Monday, July 21, 2008

Vegemite? A mother's conundrum...

Ten years after my initial vegemite taste test, I'm happy to say I may have consumed vegemite in one form or another, usually by accident, only a handful of times. That's right folks, vegemite and I have yet to become friends. Most Australians are very understanding of the fact that vegemite is an acquired taste and they don't begrudge those of us who don't share their affinity for the very salty, and dark substance. I'm quite comfortable admitting that I'm not a vegemite eater and I don't think I'll lose any credibility because of it. It is my children's credibility that I worry about...

Vegemite was really a very small part of my life here in Australia, I mean very, very small. We owned a jar and kept it in the cupboard, and the Handsome Australian would bring it out once in a blue moon to have on his toast. Generally, he only pulled it out when we had visitors from the USA and he tried to convince them that it was the best stuff on the planet and that he eats it all the time. He would delight in seeing their faces screw up and eyes boggle as they tasted it. Yes, he does have quite the wicked sense of humour or perhaps he's just misunderstood:

Beside these intermittent and casual exposures to vegemite over the years, I never really gave eating it (or not in my case) too much thought. Then one day I found myself as the mother of a young toddler and everything changed. Each time I'd take my child to a playgroup, the other Mums (that's Aussie for Moms) would have little tiny vegemite and margarine sandwiches for their kids to snack on. I normally had savoury biscuits (that's Aussie for crackers) or fruit for my child. She seemed quite content with her snacks and didn't seem to be missing out on the vegemite sandwiches.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that all of these other children were being introduced to vegemite at an early age and were "acquiring" a taste for it. What would happen later on at school, I wondered, when all the children had vegemite and margarine sandwiches for lunch and my child didn't? Would she be able to survive a childhood in Australia as a non-vegemite eater? Is there such a thing? I'd only ever met a handful of grown up Aussies who said they didn't like it.

As a parent, I find it difficult to convince my children to eat food that I personally find disgusting. Luckily, both the Handsome Australian and I have quite adventurous and varied palates and there aren't too many foods that fit into that category, but vegemite was certainly there for me. This situation, however, required action and I had to put my own good taste aside.

I decided I would offer my daughter the opportunity of eating vegemite and margarine sandwiches so that she could decide for herself whether she liked it or not. I bought a new jar of vegemite because we'd had the same one in the cupboard for about 6 years (if she was going to try it I reasoned, she should be given a fresh batch). I made her first vegemite sandwich one day and she ate the whole thing. She loved it! There was no hard sell, no coaxing, she just ate it.

The next time we went to playgroup, I took along tiny little vegemite sandwiches for my child as well. We continued in this manner for months and months. Then one day one of the other Mums asked me what was in my child's sandwiches. I told her it was vegemite and she said, "Oh, she must like it a lot because the sandwiches look quite dark--like you've spread it on quite thick." I had. Wasn't I supposed to? I never taste tested her sandwiches because I couldn't stand the smell of the stuff much less the taste. Oh no, what had I done? Was I overdosing her on vegemite? Was I creating a vegemite loving monster?

That evening, the Handsome Australian set me straight. He gave me yet another tutorial, this time the topic was, "How to make a vegemite sandwich with appropriate amounts of vegemite." Apparently, less is more when it comes to vegemite. Most people like it spread in a very thin layer over their margarine. Who knew?

I can report that several years on, I now have a very happy little vegemite eater, who incidentally, likes it spread on quite thick. Yeah, don't know where she gets that...

Learn the Lingo
cupboard = cabinet or pantry

Mum = Mom

savoury biscuits = crackers


Annelise said...

Your vocab lessons crack me up sometimes, but I guess that cupboard is way out there with old Mother Hubbard...or is it Mum Hubbard? Kidding.
That little girl of yours! She usually has such good taste...that vegamite must be in her DNA and it is not her fault that she can not tell it is really disgusting.
Speaking of your young one, tell her Milo has not had many adventures as of late other than his new hobby of bird watching with the occasional chase when they land in his yard. He did have a puppy party in the park followed by the adults taking them to the pooch patio for some tastey muttmosas.

I am laughing that the mum's at the park were confused by the color of the sandwich! It must have been quite dark!

Move back to the States. I miss you so much.

Dana said...

Just wondering if the HA ever had any luck with the visitors from the US. Did he find any takers?

Love your blog. Look forward to reading it each day.

suzinoz said...

Yes Dana, we've had some brave Americans who have tried the vegemite. One or two have even taken a tube home with them. I'm not sure they planned to eat it or just have it as a novelty item.