 PM

I must have been an American in a previous life, I don't eat beetroot. If I wanna eat dirt I will eat the stuff I am paying the bank for. Oh, and add a bit of cochineal (red food colouring, made from cockroaches!! HA!).

Posted by: kae at July 7, 2004 at 05:16 PM

Australian Burger. Mmmmm. Not this Maccas stuff, or Hungry Jack's.
We have toasted bread buns (not full of sugar), tomato, lettuce, onion, grated carrot (sometimes), beetroot (sometimes - red stuff that tastes like dirt), barbeque sauce, the meat pattie is made with mince (ground beef?) with some breadcrumbs and egg to hold it together, and it's mostly meat. You can also have bacon, egg and/or cheese on it, too. I know I have forgotten something, but this is what we call a hamburger.
Some Aussie out there help me, what have I forgotten? What else do we have on real hamburgers?

Posted by: kae at July 7, 2004 at 05:22 PM

We're happy little vegemites, as mighty as could be,
We have our vegemite each day with breakfast lunch and tea,
We'll crush those Beetrot eating yankees with impunity;
Because we love our vegemite,
We all enjoy our vegemite,
It will lead us to vic-tor-ry!

Posted by: TimT at July 7, 2004 at 05:23 PM

I have been warned (also by Mr. B). Spread it thin, sure to win. Spread too much, lose your lunch (or teeth or some such). Thanks to all.

Posted by: Major John at July 7, 2004 at 05:34 PM

Vegemite? Pah! Marmite on toast to you.

Posted by: Liz at July 7, 2004 at 05:38 PM

Yeah, what is vegemite anyway, other than Marmite-lite for kids and wusses?

Posted by: Charlie at July 7, 2004 at 08:12 PM

Russell, stop the boys now while they still have taste buds. I would fight for the right to eat Vegemite, but as long as I get to spread it thin.

Mmmhhh.. hamburgers...

Well the toasted bun and hand-made patties are a given.My Personal favourite goes as follows

Toasted bun
Hand made patties (Mince, egg, little flour, herbs, salt & pepper)
Shreaded lettuce
Sliced tomato
Fried onions
Fried Bacon
Cheese melted on the pattie before being placed on the bun
Tomato sauce


Optional Extras:
Fried egg, Beetroot, Pineapple, Extra patties, Chutney, Mustard.

Posted by: JakeD at July 7, 2004 at 08:16 PM

JakeD has it right. Although the beer doesn't go in the burger. Though you can barbecue the patty in beer if you like.

A burger with the lot in Oz will get you Jake's standard list, plus the first three extras. Extra patties, chutney and mustard you will have to ask for.

Another requirement is that the burger will be far too large for you to take a bite out of it, so you have to start by nibbling various bits out to reduce it in size.

Oh, and the cheese will be real cheese, not some strange cheese food product.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 7, 2004 at 08:25 PM

Russell: that was definitely not a beet, unless it was some weird variety of beet that I have never heard of. I only know about the red one. Sugar beets, by the way, are a variety of beet -- I don't know the color -- that uncivilized areas that can't get hold of sugar cane make sugar out of. (Another tropical -- Caribbean -- delight is sugar cane juice. The Cubans call it "guarapo" and sell it at corner stands all over Miami.)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 7, 2004 at 08:42 PM

Beet on a burger is just wrong, that said, a fried egg on the burger sometimes hits the spot.

Me, I like to occasionally make the patty with some minced onions and BBQ/light tomato sauce mixed in.

Posted by: Mythilt at July 8, 2004 at 12:54 AM

I thought I wanted to tour Australia someday. Now I don't know. I'm not that desperate to lose weight.

Posted by: Rebecca at July 8, 2004 at 01:31 AM

I don't think anyone has pointed out yet that what Australians refer to as "beetroot" means beets that are pickled/tinned and live in a dark purple sauce in a can. They aren't bought at the vege shop and sliced. In fact, I've never even seen fresh beets, the only way you get 'em here is the tinned variety.

AFAIK you won't get pineapple in a burger with the lot unless you ask for it. You will usually get a fried egg though. Steve's experience in Fremantle is out of the ordinary for WA. Captain Munchies were the nearest burger shop to where the Navy guys disembark (about 10 metres away, in fact), and they wouldn't put pineapple in a burger unless you asked for it.

Anyhow: The contents of Burger King Australia's "Aussie Burger":

fried egg
fried onion
meat-type products

More on the curious history of Burger King in Australia here.

Oh, and to retain my appearance of objectivity, the contents of McDonalds "McOz" Burger:

fried onion
meat-type products

They miss out the bacon AND the egg? What's the point? On the plus side, McDonalds use better-tasting beef than Hungry Jack's, IMHO.

Burger King/Hungry Jack's version is closest to what you'd get in an independent aussie burger shop, although they give you a thin BK-style meat slice instead of the traditional loosely-packed ground beef/mince you'd get at an independent takeaway joint.

Even so, Burger King Aussie Burgers are pretty damn tasty.

Last year on April 26, the day after Anzac Day, I got myself a large Aussie Burger meal on the way to footy. After the previous day's drinking, it was a terrible idea. I ended up bringing it back into the world in the goal square while resting at full forward. Tasted much better on the way down.

Posted by: yobbo at July 8, 2004 at 02:22 AM

Yobbo: fresh beets are the same color inside as the canned. The skins are medium to dark brown, like a potato's. I still think they taste vile, except in small (very small) doses raw in salad, or as garnish.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 8, 2004 at 10:59 AM

Russell, my guess is that gray beet was boiled to within an inch of its life, then another few feet beyond. Either that, or someone confused "beetroot" for "hairball."

They've got the same amount of letters!

Sounds like an Aussie burger might make a good breakfast... I dunno if it's a good HAMBURGER, though. How, exactly, is the egg prepared? Scrambled? Fried? Poached? Sunny-side? Hamster?

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 8, 2004 at 01:48 PM

Fried, scrambled egg falls off the bun.

Posted by: JakeD at July 9, 2004 at 09:13 AM