Apologies for the click-bait headline but it’s been a while since I’ve checked in and I wanted to get your attention. The past few months have whizzed by here in Ibiza, in a haze of pre-opening prep, the return of restaurants (how I’ve missed you), bars (hello Paradise Lost!) and yoga studios (ouch), not to mention the excitement of hosting the first pre-season visitors (hola Mr Y!). And then of course, everyone is talking about the V-word – have you had it, will you have it, won’t you have it, can you have it, when can you have it, how long until you get it, which one did you have… so many questions!
Since the general population of Ibiza seem to have vax-chats covered, there’s another very important V-word I wanted to weigh in on today. A word that is perhaps one of the most important in my vocabulary and one that has been causing me great anguish of late. That word (or perhaps I should say brand), ladies and gentlemen, is VEGEMITE. The greatest source of Vitamin B known to mankind, the best thing to have ever come out of Australia (in addition to myself, Kylie Minogue, Neighbours and Ugg boots of course), and the only thing I ever want my tostadas topped with in the mornings. You see, as much as I have embraced the Spanish way of life over the years, when it comes to breakfast, you can take the girl out of Australia, but you can’t take Australia out of the girl.
Two slices of Vegemite on white toast has been my go-to breakfast ever since I grew teeth – probably even before. If I don’t eat it every day, I just don’t feel like myself. My day can be ruined if it doesn’t start with white bread, or a crumpet, drowned in butter and then smothered in that delicious thick black goo. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always travelled with a jar of Vegemite in my luggage for this very reason. America, France, Tokyo, Thailand, India, Bali, Mexico, Portugal, Germany, England, you name it – no matter what local culinary treats are served up for the most important meal of the day, I can always find a way to consume Vegemite. In Paris in the early aughts, Vegemite on croissants was a memorable highlight; last year, in India, I smeared it on a chapatti. And yes, it was delicious!
When I moved to Ibiza 15 years ago (where does the time go?!), I shipped about a kilo of the gooey black goodness rolled safely between t-shirts with all my belongings. I’d also always pick up a few jars whenever I went to the UK to visit friends, until I discovered Thomas Green’s in San Antonio were local stockists (and they had crumpets too!). Ah, life was so sweet – I didn’t have to horde my Vegemite anymore, I could just pop over to the west side of the island when I was running low… UNTIL NOW. Now, it seems Vegemite – just like anything/anyone from the UK – is on the no-fly list (or no lorry, as the case may be) and no one can get it into the country – qué horror!
It had never occurred to me that my local shop was ordering the black stuff from England, and not shipping it all the way from Australia (random fact: one in every 30 jars made is exported). I just presumed they went straight to the source. And then… Brexit happened. You know, that time Great Britain ever-so-politely excused itself from the European Union? It was something I never thought would affect an Aussie living on a Mediterranean island in the south of Spain. Rewind to 2016 and I do recall my English friends in Ibiza lamenting the state of their country – around the same time my American pals were forehead slapping at the thought of a certain orange man taking over the reins in the White House – for weeks on end. I remember tears over Hierbas but I wasn’t particularly concerned. Brexit wasn’t going to affect my life in the slightest. Little did I know…
Fast forward to this month and I couldn’t get my hands on the V-word to save my life. Not in Ibiza, not on the dark web, not on the black market – even if they do sound like they should be the right place to procure some black gold. Now if Meghan Markle could single-handedly execute the extrapolation of a Royal Family member during this important time in Britain’s political history – aka Megxit – then you’d think I should be able to get a Vege-mule (hello again Mr Y!) to smuggle a couple of jars into the EU for me. But no. It turns out, it’s not just Brexit to blame for the shortage. Apparently, the pandemic has led a shortage of brewer’s yeast – the major ingredient in Vegemite – which in turn led to a slower supply chain. There’s none in Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s… all my usual Vegemite haunts are dry. And before anyone even remotely thinks of suggesting I try (ergh, it hurts me just to type the word) Marmite… IT IS NOT THE SAME THING!
I’ve asked friends and family to ship me some from Australia, yet it’s classified as a liquid so cannot be posted. Clearly the Spanish customs authority have never opened a jar of Vegemite if they think it’s liquid (see above)! Fortunately, I have recently been very kindly gifted a jar from an Aussie friend in Ibiza, who could sense my withdrawal symptoms on the horizon, and more recently, another friend managed to pilfer some from another expat in Ibiza to whom I shall be grateful to until it runs out and I desperately need another hit of black magic. But seriously… what’s a girl to do? Fly to Australia? It would be an incredibly expensive shopping trip if I had to go back down under just to get some groceries – not to mention the fact I might get trapped there under the country’s current draconian travel restrictions.
Naturally, I looked to the internet for a solution because I don’t ever want to live in a world where breakfast doesn’t include Vegemite. I can live without shrimps on the barbie, I could do a winter without Uggs, I can forgo beetroot on my burger, I can stop swearing like a trooper, I’m happy to lose the accent but I cannot, and I will not, get out of bed in the mornings if there isn’t the temptation of that savoury goodness waiting for me. It turns out, I’m not the only Australian in the northern hemisphere with this problem and there are whole online stores completely dedicated to supplying expats with the foods of their homelands. (And there I was thinking I was unique!).
Two hours and about 150€ spent on aussiefoods.eu later, I’m a happy little Vegemite once again. The rose is back in my cheeks (you Aussies know what I’m talking about). Now I just have to worry about my waistline because not only can I get endless jars of the V-word couriered right to my door in Ibiza (and trust me, I panic-bought a lot of it), I can also get Chokitos, Violet Crumbles, Cherry Ripes, Tim Tams, Passiona, Twisties, Burger Rings, Cheese & Bacon Balls, Milo, Summer Rolls, Caramelo Koalas, Strawberry Freddos, Jaffas, Dairy Milk, Rocky Road, Golden Roughs, Clinkers, Fantales… ON TAP! Things I didn’t even know I was missing until now. Oh well – I guess it’s lucky those yoga studios are back open again!
PS. Dear Vegemite Powers-That-Be. If you are ever looking for an Ibiza Ambassador, I would very much like to apply for the job! I even wear Vegemite pyjamas to bed and my cat’s markings (see above) look very much like a slice of Vegemite and butter on toast. Intentional? Perhaps…