Monday, April 23, 2012

Telling tales: How NOT to eat Vegemite (or Marmite)

So I've just got back from spending a few days with a friend in San Francisco - yep, I went from Shakeytown to the Shakey State. Go figure. But I suppose if you only considered destinations based on perceptions of risk & safety, no-one would ever go anywhere.

My friend, who shall remain nameless, works at an independent grocery store - the kind that reacts to customer requests and is willing to stock oddball products such as wasabi mayonnaise and Vegemite. It's not quite Marmite (if it was, it might be worth a fortune: see 'Marmageddon') but it's close enough to feature in this story.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, and in honour of my impending visit (yeah, Vegemite is Australian but never mind), my friend decided to try this Downunder taste sensation at his work recently. Or, to put it more accurately, he was dared to. Some of his co-workers had found a jar of Vegemite underneath a shelving unit, and it was dangerously close to its expiration date. So they dared my friend to try it.

As I was sitting there listening to this story unfold, I could only imagine what was to come. My hunch proved correct... Americans don't know what to do with Marmite/Vegemite - I've heard many funny stories about attempts to master this culinary delicacy, and none of them end up going well for the uninitiated eater.

So my friend describes the act of opening the jar to be greeted by a rather eye-watering smell. After demonstrating the speed at which he pulled back his head, he started to raise a finger to act out the scooping of the black, tarry substance. By this point I'm laughing already, just imagining what was coming next.

According to his workmates, the facial expressions and contortions were hilarious. The twisting and poking of the tongue, the grimace as every tastebud went into shock, the frantic efforts to try and mask the lingering, horrible flavour... Soy sauce worked to remove the taste - but only for about 5-10 minutes. Then it was back with a vengeance. Red Bull didn't really do much, but was better than water.

By this time, I'm almost on the floor, my sides aching a little from the laughter, imagining (watching) the experience. The sheer strength of the salty, bitter, black substance had taken my friend completely by surprise, and the aftertaste lasted for hours. After a discussion on the proper ways to eat Vegemite - spread thinly on toast or bread, or used in stews - we agreed that Marmite (the NZ version) is actually the superior product anyway (mainly because I said so) and also that he probably wouldn't be trying either of them any time soon.

And now we take a seismic leap back to little ol' Chch. You see, if one little jar of Vegemite can inspire such a story, how many tales are out there waiting to be told about earthquakes? We've had over 10,000 after all, and many of them have stories attached - some great ones are available to read at the Quake Stories site. But now you don't even have to write them down...

Yes, the Quake Box is finally up and running, parked up in what's left of City Mall, near the Re:Start shopping centre. This is your chance to share your experiences, to tell the story about what happened to you that day, or the other time, or perhaps that time when you thought it had all quietened down. I guess we've all thought that at some stage, only to be proven wrong yet again. But anyway! Please come down to share your story - however boring you think it might be. Every different experience, every kind of person has something to add to this growing record. Might see ya there :)

(photo: CEISMIC)

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