Sweden, you’re in no position to sledge Vegemite
IT was in a tiny cafe in the foothills of the Himalayas that I got a taste of paradise.
The place was frequented by travellers in the small Indian village, McLeod Ganj, and I settled into a spot on the cushion covered floor and ordered some toast.
It was then that a friendly bloke offered me a taste of the good stuff. No, not some high grade Indian hashish that had fellow travellers out of their minds. It was something far better than that.
I gratefully accepted his offer and smeared that delicious brown paste on my bread. It was 2005, I'd recently left Australia with no definite plans to return, and had suffered some horrific food poisoning.
Since then I'd been eyeing each potential meal with suspicion, so a taste of comfort food was also a moment of quiet, unexpected culinary joy.
I had not packed any Vegemite with me (uncharacteristically for someone who is renowned for taking the kitchen sink on any trip); I thought I might come across as unsophisticated if I whipped it out while trotting across the globe, especially when there were local specialities I could have been eating. It was a mistake I never made again.
So naturally, I'm as outraged as any other Australian to read reports that our treasured national paste has made it into a museum filled with "disgusting foods" in Sweden.
To which I say: Sweden, you're not spreading it right.
You don't slap it around like it's Nutella. Vegemite requires a delicate touch.
For those who are not yet charmed by our yeast-based paste, Hugh Jackman has some advice.
He was a guest on The Tonight Show in 2016, and told host Jimmy Fallon that there was simply a right and a wrong way to eat the stuff.
"You can't scoop it on - it's refined - just a little bit. You've got to have it on toast, first thing in the morning. You've got to get the crappiest bread possible: it's got to be white, it's got to be fluffy," he said, before demonstrating that butter must be fully melted on the toast before applying a very light scraping of the "beautiful yeast extract".
With Jackman's orthodox approach, even Fallon - who had previously said Vegemite was "off" - was a convert.
"It's fantastic; I get it, I really like it," he said, while high-fiving Jackman.
Even internationally acclaimed food writer Nigella Lawson knows that there's magic in every jar.
When asked if she spreads Marmite on toast during a recent episode of British podcast Table Manners, Lawson was straight to the point.
"I'm a traitor to my people, because I like Vegemite. Marmite … lacks the base note," she said, referring to our national spread's unique flavour.
She even has a spaghetti dish in Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home with Vegemite one of the meal's four ingredients - the original recipe called for Marmite, but she's since seen the light, and changed it in favour of a touch of Down Under deliciousness.
Sure, there have been some missteps in the history of our celebrated yeast extract: remember iSnack 2.0? Nevertheless, there's no spread that comes close to offering Vegemite's umami - the elusive savoury flavour - appeal.
But back to the Swedes and their Disgusting Food Museum.
It's difficult to imagine how a place responsible for the house of horrors and relationship death trap, aka Ikea, and renowned for its own horrifically bland cuisine would see fit to pass judgment on our most beloved - actually, bugger that - sacred foodstuffs.
If you want to know what's actually the most disgusting food in the world, look up surstromming. It's Swedish for sour herring, and is considered a local delicacy, despite it having an aroma akin to a rotting corpse.
Regardless, Vegemite lovers are likely to have the last laugh. Not that anyone who's started the day right - with a light spread of the good stuff on toast - needed confirmation, but a study conducted by Australian scientists at Victoria University last year found yeast based spreads improve anxiety and stress.
It really gives an extra kick to the 1950s ad jingle Happy Little Vegemites.
Sweden, stick that in your sour herring and smoke it.
Victoria Hannaford is a writer and producer for RendezView.