This week Nadiya Hussain chose Marmite as her luxury item on Desert Island Discs. She said she could eat it directly from the jar on it’s own and I know exactly how she feels. Growing up, my sister would always have lemon curd and I would have Bovril. My Bovril later became Marmite as it was decided our household should “give up” Bovril for health purposes. The theory behind this I’m still not clear on but it meant a lifelong love of the brown salty little wonder.
I usually have at least two jars on the go at once. One that’s very nearly gone but still scrappable and another that’s almost new for when I can’t be bothered to scrape. On Christmas morning June gave me a personalised jar with my name on it. It sits proudly on my shelf and is an unofficial “emergency” jar if things get really desperate. A couple of weeks ago I was at Nan’s having the compulsory “dippy egg” which my sister and I have always eaten when we visit. Nan produced a Marmite eggcup to go with my Marmite soldiers, which now also sits proudly on the shelf.
“Marmite” is actually a French word for an earthenware cooking pot, in which Marmite was originally sold. Imagine that, a whole clay pot full of it on the side. A devil to cart home but worth it. There’s actually the picture of one on the actual label if you want a reference.
What I didn’t know is there are two versions of Marmite. There is the one we know and love and a different Marmite which is made and sold in New Zealand. Initially I reared up to protest “who is this imposter?!” but now I’m quite intrigued. One thing to be very clear on though is, Vegemite is NOT the same. It’s odd and not right and I shall never order it again when I’m down under, though well done to them for trying.
In the late 19th century a wonderful genius of a man called Justus Von Liebig discovered that the yeast used for brewing beer about be concentrated and eaten. He went on to create Oxo cubes (also good) and in 1902 the Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire. The yeast needed to produce lovely Marmite was supplied by the Bass Brewery and by 1907 it was all so successful they opened another factory in London.
Because it was so popular and gorgeous and delicious, New Zealand and Australia starting producing Marmite under licence in Christchurch. BUT IT WAS NOT THE SAME. They added sugar and caramel in, heathen. In 1912 vitamins were invented which was good because Marmite has lots of vitamin B in it so everyone liked it even more. During the war it was even given as rations to the troops to keep them in top condition.
I am constantly delighted by the new “things” they find to put Marmite in. I have already admitted I have a problem with roasted cashew nuts and they’ve been restricted strictly to weekends and bank holidays. A special mention has also got to go to Joe & Seph’s Official Marmite Popcorn, which I’ve also had to stop eating every day. Of course, like most things, Marmite is amazing with cheese and during important research for this blog I have discovered “Marmite Cheddar Bites,” a sort of flavoured Babybel. I’ve bought 18 bags of them.
As we know, you do either love it or hate it. Unfortunately my sweetheart, Jon, hates it. So much so he won’t kiss me for anything up to an hour after I’ve eaten it. It’s still worth it.