A Vegemite Sandwich

 

It was a foggy Sunday morning in the land of turquoise skies and coral cliffs. Consequently, the heavens were imperceptible and a shifting blanket of mist hung over the red rock bluffs. The misty cover intermittently opened to reveal patches of moisture-streaked sandstone and then all to quickly reformed to obscure the red rock escarpment. Priscilla has informed us this is a time when the gods plant seeds that will sprout in the spring. According to her, it is a sacred time.

Having walked the five blocks from our house on Mulberry Avenue to the front doors of Twin Rocks Cafe, Grange arrived for his stint as head cashier. Shaking off the cold, he announced, “Hey dad, this is a beautiful day. I love the fog.” In a wintry, austere, crystalline way, it was indeed glorious.

Not long after the smell of frying bacon began to permeate the restaurant and the open sign was illuminated, a party of three seated themselves at a table next to the kitchen and Samantha took their breakfast order. As I meandered through the dining room, inspecting tables and making sure everything was in order from the night before, I overheard their conversation. The two women spoke with a heavy brogue, which clearly emanated from the Southern Hemisphere.


At Twin Rocks Trading Post and Cafe we make a game of guessing where in the world our customers originate. Over the years we have become adept at identifying countries of origin. Knowing they had to be from one of two places, I stopped by their booth and inquired, “Aussies or Kiwis?” One of the women reached into her coat pocket, and, smiling broadly, brought out an almost exhausted bright yellow tube that prominently displayed the Vegemite logo. Remembering the 1980s song by the Australian new wave rock band Men at Work, I said, “Do you come from a land down under?” To which the trio replied in unison, “Where women glow and men plunder.” At that point we all burst out laughing.

Grange, wondering why we were making so much racket, came to investigate. About that time the man, who was actually from Los Angele's but had previously dated an Australian woman, took the tube and smeared a healthy portion of the dark goo on a piece of fry bread. “He just smiled and gave you a Vegemite sandwich,” the second woman said chuckling at her own joke.

Having only heard of Vegemite, and being somewhat concerned about the bite marks on the scone, I was nervous. The man was, however, insistent and the ladies were obviously having great fun, so, asking if they “Were trying to tempt me”, I took the offering and gulped it down.

Seeing my nose scrunch and my lips pucker in response the bitter taste of the gloppy yeast extract Australians swear is essential for brain activity, fighting fatigue and enhancing all manner of human functions, the instigator sang, “You better run, you better take cover.”

Since Grange was too young to be familiar with the song’s lyrics, he just stood there with a baffled look on his face. Sensing another opening, the man pulled off another hunk of bread and made a smear for him. “He might ‘chunder’ I cautioned. There was, however, no alternative but to comply, so I encouraged Grange to “eat up”.

As they paid their bill and walked out into the fog, I could hear the Aussies singing, “We come from the land down under, where beer does flow and men chunder.” I was clear that in this introduction the gods had planted seeds; seeds goodwill, seeds of cultural exchange; and seeds of friendship that had already blossomed.

Trying to clear up Grange’s confusion, I went to the computer and pulled up the lyrics. As he read the words of the song, I said, “Maybe you’ll meet a strange lady who will take you in and make you breakfast.” Being just 15, he blushed red like the rocks.

With warm regards Steve Simpson and the team;
Barry, Priscilla and Danny.