Today, in my capacity as teacher-librarian - and the school's Possum Magic Book Rap coordinator - I was invited to observe our ESL (English as a Second Language) students making Vegemite sandwiches with their ESL teacher.
This activity was the practical part of a lesson about writing procedures, in this case a recipe, and a culminating activity of the students' work on the actual book rap. In the Mem Fox & Julie Vivas picture book, Hush the invisible possum was able to again turn (and stay) visible by eating Vegemite sandwiches, pavlova and lamingtons on her birthday.
There were plenty of laughs to be had as the ten- to twelve-year-old students grappled with the uniqueness that is Vegemite, not to mention their admirable manipulation of the English language, when their Australian experiences are so limited. I mean, it's hard enough to explain to Australian-born students why "knife" starts with a "k", let alone informing newly-arrived students that Vegemite yeast extract is a favourite food of Australian children, and that it's a by-product of the ggreat Aussie beer-brewing process.
The students are already demonstrating an Australian sense of humour. After being told that the steps of a procedure always begin with a verb, one student rejected Step 4 as "Eat Vegemite sandwich" in favour of her own Step 4: "Put Vegemite sandwich in bin." (That's "trash" for all you Americans reading this blog, by the way.)
At various Star Trek conventions over the years, we used to foist Vegemite upon the unsuspecting US guests of honour. Their usual response was "It looks like axle grease" - and science fiction author, David Gerrold, once said, "... and I believe you feed this to young children?"
The students did survive their Vegemite experience today, but only just. One had previously boasted he "ate all foods", but even he has now found one to cross off his list. I explained to the students that I may not accept their invitation to turn up next week, when they are planning to follow a procedure for making lamingtons. (I hate lamingtons! I've often postulated that my mother was once frightened by a rogue coconut while I was in the womb.)