Death and Vogel’s

We have a bread here in New Zealand, called Vogel’s. It’s iconic.[1]

It really is a thing that for thirty years young travellers packed their bulging suitcases with Vogel’s to barter for couch space when trying to find a job in London. Later, mothers bundled care parcels with sturdy twine, and shipped them overseas, renewing the simple joy found in Vogel’s, Jaffas, Pineapple Lumps, and Marmite.

Because Vogel’s should be – must be – eaten with pure NZ creamery butter and Marmite. New Zealand Marmite is absolutely nothing like the abomination called Vegemite found in Australia, nor is it the same as British Marmite. After the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 the Marmite factory was damaged and Kiwi Marmite production screeched to a halt. Marmite stockpiles ran out in March 2012 and wasn’t available against until March 20, 2013. Panic filled the streets – well, at least the online auction site called Trade Me – and jars went for $60. Because Marmite!

With no marmite I had to find an alternative breakfast. I’d eaten Vogel’s and Marmite for… ever. And then when it came back to the supermarket, somehow I never returned to it. I was invested in a high-protein, low-carb diet by then, and a heavy grain bread slathered with yeast and cholesterol didn’t mesh well with that.

But then last week I bought Vogel’s again, for the first time since the Great Marmite Shortage. It was with joy I plumped the first two slices into my toaster. I had a small conniption fit when I thought I had insufficient Marmite in the house, but it was lurking in the back of the pantry. I should have trusted my past self to buy a new jar when the old one reached half way down.

I softened the butter in the microwave until it was the exact softness of a chubby baby’s thigh.  I had to keep popping the toaster to check the crispiness of the Vogel’s. It takes forever to get right, but if you go too far it dries out and you have to throw it to the mynahs. When it was perfect I applied copious quantities of butter and ample marmite (the English say Kiwis use too much, and they are wrong). I savoured every bite. It was just as good as I remembered. I dreamed of easy mornings, where instead of crumbling feta and slicing avocado I could simply bang a couple of squares of Vogel’s into the Breville and be back in front of my laptop in five minutes.

What I had not remembered was the heartburn. The heartburn that lasted all day. And then into the night. Oh, just a coincidence, right? It couldn’t be my beloved Vogel’s, surely?

It was the Vogel’s.

Apparently heartburn is more common in people over 40. Yeah, you wanna guess my age? Sometime between 2012 and now I wasn’t looking where I was going and I tripped and fell into middle age. My body quails in horror at the thought of delicious Sunflower and Barley toast slice.

I have a number I write at the top of each day’s journal page. It’s based on Statistics New Zealand life expectancy tables, combined with my family’s genetic tendency toward heart disease, colon cancer, and high blood pressure. That number is the number of days I have left to live. Each morning it goes down by one. It reminds me not to take the world for granted.

I’m not guaranteed them, of course. I still remember vividly a day twenty years ago, when a local man on his everyday commute was flattened by a container falling off a truck, taking a bend too fast. He told the police officer who held his hand as he died he wished he’d said goodbye to his wife that morning. There’s a reason I start every day by writing, “I am alive. To be alive is a wonder. Breathing, itself, is a miracle.”

But the Vogel’s bread is the ref’s whistle that tells me the first half is been and gone already. Bring out the oranges: it’s half time. I’m lucky to have got this far. I will cherish every day I have remaining. I have to make them count. Gotta write. Gotta stop and watch the sunrise. Gotta help others who need a hand up. Gotta listen. Gotta find a dog to walk. Gotta find an alternative to a job that makes me lose 3 hours a day in commuting time.

I guess my mornings will never again be filled with the pure joy of Vogel’s and Marmite, but I bet there are new, unknown joys waiting out there in the second half.  I’m ready. I’ve got my boots on. Wanna play?


[1] Fellow Kiwis, you may be as distressed as I to hear this news, but I just learned Vogel’s is not, in fact, a New Zealand bread. It’s bloody British! And no, the Vogel’s bread dude has nothing to do with the Vogel 19th-century New Zealand Premier dude, of Vogel House fame, one-time official residence of the Prime Minister, Governor General, and the Australian High Commission (not simultaneously).

Alfred Vogel developed his bread recipe in 1954 in England! It wasn’t made in New Zealand until 1967, in “a small bakery owned by Hans Klisser, in Farmhouse Lane, Auckland.”

I don’t even have mixed feelings about this, you guys. It’s a goddamn national tragedy.No one tell the British, deal? This is like finding out pavlova is really from Lithuania, or Tangy Fruits were a figment of my imagination the whole time. Also, Decks. Does anyone else remember Decks? Chewy cube fuckers with white wrappers printed with red and black playing card suits. And yet the lollies themselves were… virulent pink? And an orange so bright it could put out your eye. I miss Decks. I also miss the ability and opportunity to inhale the sugar consumption of a small Pacific nation in a single sitting.

5 thoughts on “Death and Vogel’s

  1. Oh yeah, I now have reflux. Hello, middle age. Dammit. Alas that your beloved former breakfast must remain former.

    Someone sent me gluten-free Jaffas once upon a time… Unfortunately, I really, really dislike all chocolate and fruit combinations except chocolate-covered cherries and strawberries. So neither Jaffas nor pineapple lumps sound at all good to me.

    1. Pineapple lumps share only a distant ancestry with actual pineapple. Like, there’s Neanderthal DNA in there. Maybe frog DNA, too.

      Why can’t we stay 22 forever? *thinks about decisions made when 22, decides acid reflux is a fair trade off for not being 22 any more*

  2. Katie

    Hmm… Vogels is available at my mainstream grocery store. I’ve never bought it or knew of its pedigree. I’ll have to check it out.

    1. Oh, man. I feel disappointment. It was, like, A BIG THING. Our thing. Embraced by Kiwis. I mean, I want to be able to buy stuff from all over the world, but at the same time I want our special things to stay special *sulks*

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