Vogels and Vegemite

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Vogel’s is a specialty bread in New Zealand which has been described as a cross between bread, muesli and vegetarian meat loaf  (http://www.kiwianarama.co.nz/vogels-bread/). The texture is quite dense and people have very distinct preferences as to how they like to eat their Vogel’s. Check out this ad…..

I like mine toasted twice with Butter and Vegemite. By the way, the music on the ad is by Chris Knox and the song is titled “Not Given Lightly”.

Vogel’s previously had a TV ad showing their Original unsliced loaf featuring ex-pat Kiwis smuggling their favourite Vogel’s Loaf into their countries and then refusing to share with their flatmates or getting upset with their partners if they so much as dared touch it.

This is what the first part of the ad describes as “sneaky” – because Vogel’s is soo good, no one wants to share……

This got me thinking about how such an advertisement would be received in Sri Lanka. Usually any food eaten in someone else’s company is shared or at least offered to the others before you eat it. This is how we have been brought up and it is a behaviour that that I have actually had to unlearn living in New Zealand. There are times when it is simply not appropriate. This is especially true when sharing involves using your fingers/hands to break up or offer what you are eating; say in a workplace situation.

And something else we have been taught not to do as children is to eat the last thing of something (piece of chocolate or a biscuit) without offering it to the others in the house. When I first got married there was many a time I had to endure embarrassment when offering a cup of tea and a biscuit to a visitor only to find that the packet I thought I had in the cupboard had been opened on the far side and all the biscuits in it eaten. All that was left was the empty packet and the tray inside it.

Sharing is so much part of our upbringing that it is hard to grasp that it is not the norm in some cultures. In Kiwi culture if you are invited to a restaurant to attend the birthday party of someone, you are expected to pay for your own meal. If you are invited to a Barbeque it is usual practice to take some sort of meat and drink which is a great custom as it lessens the burden on the host. But the part I don’t understand is how at the end of the Barbeque those same people will take the left over uncooked meat and any drink remaining home with them. Granted this is not true of all Kiwis I have met, but the ones I have observed doing this take it to an extreme.

One of the best memories I have of sharing is when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I was visiting my grandmother in Kandy along with my uncles and aunts for a special occasion. In those days there was no imported fruit like apples or mandarins available on every street corner in Sri Lanka. One of my uncles had received an apple from someone living overseas and instead of eating it by himself, he took a little pen knife and sliced it into about 20 wafer thin slices and shared it with every person in the house that day.

Until I came to live in New Zealand I had not seen someone eating a slab of chocolate by themselves or hoovering through a packet of Tim Tams in one sitting. I always thought a chocolate slab was marked into squares so you could break it up and share. But if you told that to most people here, they would just look at you strangely. No wonder this country has a problem with obesity. If only we could make sure our children grow up with the same concept of sharing as we did, then they at least would be spared being just another statistic in this epidemic.

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