Consummate dilettantism!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Confessions of an American Marmite-Eater

From the horse's mouth:
oh heavens! what a revulsion! what an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains had vanished, was now a trifle in my eyes; this negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me, in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed. Here was a panacea, a φαρμακον νεπενφες, for all human woes; here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered; happiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket; portable ecstasies might be had corked up in a pint bottle; and peace of mind could be sent down in gallons by the mail-coach.
(Well, no, marmite isn't quite that good.) For those of you who don't know, marmite is a sticky, black/dark brown paste with the consistency of tar popular in England, New Zealand, and Australia (in the latter countries, differently flavored versions are produced). I was browsing Wikipedia and for some reason happened upon the marmite article; my curiosity piqued, I went to the kitchen to see whether we had any in stock. (I had already known of marmite, but had never bothered to seek it out.) I wasn't expecting much; marmite is neither common nor well-known in the United States, and that our cabinet should somehow have a jar seemed slightly implausible. But, to my great surprise, there was a jar sitting on the shelf, front and center, of plain British marmite! It must have been there for months, as though waiting for me.

I grabbed it immediately. I opened it and took a whiff: It smelled like soy sauce. Remembering its reputed potency, I spread a little on a bagel and took my first bite of marmite. (Make no mistake: The bottle does not lie. This stuff is strong and highly concentrated. Too much will ruin your sandwich.) I neither loved nor hated it at first (contrarily to the advertising) - but it grew on me. I had some this morning and quite enjoyed it. It's not absurdly delicious, but it's not emetic either (yet it did seem to have that effect on my brothers). It's healthier than butter, too, and certainly doesn't require salt.

So how does it taste? Kinda like soy sauce, but a little more savory and bitter. It's supposedly galvanic, especially if you slop it on (which I don't really recommend). Its flavor is very distinctive and pungent. I imagine it's very versatile - it'd probably work well with meat.

UPDATE: Good God! Marmite is addictive! It's all I can think about! I want more! I want to experiment with it! I want to bathe in it! I want to marry it!
The most common use is as a spread on toast or in sandwiches. Note: it is generally spread very thinly because of its strong flavor—don't use it like jam. It has drug-like qualities; the more you eat, the thicker you need to spread it to get the same mouth-burning effect. Some people have even called it addictive.

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