Ode to Marmite – spreading the love
Love it or hate it, right? Either way, we take it for granted. Like generations before me, I was brought up on the stuff. Virtually indestructible, an opened jar will last for years, but it survives only a matter of days here at BD Mansions. Here then, is my ode to Marmite, a product that genuinely tastes like no other and has become the metaphor to describe polarised opinions. I’m spreading the love.
That iconic glass jar contains a lovely, thick, dark brown goo described as “yeast extract“. It’s probably named after the French stockpot featured on the label (Le Marmite). It may look like crude oil, but it’s relatively healthy – low fat and low sugar, high in added B vitamins and completely vegetarian. The only dietary drawback is that it is high in salt.
It’s eco-friendly too. Marmite comes from spent brewers yeast left over after fermenting beer, a waste product. In 1902 the Marmite Food Company (owned by Unilever since 2000) was formed in Burton-on-Trent, the spiritual home of British brewing, using the spent yeast from Bass. Shouldn’t Marmite be part of the Slow Food movement? It seems like Marmite is a unique and genuine taste of British Heritage.
At the Marmite factories, the spent yeast is broken down to release soluble amino acids and proteins. This material is then concentrated and filtered before going through Marmite’s top secret process. The result is a basic yeast extract paste to which Marmite then adds vegetable and spice extracts plus a range of vitamins. Hey presto!
Down the years there have been some superb marketing campaigns for it too, including releases of various limited editions; based on yeasts from Guinness, Marston’s and even Champagne. Perhaps the most well-known of these was Ma’amite, produced for the Queen’s Jubilee.
A squeezable version replaced the smallest 57g jar a few years back, which at the time seemed like heresy. The last of those tiny pots was auctioned on eBay for charity by Marmite themselves. It came in a commemorative RIP box complete with an authentication certificate!
Marmite says that 25% of Brits take it with them when they go abroad, and that includes me. While Marmite is apparently available in 25 countries, I detest running out and keep a 70g emergency pot in my toiletries bag!
There are many imitations made elsewhere. These all have different ingredients and, in my opinion, are a pale shadow of the real thing. Imagine my disappointment in New Zealand when I found a Kiwi version with sugar and caramel in it! In New Zealand, “Our Mate” is the name of real Marmite because a rival owns the name. I’m also particularly wary of Vegemite and Promite, the hugely inferior Australian products.
So my advice for Marmite lovers abroad is to pack a jar or look out for British imports. Thankfully for me, there’s a shop in Milan where I can stock up in an emergency. I once helped someone find Marmite in New Zealand after a factory in Christchurch was affected by the earthquake and panic buying ensued, which unfortunately became known as Marmageddon.
Then there’s Bovril, the arch-enemy. While Bovril ditched the meat extract and reformulated it to be vegetarian some years ago, its only use to me is a winter hand warmer in a freezing football stadium during half-time.
Obviously, Marmite is classic on toast or with cheese sandwiches. It’s a standard addition to soups and casseroles, including my killer French Onion Soup. There are cookbooks devoted to it too, and Gary Rhodes iincludes it in his lofty cuisine. When he was still at his Michelin-starred restaurant Rhodes 24, he served up Marmite recipes including a Marmite and chocolate sauce made to pour over coffee ice cream. Check out Marmite for more recipes.
Wine matches are, however, pretty difficult, but following along the lines of matching sweet and salt then Madeira works best for me. Alternatively, try a Marmite Bloody Mary instead.
You’ll not be surprised to find that I am a member of the Love Marmite fan club, and I follow them on Twitter. It doesn’t take much persuasion for me to wear my authentic Vivienne Westwood designed Marmite T-Shirt, catwalk watchers! And of course, there is also a Hate Marmite fan club, particularly useful as solace for long-suffering partners.
And the final word comes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2016, Roger Swift was voted the 12th best joke of 2016:
“I spotted a Marmite van on the motorway. It was heading yeastbound.”
Ode to Marmite Ode to Marmite Ode to Marmite Ode to Marmite Ode to Marmite Ode to Marmite