Thu 21 May 2009
Last weekend, while tinkering in the kitchen, I offered to make Vermilion a beverage and, without thinking, I dashingly quipped ‘Coffee, tea or Bonox?’
Of course when I went past ‘tea’ she had no idea at all what I was talking about, because Bonox is one of those bizarre concoctions that comes from the far past and for some old geezers like myself, lingers in consciousness solely due to the power of advertising.
Bonox was invented by Kraft (more renowned as the makers of Vegemite) in 1919(i) The succinct Wikipedia entry on Bonox says it was ‘common to ask “Coffee, tea or Bonox” when offering guests a drink’ but I sincerely doubt that it was common. I’m totally sure that Kraft would have liked to have thought that, because it was an advertising slogan that they came up with in an attempt to try and make Bonox as popular as those other staples. It never worked because Bonox is DISGUSTING.
Entire generations of Australians remember the slogan, but the power of advertising can only do so much to actually sell something that tastes like the burnt remains of last Sunday’s roast dinner.
Do you notice how much the Bonox packaging looks like the Vegemite packaging? Well that’s because they are almost exactly the same thing. Except Bonox is supposed to be dissolved in hot water and sipped. I’m sure this was a mighty treat in the Depression, when the alternative was turps-soaked shoe leather and grass clippings, but these days when we have actual food, Bonox is about as appealing as dripping or curds or suet or any other food substitutes that more properly belong in a Steinbeck novel. The bizarre thing is that Kraft still makes Bonox, which means someone still buys it.
All I can say is it’s not me.
The thing is, I have never shaken the eerie feeling that one day I’m going to dashingly quip ‘Coffee, tea or Bonox?’ and my guest’s face is going to light up as they say ‘Oooo! Bonox! Yes please!’
(PS – Notice how it says ‘Cholesterol Free’ on the label these days? Is that supposed to make your thought process go: ‘Awright! It tastes like burnt rubber tires and carbonized dog turds, but what the hey! It’s cholesterol free!!! Put the kettle on!’)
- Probably to use up some by-product of the Vegemite manufacturing process… [↩]