The universal Vegeta

There is a discussion over at the culinary fetishists' message board eGullet on the unique and mysterious qualities of that fine product of the Podravka corporation, Vegeta.

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The person initiating the discussion calls the flavor "essence of Grandma," and also quote's Podravka's publicity material, which inclusively declares, "Vegeta is enjoyed by people regardless of their religions, social classes, traditions, climates and the ways they eat; using either spoons or chopsticks or fingers. Vegeta unites us around a big universal table where we understand each other perfectly well, although we speak different languages." Podravka also lets us in on the little-known fact that Vegeta was created in the same year as the Barbie doll.

In addition: Another discussion at the same site points readers to this bit of culinary theology from the Carnegie Deli: "at the Istanbul Qadiri center (called the dergah), on the last Tuesday of Ramadan, seven dishes are served. Soup serves as a reminder of the importance of water to life; meat and vegetables symbolize the earth; pilaf and borek (meat and vegetables rolled in fillo dough) represent fire. Eggs with pastirma — a Turkish cured meat similar to pastrami — signify Divine generative power, combining the feminine symbol of the egg with the salty masculinity of the meat. Gullac, a rose-scented pastry boiled in milk, is an emblem of Divine love." Salty masculinity?


Anonymous said...

My mother's sister, a wonderful cook, and her husband (who just turned a sturdy 90 and is suspicious of anything that's not just like the food he grew up with), both still insist that it is Podravka's Vegeta that gives soups and stews that "real [Hungarian] home-cooked taste" ("az adja neki azt az igazi otthoni izet").

I always thought that the testimonial about Vegeta's ability to summon up the tastes of my uncle's early childhood -- which began in a small village near where Hungary meets Croatia, back in the days of the Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef of blessed memory -- made an interesting contrast with the cans the soup powder came in, which were decorated with the picture of a smiling geisha in front of a pagoda. That Oriental lady beckoning from the label must've stood for the MSG in the recipe, while the secret mix of onions, dried vegetables and spices may account for the powder's uncanny appeal to fans of Old Country cooking.


Eric Gordy said...

Of course, it's the MSG! I always wondered what the connection was between Vegeta and Japan.
You know the story about the person who brings a foreign visitor home for dinner, and when the meal is brought it out tells her mother in shock, "didnt I tell you he is a vegetarian?" And her mother replies "don't worry, everything here has Vegeta in it."

coturnix said...

Of course, I have a bag of Vegeta in my kitchen. Why was the name changed to Zacin C and did it go back to Vegeta in the meantime?

Podravka soups also had the similar taste. I always preferred Knorr, though. Actually, I grew up on Knorr beef-cube soup with stars.

You should submit an entry to the Carnival of Recipes!

Eric Gordy said...

Ah, yes, Zacin C ... I think that there was a period when Vegeta was not available (nor Kastelet nor Lasko pivo, these were dark days), and Centroproizvod began marketing a substitute as Zacin C through the C-market chain. Lacked the magic, though.
Now, Knorr's Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillion, that's a fine little cube.