Would you like some Vegemite with that?

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KATE ROWAN

Three days into our US trip and a last-minute de­ci­sion to toss a tube of Vegemite into my hand­bag was pay­ing off. Af­ter flat-out re­fusal from our ju­nior trav­ellers to eat any­thing that Qan­tas be­stowed upon them, they should have ravenously de­voured what­ever was set in front of them state­side. Not so. The sup­posed spe­cial treat, room-ser­vice de­liv­ery of un­fa­mil­iar fare, gave way to tantrums, tears and re­jec­tions. For the next cou­ple of nights, it was much eas­ier (and cheaper) to give in to a bread roll smeared with the familiar taste of home.

Trans­fer­ring through to New York, nerves were tested and breath held at Dal­las/Fort Worth air­port when the carry-on bag went back and forth through the scan­ner sev­eral times, the of­fi­cials star­ing into its packed depths be­fore pluck­ing out the yel­low-and-red squeezy tube. Gloves were donned, swabs pro­duced and a sam­ple an­a­lysed for its po­ten­tial to cause a dis­as­ter. Re­sults? Salt and yeast. We were good to go.

On day five, we hit small-town New Eng­land, dis­cov­ered the diner and mealtimes be­came a whole lot more pleas­ant for ev­ery­one. Pump­kin pancakes with maple syrup? Check. Ba­con and egg sand­wiches? Check. Mile­high ap­ple pie? Check. Throw in a Reuben sand­wich and a Cobb salad and all fam­ily mem­bers were happy.

Lou’s Diner in Hanover, New Hamp­shire, got a dou­ble thumbs-up from the lit­tle folk for sup­ply­ing Wikkistix, which are small plas­tic-coated pieces of wire, sim­i­lar to pipe-clean­ers, that can be twisted and bent into all sorts of cre­ations. Our two spent half an hour hap­pily fash­ion­ing spec­ta­cles for each other and chuck­ling madly at their re­flec­tions in the mir­ror-cov­ered walls. Adding to the hi­lar­ity at the ta­ble, our wait­ress gave us that clas­sic Amer­i­can run­down of mul­ti­ple salad dress­ing choices (I counted 12) with­out drawing breath. Im­pos­si­ble to ab­sorb that level of in­for­ma­tion while try­ing to keep a straight face, I wimped out and opted for a sim­ple vinai­grette.

Me­an­der­ing through the back roads of Ver­mont, our col­lec­tive sugar fix was sud­denly well catered for with all things maple. The small vat of syrup we pur­chased to take home was scoffed within days and on a nec­es­sary re­peat visit to the Morse Maple Su­gar­works Farm, just out­side Mont­pe­lier, we came out with maple but­ter, maple tof­fees and the most scrump­tious of all soft-serves, the “maple cre­mee”.

In New York, street food be­came the or­der of the day. We couldn’t walk a block with­out the chil­dren beg­ging for hot dogs, hot nuts or pret­zels. The lunch­box of car­rot­stick snacks I pre­pared each morn­ing got harder and harder to sell to the troops who had firmly de­cided that while in New York, eat­ing hap­pened on the run with food prefer­ably pur­chased from a cart. But they did make an ex­cep­tion and ac­tu­ally sat down for lunch on our last day for tasty ham­burg­ers that were well worth the ta­ble queue at Cen­tral Park’s iconic Loeb Boathouse Cafe.

Pre­par­ing for the trip home, I cleared my hand­bag of the guff gen­er­ated from a month of road-trip­ping with small chil­dren. Right at the bot­tom, ad­hered to a Dunkin’ Donuts servi­ette, the Vegemite reap­peared for the first time in weeks. Its familiar yel­low-and-red pack­ag­ing felt some­what re­as­sur­ing. I asked the six-year-old what he was most look­ing for­ward to about go­ing back to school. “My old favourite lunches,” he replied. That would be cheese and Vegemite sand­wiches on “nor­mal” bread.

Street food ven­dor in New York, left

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