Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marmite - Love It or Hate It?

There are only a few British products I must have in the US. Branston Pickle is one of them (and I am sure that will be the subject of a forthcoming post here). Marmite is another. When I first moved here, I had some difficulty finding it, and so I instructed English friends coming over here to bring a jar over. I have since found it from time to time in the so-called "International aisle" at some grocery stores, and I usually make a point of picking some up if I see it in a place like that, because it can be expensive in specialist British food stores or online.

If you have never heard of Marmite or you are not certain what it is, I am not sure a description will suffice. Of course, even if you know what it is, you may be one of those in the "Hate It" camp. Marmite is a great divider. People either love it or hate it. The manufacturers of Marmite have actually exploited this characteristic of their product, and "Love It or Hate It" has become an advertising slogan. The official Marmite website even has Love It and Hate It sections. I love it. The rest of my family hates it.

So what exactly is in the characteristic glass jar that causes such a love/hate reaction? Originally a by-product of the brewing industry, the thick, salty, sticky dark-brown goo is yeast extract. It is also rich in Vitamin B complex, which helped sales of the product when vitamins were discovered in the early 20th Century. It was also given to troops suffering from beriberi (a vitamin deficiency) during World War I. The name Marmite comes from the French word for an earthenware pot, and it did originally come in an earthenware jar. You can find out more about the history of Marmite on the Marmite Wikipedia page.

It has a very strong taste. Often used as a spread on bread or toast, I recommend people to spread it very thinly, so as not to be overpowering. Many people enjoy it with cheese in a sandwich. Because spreading the thick substance often destroys soft bread, the company introduced a slightly thinner product in a "squeezy" plastic jar ideal for this purpose. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the removal of the cute 57g size jar from the product range.

Marmite is also produced in New Zealand, although it has a different flavor, being slightly sweeter than the British version. That product is available in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. Readers may also be familiar with the Australian product Vegemite. I have always described Vegemite as "Marmite for Wimps."

What else can you do with Marmite? An English friend, Emma Bruce, recommends it spread on toast with scrambled egg on top, or in a sandwich with cucumber. Chef Gary Rhodes came up with some recipes featuring Marmite, to help celebrate the launch of the "squeezable" product. A British photographer, food blogger and host of an underground restaurant who goes by the nickname of MsMarmiteLover even came up with a special menu, which featured Marmite in each dish, for an evening at her dining establishment. It apparently went down rather well!

So where do you stand on the "Love it or Hate it" question? Do you have any favorite recipes or Marmite stories? Let me know!


Pazcual said...

I didn't get pretty well what marmite was :s The first time I hear that..Is it something like honey? How does it smell? Now I wanna try that. I'll try get it here for see if I love it or hate it. So far, I know it's something healthy haha...



Graham said...

@Pazcual - Honey? No, nothing like it. It's actually intensely salty. If you like anchovies or olives, you might like marmite. Think perhaps of soy sauce that has somehow been made into a thick paste. That would be close to marmite.

Emma Bruce said...

Hi! As a fellow marmite lover check out this new limited edition marmite just about to released here in the UK....

Graham said...

Thanks Emma! That's so cool. I know that Guinness once partnered with Marmite to create a Marmite made with Guinness Yeast. As a Marston's Pedigree lover myself, Pedigree Marmite sounds great! I'm afraid I'm not really a cricket lover (although I'm a big fan of a village-green matches with a pint in hand!), but that's a great tie-in. Here's a clickable version of your link:

Love it or hate it — Marston's Ashes Marmite

Thanks again for contributing your opinions for the blog post!

Traci said...

Marmite's great - it's funny how you start to crave things once you don't have easy access to them anymore. I guess that's life! I treasure my jars of Marmite and guard them jealously as I never know when I can get another one ;P

My friend here in the US recently had a birthday and I decided to give her an British birthday. I gave her Marmite (of course!), lemon curd, Jacob's Cream Crackers, a Curlywurly, Heinz baked beans (they're different to American ones!) and some Scottish shortbread. She didn't like the sound of Marmite at all but I think everyone should try it once in their life!

Sometimes the best pleasures in life are the simplest - I suggest you try Marmite on hot buttered toast and ditto baked beans. Baked beans on toast is a great snack whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner - and you could spoil yourself by adding two poached or fried eggs on top! Mmmm - excuse me, I need to go into the kitchen now ... ;P

Graham said...

@Traci - you're making me hungry!

Heinz vegetarian baked beans are the closest I've found. Have you tried those? Not *exactly* the same as the Heinz baked beans from Britain, but certainly not as sickly sweet as most BB available here.

Marmite on buttered Jacob's cream crackers - mmmmmmm!

Or how about toast, buttered, marmited, beaned and egged! Reckon that would work?

Mouse said...

Gotta be in the Love it category, although as you state, it's spread very very thinly. Too much in one go and I don't want to touch it for months afterwards. It's really nice if you put it on toast before the cheese for cheese on toast! And in sandwiches with cheese & cucumber :) Yummmm

Graham said...

@Mouse - I hadn't even thought of Marmite under cheese on toast! I generally sprinkle some Worcestershire sauce on cheese on toast, but I think I have to try it with Marmite!

Elaine Lemm said...

I have had a great debate going on with a fellow food writer in OZ on the Marmite versus Vegemite. It sparked quite a lot of argument with lots of other people joining in. So funny that Marmite sparks such passion. I am a Marmite lover by the way.

Graham said...

@Elaine Lemm - Thanks so much for dropping by. I'm a big fan of your British Food site on!

The Marmite vs. Vegemite debate certainly is a live topic. I still maintain, having tried both, that Vegemite is Marmite for wimps. And you can quote me on that!

Samantha said...

I am a big marmite fan but the NZ one (seeing as im from there) and i get it sent over to me from home because i have yet to find it in a store in Phoenix =)

Its true you either love it or hate it, tried getting my dad and step-mum to try it and they are in the hate it catagory

Graham said...

@Samantha - I've never found anyone who has tried the NZ Marmite before. Have you ever tried the British Marmite to compare?

Loved your blog, btw. Subscribed, and I'm now following you on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

Berkeley Wine in Berkeley Heights carries Marmite. It's not quite next door, but it's not really all that far from Edison.

They have some other English imports as well (maybe even the baked beans, but I'm not positive about that).

Graham said...

Thanks for sharing the info, Anonymous!

Barbara said...

Great article!
I own a small British Foods shop, and we sell loads of marmite...I guess those who love it, really realllly love it!
Pop in if you are ever in the South Jersey area!
All the best,
The British Connection
130 New Jersey Ave.
Absecon NJ 08201

Graham said...

@Barbara - I'm so sorry it took me so long to reply to you. Thanks for making contact! Thanks for flying the flag in New Jersey.

A friend of mine recently visited England and came back with a lovely gift for me: The Marston's Pedigree (made with yeast from Marston's Pedigree)limited edition Marmite! I'm waiting for a special occasion to crack it open.

Please do keep in touch.

stephen879 said...

The fast and convenient online store offering your favorite British Food right here in the USA. We invite you to browse through our store where you can find a wide range of British food favorites including English teas, Cadbury chocolate, Mcvities and Heinz to name a few. Order today, we offer the cheapest British Food prices online and guarantee a fast and friendly service.