You can tell a lot about a people by looking at what they eat for breakfast. Or, more aptly, what they consider suitable breakfast food. You can essentially cover most Australians under the three-pronged umbrella of cereal, toast (Vegemite) and tea. Germans, the great dairy, meat and bread consumers of the world wedge in any of the aforementioned foodstuffs in various incarnations. Canadians eat bacon with their maple syrup and pancakes, the Brits revel in their multifaceted Full English and Americans presumably eat bags of sugar. The Chinese steam their bread and do imaginative things with eggs, Mexicans embrace a spicy tomato/chilli sauce first thing in the morning and the Greeks are more than happy with a black coffee and a cigarette.
Here, I am continually locked in a debate with my German compatriots, based on what constitutes appropriate breakfast foods, courtesy of a little discovery I made a few months back; a particularly repellent little pot of raw pork, topped with sliced onion. Mett. In this fair land, smearing raw pork on a bun at 8 o’clock in the morning is considered completely appropriate. Nay, delicious. Raw. Pork. Pink and shiny and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. At 8 o’clock in the morning. Appropriate. Delicious.
When I first saw it happening, whilst sharing a breakfast with my students, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing. A little bowl of what appeared to be raw mince meat, was being generously applied to half a bread roll and eaten with lip smacking relish. I politely enquired. My worst suspicions were confirmed. I retched. And we have been debating ever since.
What is consistently wielded as rebuttal by my carniverous adopted kinsfolk, in this ongoing debate that now encompasses not only mett but fleischsalat (strips of, yep, ham – there is no part of the pig that goes to waste in a German abbatoir – in a creamy, mayonnaise -inspired sauce, also smeared on a bread roll and perhaps washed down with a yoghurt drink, supped straight from the tub) is my beloved, beloved Vegemite. It is routinely referenced with disdain, wariness, hostility. It is fired back at me as if by simply saying the word, the debate is over. Imagine – a salty, delicious yeast spread, deemed more offensive than raw pig on a bread roll. What is wrong with the world?
As a servant of Vegemite, I am all too aware that the normalising of the more peculiar aspects of one’s national cuisine depend entirely on the fact that we grow up with them. I can sort of understand how one might find a yeast-spread mildly difficult to wrap one’s mind around; but for God’s sake, pork so fresh and pink it is still wriggling, you can still hear its trotters trotting mere minutes after you have woken up – is there even a comparison here?
The debate rages. I feel I must appeal for your thoughts. Raw minced pork or a salty yeast spread. Cast your vote. End the madness.