The Man Who Invented Vegemite

by Maurie O'Connor on October 17, 2014, Vegemite, books about Vegemite, The Man Who Invented Vegemite, Jamie Callister, Australian food, Australian icons,

The Man Who Invented Vegemite: The True Story Behind An Australian Icon. By Jamie Callister. Published by Murdoch Books.

It was 2006 and we had been travelling in Europe for two months when we arrived in St Petersburg to stay with a mate who had been studying and working in Russia for a couple of years. One of the first things he said was, “You haven’t got any Vegemite by any chance, have you?” He was absolutely delighted to discover that we had a large tube and was eternally grateful when we left it with him. We were no different to many Aussies these days who travel overseas with a tube or jar of the black paste that put a rose in every kid’s cheek.

Vegemite is not just a health food that most of us were raised on, but a symbol of our Australian identity. We love it and most other nationalities hate it – and we also love that they hate it. In that same year, we tried our tube of Vegemite out on a German guy that we stayed with during the Soccer World Cup. He thought it was one of the worst things he had ever tasted and challenged us to try it out on people as we continued our travels. He predicted that no one would like it. He was right except for one guy in Sweden who absolutely loved it. I always knew there was a special bond between the Aussies and the Swedes.

There is also a special bond between Turks and Australians, ignited in conflict at Anzac Cove and cemented by the famous words of Attaturk when he gave a speech saying that “your sons are now our sons”. The Turks are an enterprising bunch and they had our measure at Gallipoli, but I must tell you that they still have it because they understand the Australian Vegemite addiction. On our recent trip to Gallipoli, we visited the Turkish Memorial and among the stalls selling souvenirs were some Turkish lads selling Vegemite Cheese. This was a concoction of melted cheese and vegemite on a Turkish bread type pancake. One of the Turks kept yelling “Vegemite Cheese!” and the Aussies kept lining up., Vegemite, books about Vegemite, The Man Who Invented Vegemite, Jamie Callister, Australian food, Australian icons,, Vegemite, books about Vegemite, The Man Who Invented Vegemite, Jamie Callister, Australian food, Australian icons,

Vegemite is more than an essential part of our diet, it is an Australian icon. But, despite this, how many people actually know the name of the man who invented it in 1923? The story of Cyril Callister is told in The Man Who Invented Vegemite. The book is written by his grandson Jamie who embarked on a journey to discover more about the ancestor he had never met.

He sets out a fascinating account of his family’s history, how they came to be chemists and the association between Cyril Callister and Fred Walker, whose vision and initiative gave Australia many of the food products that became household essentials, including Bonox and Vegemite. Walker partnered with the American food company Kraft and produced and distributed cheddar cheese in Australia using their method at a time when cheese didn’t last very long before going bad.

Cyril Callister was Walker’s chief chemist and pioneered the science of food technology in Australia and to a large extent, the world. He was an unassuming, hardworking and dedicated professional who sought out some of the most promising young chemists to work with him. One of the most interesting aspects of Cyril’s life was his involvement in both World Wars, made more poignant by the loss of his brother in the First World War and his oldest son in the Second World War. Jamie’s account of those tragic events provides an insight into Australia at war, both at home and on the front.

Happy Little Vegemites

Interestingly, it was not until the Second World War that Vegemite became so popular. Before that, despite the promotion, sales were not great. The song about Happy Little Vegemites was only played on radio after WW2 when it became a hit and the phrase subsequently became part of the Australian lexicon.

Personally I find it hard to understand why Vegemite wasn’t an instant sensation when something like Camp Pie was so popular. Having lapped it up since I was an infant, I could not imagine a piece of toast at breakfast time without Vegemite. There is something about a hot piece of toast with the butter and Vegemite melting together, washed down with a cup of tea. We have a lot to thank Cyril for and I would recommend that one way of doing it is to read his story.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide, Vegemite, books about Vegemite, The Man Who Invented Vegemite, Jamie Callister, Australian food, Australian icons,

My Vegemite addiction started at an early age when my twin brother and I were given the treat of licking out the last of the Vegemite jar on the front steps. I still do that.


Friday Food Tip #77

by Christine Salins on October 17, 2014

FoodLogoIt’s an oldie but a goodie. For an easy meal, roast potatoes in their skins and top with grated carrot, avocado, grated cheese and sour cream.


The World’s Best Airline Safety Demonstrations

by Alise Salins on October 12, 2014

Air New Zealand 777 Economy

If you travel a lot, you might have noticed how many airlines are changing the way they deliver their on-board safety demonstrations. Once a bit of a yawn, on many airlines these days they’re part of the pre-flight entertainment. The trend appears to have begun with animated clips accompanying an address through the intercom, like this one and this one. Now they seem to have moved more towards sharing the information through song and dance. Here are some that get my vote.

The latest from Virgin America

Like other airlines, Virgin America has chosen to share its safety information through song. Aiming to re-engage with busy frequent travellers and exited children alike, this video is sure to get your attention. The clip has already been featured on talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres’ television program.

Betty White for Air New Zealand

This Air New Zealand clip features White sharing the safety features of the aircraft with elderly friends, similar to the way her television program Off Their Rockers is themed. Unexpected bursts of humour and light-hearted banter keep the interest levels up.

Thomson Airways, Child’s Play

Thomson Airways takes a slightly different approach in this safety demonstration video produced in 2009. Featuring some very talented child actors, the video includes miniature crew members who are convincingly helpful about your safety. My favourite part – a very cute little boy sitting in the captain’s seat, aviator sunglasses and all, with a cheeky grin on his face.

South West Airlines Unconventional Rap

Unassisted by fancy soundtracks or animation, this video features a male crew member taking passengers through the safety procedure using only his words. Oh yeah? Well it’s possibly one of the most entertaining safety demonstrations I’ve come across. The crew member asks guests to maintain a beat by clapping, and then proceeds to rap the safety procedure – quite well in fact. It is entertaining, interesting and easy to follow. I’m unsure as to whether this is a regular or one time occurrence, and whether it was endorsed by the airline (the footage isn’t the best quality).

Air New Zealand featuring Bear Grylls

Set in the style of an action-packed information guide, similar to that of Grylls’ television program (do I sense a trend here?), the video is entertaining and engaging. Featuring the beautiful scenery of New Zealand, the video has a dirt-speckled Grylls sharing the safety features of the aircraft and explaining what to do in the event of an emergency. He’s a leading authority on survival, after all?

Air New Zealand (again) with “An Unexpected Briefing”

Another hit from the airline (good things come in threes, right?) this time taking inspiration from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, filmed in New Zealand. Not an English speaker? Not to worry. Many of Air New Zealand’s videos featured on their YouTube channel are available in multiple languages. That’s a nice touch.


It’s wonderful when airlines take inspiration from cultures and traditions in their country of origin. Does the light-hearted nature of these videos detract from passengers’ preparedness for emergencies? Or are they just a fantastic way of getting passengers to tune in? And for frequent flyers, will they become as tedious as regular safety demonstrations? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Air New Zealand 777

Images courtesy of Air New Zealand.