Emergency Vegemite rations are on the essential-item list for most Aussies traveling abroad. Yet offer some to other nationals and their reaction is rarely short of disgust. Taste preferences, particularly those that are intrinsic to a culture, form early in life.
I am currently witnessing my 20-month-old grandson acquire a taste for unique components of Japanese and Korean food, much of which is harvested from the sea. He is already a confirmed steamed rice eater, and loves a bowl seasoned with dashi and flaked bonito, but could you imagine the average Aussie kid scoffing down fare such as seaweed and dried anchovy mix? However, when you consider the iodine and calcium content there’s no arguing those ingredients beat the sugar and fat contained in many Western processed snacks.
He also loves salmon skin crisps, with a soy seasoning, a specialty of my daughter-in-law’s native Hokkaido. This snowy northern island, best known to Aussies for its perfect powder, is famous for its fresh salmon. Those who visit in late summer and autumn can witness the streams and rivers teeming with salmon fighting their way upstream to spawn, an amazing sight. Salmon skin is rich in Omega-3 oils and, my daughter-in-law tells me, also collagen. So the salmon skin crisps are a pretty healthy snack and a beauty treatment all in one!
But my grandson’s Aussie genes are not being neglected with Nanna making sure he gets his regular servings of Vegemite on bread and butter to develop that idiosyncratic Aussie taste.
And speaking of Vegemite, our iconic spread – of which apparently 22 million jars are sold a year – turns 90 this week. Happy birthday Vegemite!