A short story (and history) of the world’s most evil explosive
Unless you’re an Aussie or have traveled extensively down-under, or are a ‘Men At Work’ fan, you probably don’t know about Vegemite. Of course, unless you were alive in the 80’s, you probably won’t know what Men At Work are anyway, but I digress.
Contrary to my mates down-under, who actually sell it as a foodstuff, I want you to know that Vegemite isn’t for human consumption – it’s one of the world’s most powerful explosives.
Earlier in my years of personal experience and exposure, I originally figured it was designed and intended to be the worlds’ most powerful expectorate. For those of you at home, expectorate is a pretty substitution word for vomit, puke, hurl, barf, spew, upchuck, chunder, retch or disgorge. And in this case, violently.
Memories of my mother spreading the thick, dark-brown goop on a set of otherwise perfectly good pieces of bread still sends a cold shiver down my spine. Despite my abundantly negative palate experiences, the loathsome bile is still boldly sold on several Aussie food websites and enjoys a huge fan base spanning several generations. You can go here if you’d like to read the Australian government’s self-sanctioned propaganda on this evil stuff, but rest assured, those of us who’ve ever tasted it know exactly how to spell it: W-R-E-T-C-H-E-M-I-T-E.
According to the official Australian government propaganda, Vegemite was fed to the Aussie troops during World War II as a “reminder of what home was like.” Yeah, bless those poor guys in the trenches. There they were, cold, shivering and frequently shot-at while in the fog of war, and along comes some sales person in a cozy office and says, “Oi, let’s chuck ‘em some veg-e-mite!” Henceforth the Australian troops earned their nick-names; “diggers.” Do you want to guess why they were nicknamed ‘diggers?’ It’s because that’s the only safe thing you could do with Vegemite back then; dig a hole and bury it. Deep.
So one might ask, “What can you do with it?”
I’ll get to that, but first, just a little more history.
Back in 1922, an evil scientist named Dr. Cyril P. Callister invented the stuff during a time when such magnificent wonders like mustard gas were pouring out of most government laboratories. Born from the same yeast-based breeding ground for much of our modern biological warfare bugs, it was known back then as ‘Pure Vegetable Extract.’ Apparently this name wasn’t very appealing to anyone, so an enterprising government agent – masquerading as a Melbourne businessman named Fred – (I’m not making this up, I swear) took a different approach and turned to the Australian public for a new name and ran a contest to rename it. (A 50lb tub of the hideously vile morass was offered as the grand prize.)
Tellingly, the winning entry came from Fred’s daughter. (Imagine that!) After the goop’s successful renaming, Vegemite started showing up on Australian grocery store shelves being touted as, “delicious on sandwiches and toast, and improves the flavor of soups, stews and gravies.”
It took fourteen years to gain acceptance.
Fourteen years? Can you even cite just one product in recent memory that the inventor was able to market over a period of 14 years and still remain financially solvent?
I thought not. And that proves that Vegemite is an evil compound designed, formulated and supported by the Australian government with the original intent to keep their populace trim, fit and in good shape by completely destroying their ability to taste anything else.
Or was it designed for some other purpose?
Several years ago, my brother thought it’d be funny if he sent me a rather large tub of the vegetable muck as a Christmas present. Perhaps he was passive-aggressively commenting on the gravitational field found around my waistline? Nonetheless, being the consummate engineer, I discovered that by adding sufficient quantities of Potassium Chlorate to the sticky, Velcro-like brown goop that it would actually explode after being struck hard enough with a ball peen hammer.
Excited by my discovery, but dismayed at the utter mess the supersonic vegemite splatter made of my shop, I ventured further into more technical and chemical engineering pursuits.
That’s when I discovered that by following Morton Thiokol’s own recipe, I could substitute Ammonium Perchlorate for Potassium Chlorate, and along with a pinch or two of atomized aluminum, I created a new rocket fuel formula. Only it turned out to being the world’s nastiest smelling rocket fuel formula. Nonetheless, after perfecting the balance of oxidizer-to-vegemite ratio in the formula, I was able to make solid fuel rocket motors with amazing thrust and lift capacity – enough to send larger homemade rockets into low orbit and neighboring states.
This was a big hit with the Tripoli and LDRS model rocketry crowd. That is, until the wind changed directions one day at an event, and blew the ominous-looking vertical brown cloud of smoke into the spectator area. One survivor was quoted in a local newspaper as saying, “[they] had always wondered if the smoke smelled as bad as it looked… We paid dearly for that confirmation.”
Having been promptly banned from further participation at their organized model rocketry events, I returned to my initial discovery – explosive vegemite.
As corrupt as I believed the original inventor to be, I wasn’t prepared for the wild success of adding Hydrogen Peroxide and Ammonium Nitrate to the blend. Having finely powdered the nitrate, I turned to a cheap kitchen blender to help intimately bind the ingredients together. Because of the Velcro-like properties, I added a tablespoon of 30-weight motor oil and left the blender on ‘puree’ overnight with a long extension cord out by a dead stump.
At precisely 2:14am, my then agitated wife tore the blankets off my slumbering frame and body slammed me out of bed. Removing my plush headphones, I was somewhat startled at her sudden insistence and recall with a good measure of clarity the following short discussion;
“What’s wrong honey?”
I yawned, still confused about the body slam and shrugged, “Oh, that’s nice, but it does that a lot here in Oregon.”
“No you $%#$@, it’s RAINING!” Her violent countenance erupted and traveled viciously to the point of her left index finger which stabbed upward toward the ceiling,
“It’s raining HERE!” She spat, with a considerably apoplectic upward gaze. That’s when I noticed it was indeed raining – raining inside our bedroom. Interestingly, the still smoking hole in the roof had the unmistakable signature of some awful smell – reticent of vegemite and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Apparently, the spontaneous detonation of the mix atomized the old tree stump and sent the base of the blender on a low-angle trajectory that punched a nifty 18-inch hole through our roof. After passing through both sides of our roof, the shredded mass of the blender’s base – consisting almost entirely of a wildly spinning electric motor core – traversed our property in a sizzling and unwinding ball of smoking death. I know this because it neatly decapitated a wide swath of her favorite Hydrangea on the way through the backyard. The vegemite-powered projectile finally tangled in a nearby telephone pole, temporarily shorting out power to our area which caused the wall clock to halt at the time described above.
Shortly thereafter, the police wanted to know all about vegemite. As did the visiting HAZMAT team and wagon load of ATF storm troopers who didn’t seem too keen on the lingering aroma.
So there you have it. Vegemite is now on the homeland security’s counter-terrorism list of high explosives, right next to Gelignite, Dynamite and C4.
And if you ask me, that’s where it rightfully belongs.