New Zealanders and Australians love to mock each other. Sometimes I think it’s the leading trans-Tasman sport. From time to time, one or the other will make that mocking far too easy.
The Australian Opposition is attacking the Labor Government over Vegemite. The Opposition, together with the Australian Food and Grocery Council has said the Government’s proposed “fat tax” on unhealthy foods could force Vegemite off the shelves of grocery stores because of its high sodium content: "We are calling on the Labor government to rule out this absurdity, to make sure that Australian families won't have to pay a tax on Vegemite."
Earlier in the week, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who’s Acting Prime Minister while Kevin Rudd is away, said: "I am a very happy Vegemite eater and there is no way in the world that Vegemite would be banned in this country." Then, pandering as much as the Opposition just has, she added, "Vegemite is part of being Australian, part of our history, part of our future and I'll be continuing to wake up in the morning and having it on my toast."
Now, I’m sorry, but it’s more than a little ridiculous for the wheels of government to get mucked up with something so trivial, but the irony is that many years ago Vegemite was bought by American food conglomerate Kraft, so, strictly speaking, it’s not even Australian anymore. Also, that company said some time ago that production will eventually shift from Australia to Asia (we’ll see about that: I can’t imagine that Australian consumers or, apparently, their government, would allow that to happen).
Most Americans have no idea what Vegemite is (a yeast spread), and most who’ve tried it hate it. The problem, a Kiwi once told me, is that Americans spread it on their toast like peanut butter, which is colossally bad idea. The best way to use Vegemite is to put a bit on your knife and kind of wave it over the toast (joking, but the point is, use very little).
Personally, I prefer Marmite, and like a little bit on toast with sliced cheese on top. I’ve also used it to help thicken beef stews. However, yeast spreads can aggravate gout, so I can’t have it anymore. They are, by the way, apparently a good source of B vitamins.
In any case, you gotta love a country whose government becomes embroiled in fights over Vegemite. Good thing it wasn’t Pavlova, or they might have an international incident on their hands.
The Wikipedia photo with this post shows NZ Marmite (it’s originally British, where a different version is still made) and a NZ-made jar of Vegemite.