Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
It's always great to know that your work is appreciated by others, so it was very heartening to see the review of my novel Vegemite Vindaloo by Canadian boook reviewer Lotus Reads. There was some interesting feedback too, with comments from readers who said they liked the title.
Radha said: "Love the name of the novel Vegemite Vindaloo". Asha wrote: "This book interests me very much, funny name too!" Tara said: ``You've made me want to read this book. I also love learning about different cultures through reading and this sounds great." Tanabata commented: "Great title! I always enjoy learning about different cultures so another one to add to the wishlist!" Booklogged said: "I definitely want to read Vegemite Vindaloo even though I don't have a clue what either word means" and Framed wrote: "I will certainly be adding this one to my TBR list. Love the title."
I guess that brings me to today's question.
What is the significance of the title Vegemite Vindaloo?
The choice of title has an interesting background. When I first started writing the novel, I had no specific title in mind. The plot was just a story playing out in my head. It was only when I was more than halfway through it that I began trying to think of a short title that would accurately encapsulate two cultures and two countries, for the book is set in India and Australia.
I honestly cannot tell you the exact moment the title Vegemite Vindaloo occurred to me, but I did run it past some of my journalism colleagues and they thought it was great. And I figured it would be very hard to find a two-word title that would immediately signify Indian and Australian cultures respectively.
Vindaloo is a curry-like Indian dish that comes from Goa and has strong Portuguese origins. In its original form, it is made from pork, but it can be made from chicken or beef. It is distinctive for its vinegar content and for the absence of potatoes.
Vegemite is a dark-brown paste made from yeast extract. A quintessentially Australian product, it was first produced by Fred Walker and Cyril Callister and arrived in shops around Australia in 1923 - in jars shaped like lighthouses!
I guess it was a bit of a gamble to call a debut novel Vegemite Vindaloo, but I can honestly say that at no stage was I asked to change it, or to even consider changing it. There was no pressure from Penguin, or from their managing editor, Ravi Singh, to go for something safer. In many ways, I thought it would be an intriguing title, even for readers who were not familiar with Vegemite or vindaloo – or both!
The novel was first named on the bestseller lists in The Telegraph in mid-2006, and was a regular inclusion in subsequent lists published by The Statesman. This list, from November last year (with the Booker Prize winner at #1 and a Calcutta-born author in the mix with some big hitters) is my favourite, for obvious reasons.....
1. The Inheritance Of Loss: A Novel Kiran Desai, Rs. 395.00
2. The Innocent Man John Grisham, Rs. 268.00
3. Vegemite Vindaloo David McMahon, Rs. 295.00
4. The Afghan Frederick Forsyth, Rs. 268.00
5. Cat O'Nine Tales Jeffrey Archer, Rs. 276.00