Bad Day, Mate: Central New Yorkers Try Vegemite for the First Time
I said, hey, do you speak-a my language?
And he just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
Those are just some of the lyrics from "Down Under," the rather bizarre 1980s hit from Men at Work, which hit #1 on the U.S. charts in 1983. Along with its memorable flute riff, the song left many people -- myself included -- wondering what the heck a "vegemite sandwich" was.
Vegemite is a dark brown, almost tar-like Australian condiment that's made from leftover brewer's yeast with added vegetable extracts and spices. It's supposed to be packed with vitamins and minerals, like B, niacin, and folate. Even if you've never tried it, the one thing you always hear about Vegemite is that it's an extremely acquired taste.
I've always been curious about Vegemite. And I do like other acquired tastes, like anchovies and single-malt Scotch whiskey, so I figured, hey, why not? I'll try anything once. So I brought a jar to an Adirondack weekend trip I was taking with 8 other friends. I was going to make them all try it with me. Supposedly it's traditionally eaten on toast.
SO WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
The short answer is: Bad. REALLY bad. It has an unpleasant smell, and tastes even worse. It's bitter and salty, and the aftertaste lingers on your palette like an unwanted party guest. Kinda tastes like if soy sauce came in thick paste form, but even that comparison is too kind.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Apparently you're supposed to have it with butter on your toast, but we didn't have butter. Needless to say, nobody in our group liked it by itself, and many were finished after just one bite. Some quotes from breakfast that morning:
1.) "I'm pretty sure this is the worst thing I've ever eaten."
2.) "Tastes like an unwashed a**hole."
3.) "Like bile after having just thrown up."
Even the manufacturers of Vegemite claim its taste is "best acquired as a child." Yeah, maybe. I don't think there are too many adults that suddenly get into Vegemite.
I guess I'll stick to Ovaltine for my vitamins and minerals. There's vitamins and minerals in that, right?