About fifteen years ago I was introduced to Marmite, a pungent-tasting spread that can be had with just about anything from cheese, vegetables, to peanut butter on butter toast. It’ll spice up anything you can throw at it! The first time I tried it I was in Cyprus as a guest at a friend’s place. Breakfast was cereals and milk, fried eggs, grilled toast, and there was this funny looking little jar with a funky yellow cap. “This is marmite, the mom said, it’s a bit strong, but it goes well with peanut butter and toast!” I’ve always liked strong tastes so I took her advice. The chemistry was amazing, and It’s been a love story ever since! I came back to Lebanon and slowly forgot all about Marmite until it came up in a microbiology class a couple years ago; I was astonished and fascinated to learn that Marmite was actually a yeast extract and a by-product of beer brewing. Flash forward 2 years, one of my expatriated friends, B., who's living in London flew in for a 2-week vacation. Wouldn’t you know it, I – and a couple of my friends who got infatuated with the idea of Marmite before even tasting it – were begging him to get us a couple of jars 10 days before his flight. It was a thing of mystery for them. I had built it up so much!
I got an email from B. describing the reactions of the people around him back in London. A couple fought over it for a while as he stood and laughed, listening to their eloquence in describing their love/hate of Marmite.
-Girlfriend: “Is that Marmite in your hand?”
-B.: “Yes why?”
-Girlfriend: “and you do know it tastes like sticky shit right?”
-Boyfriend: “Oh no no don’t listen to her! I think it’s great!!”
-Girlfriend: “Oh my God it’s shit! It’s a complete waste of toast!” […]
So there’s no question about it. Marmite is definitely something you either love or hate. And during our little degustation session at a local eat-in, the reactions to the pungent taste and dodgy smell made that all too apparent. Some hated me for raising their expectations so much (yes, they took it personally haha), others were more pleased… And then we realized that the company had a website, we visited and its love or hate turned out to be a worldwide dispute. Strong feelings either way:
Found under the “Squeeze Me” section: “Eat Marmite? You don't just want to eat it, you want to bathe in it, wallow in it like a hippo in mud, slather yourself from head to toe and wrap yourself in bread and butter... And you know what? That's fine. Just fine. Completely normal in fact...”
Found under the “Squash Me” section: “Eat Marmite? You'd rather rip the wings off live chickens. You'd rather be stripped naked in public. You'd rather swallow rat's tails and snail shells... Enough already! We get the picture. And yes, you're in the right place...”
So the next time you’re in London, Cyprus or wherever, or have someone flying in from there, make sure you ask for a jar of that little mixture of heaven and hell. You owe it to yourself to try it, and decide if you have the guts and taste buds for it. And who knows, maybe we’ll be importing it soon. Just make sure you research the recipes, their website is hilarious.
Just be careful with the dosage, it’s some strong sticky shit you’re dealing with!