Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Roses are red, violets are blue...

Marmite, you're brown, and I love you!"*

You know when the marketing slogan of a product is "Love it or hate it" that you're either in for a treat or a disaster. In fact, Marmite has such a polarizing effect on the British population that the phrase "the Marmite effect" has come into play as a description for anything especially provocative or controversial!

So what exactly is Marmite? It and its Australian cousin, Vegemite, enjoy a legendary status (although, because Vegemite has caramel in its ingredients, it has been described as a weaker and sweeter version of Marmite.) I was terrified to try it, but determined to give it a go.

Marmite is a thick, brown paste that gives off a VERY strong, salty smell. Its made from yeast extract, and is 100% vegetarian and also described as "suitable" for a kosher diet, although it isn't made in a rabbinically approved facility. It is packed with Vitamin B12, folic acid, and riboflavin (certain nutrients that are difficult to get enough of with a vegetarian diet) - although the amount of sodium might just cancel out all that goodness!

I approached my first Marmite encounter with no small amount of trepidation. In a perfect example of the Marmite Effect, Liz loves the stuff, Ian hates it. What really confused me about Marmite is HOW you're supposed to eat it. The most typical way is to spread it on toast, bread, or crackers, although mixing a spoonful of the brown goop into a cup of boiling water is meant to make a nice winter drink, and any fan of Mr. Bean may remember the episode when he spreads Marmite on some twigs from outside and serves it as an hor d'oeuvre to his guests!

I stuck to a classic Marmite sandwich. Here we go:

Tucking in

The look of love? Or hate?


Thinking about it


The first bite was a bit of a shock - it was a LOT saltier than I was expecting, and I'm more used to biting into something sweet. But a few bites in, I started appreciating the savoury taste. I would probably not put as much on the slice next time, because its true that with Marmite, a "lil dab'll do ya".

But it actually was quite good, and I think Marmite sandwiches are going to play a role in my diet this year! (And no, I'm NOT just saying this in some desperate attempt to be as British as possible...you can count on me to give credible reviews here! After all, I LOVE Russia but I'll be the first to admit that the traditional Russian salad Oliver is the most disgusting food I've ever been forced to choke down.)

Marmite has been in British kitchens for over one hundred years now. It was used in the rationing kit for British soldiers in World War One, and there have been special edition Guinness-flavoured versions, which sounds right up my mum's alley. Some British tourists to tropical climes will bring a jar with them because among its healing powers, Marmite is believed to repel mosquitoes. It got its name from the French marmite (pronounced mar-MEET, although the product is mar-MIGHT), which is a large earthenware cooking pot.

So there you go - a taste test and a bit of history on a food product that is quintessentially English.

Mmm, Marmite. "The growing up spread you never grow out of." Unless you are part of the 50% of the population here that abhors the brown gooey stuff!

*This little rhyme is on the back of Marmite jars!


  1. I'm so surprised you like Marmite! I haven't tried it, but I've tried Vegemite, and once was enough, a little too salty for me.

  2. I think it was the whole novelty of eating something so savoury with bread, when I'm used to peanut butter or honey or other sweet spreads. It certainly doesn't look or smell appetizing at ALL, but somehow, inexplicably, I think it tastes appetizing!

  3. I feel like this isn't dissimilar from your fish jerky experience.

  4. So true! I wasn't drunk this time, though.