Let’s step away from politics this week and talk breakfast spreads.
Apparently the French were experiencing some Nutella-related violence last week. No, people were not angry at the delicious chocolate, hazel-nut spread, they were merely frantic to get their hands on more of it as a supermarket chain, Intermarche, dropped the prices by about $5 Canadian per jar. A Twitter video of the nut-related fisticuffs was shared by many a news organization.
And of course, the parent company of Nutella — Ferrero — immediately backed away from the promotion. Backed away and then drove the bus right over Intermarche, stating the promotion was the idea of the supermarket, not the spread maker.
I wonder what would cause riots in other countries? I mean,
Would Canadians engage in fisticuffs for Timmy Ho’s coffee? Would Australians storm the grocery store for a chance at cheap vegemite?
Let’s talk about vegemite for a moment while I have your attention, Australia. What’s up with your love for the stuff?
Here’s how Wikipedia describes it. “Vegemite is a thick, black Australian food spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives.”
Mmm, mmm. Nothing I’d rather spread on my toast in the morning than a thick black food spread.
What’s Cooking America describes it as “thick like peanut butter, very salty and an “acquired taste”. You’re not selling me on it. Yet 22.7 million jars of it are manufactured in Australia every year.
Apparently, Australians often travel with a jar of it in their luggage in fear that they won’t find it.
It’s ingrained at an early age, as children learn the Happy Little Vegemite song.
I kid you not. It goes like this:
We are happy little Vegemites as bright as bright can be,
We all enjoy our Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and tea,
Our mummy says we’re growing stronger every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite,
We all adore our Vegemite,
It puts a rose in every cheek!
Now, lest you think the Australians are the only nation to adore a black, yeasty, viscous spread, let me tell you that before vegemite, there was marmite. In fact, marmite, made from brewer’s yeast, salt, spices and celery, was included in British soldiers’ rations in World War I. Urban legend says that British inmates use it to make moonshine, known as the Marmite Mule.
Per the Guardian: “Marmite, invented in 1902, has a very distinctive flavour. The taste is so unique as to defy description, but think of a yeasty, salty, soy sauce-esque flavor with the consistency of old engine oil.”
Sounds delicious. Mind you, the food web site chowhound.com insists that both vegemite and marmite have “umami”. And we all know that’s good, right?
BBC reports that while the original factory in Burton-on-Trent began the marmite craze, a second factory was added in London. A local history blog relates what living next to it was like. “When I was a kid we lived near the Marmite factory at Vauxhall. The smell from the factory was disgusting! People living close by applied to have their rates reduced because of the stench (they failed of course).”
Some people also claim that rather than spreading it on toast, you should spread marmite on your person, as it will repel mosquitoes.
And British shoppers became enraged as well, though no riots were reported, when the Marmite maker, Unilever, upped prices by some 12 per cent after Brexit, when the pound fell in value. The company raised the price on many products for the same reason, but the marmite price hike hit the British shopper right in the heart.
So, to summarize and generalize all at once, the sophisticated French prefer a spread made of chocolate and hazelnut — and will resort to brawls to get their hands on it. The earthier, beer-loving English and Australians prefer their ***mites, and have no problem letting their feelings be known if someone messes with them.
But what’s the better product? The only real way to solve this is to ask a person from each country to volunteer for a taste test/fist fight. Do we have any local ex-pats who might be interested?
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Bulletin