Some of my earliest memories of Marmite are from Quarry House, in Kampala. I still remember the large dark brown jar, with its peculiar shape and its distinctive yellow label. As a little kid, I abhorred the yeasty and sharp taste of the brown textured Marmite, saying it was only for Papa.
Years later, while our family was in Mwinilunga, Zambia, I really did start enjoying Marmite - Marmite spread on toast with a thin slice of cheddar. Call it getting used to the taste.
Marmite is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is quite salty and savoury. Marmite had its origins in the late 19th century when a German scientist, Justus von Liebig, discovered that brewer's yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. In 1902 the Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in England. The yeasty paste took its name from the French term for a large, covered earthenware or metal cooking pot, which has come to an enduring symbol of the spread prominently shown on the label.
By 1908, Marmite became quite popular in Australia and New Zealand and subsequently during World War I, British troops were issued with Marmite as part of their rations. Australia evolved its own variant called Vegemite!
Marmite has come to known for its goodness - it's rich in folic acid and Vitamin B9. But then all the "right" things may not always taste right!
After we returned to India, my joy knew no bounds when I discovered Marmite in a departmental store at E Block, Connaught Place in Delhi. That jar of Marmite was a treasured posession for quite sometime. As life became busier, I too lost touch with what tingled my tongue.
But again in 2006, I found Marmite in a departmental store at Greater Kailash, M Block market. And my love affair started all over again. Since then Marmite has been a regular for my weekend breakfasts, notwithstanding its cost!
I would say Marmite tastes best on toast alongwith a spicy tomato omelette, which is what I just had. Marmite works wonders when mixed into a cup of hot milk - a savoury concoction that warms from within.
Marmite usually invokes extreme emotions - one can either love it or hate it. But where its loved, people can go to extremes. For instance, in the aftermath of the February 2011 earthquake in New Zealand, the Marmite factory had to shut down. This led to panic buying of Marmite from supermarkets and over one hundred online auctions for jars of Marmite, were held, with some sellers asking for up to NZ$800 per jar, which was over 185 times its usual retail price. People were advised to use Marmite. Even the Kiwi Prime Minister John Key admitted that he may have to switch to Australian rival Vegemite once his personal supplies ran out!!!!!
That's how love for this yeasty paste can be!
That's probably why Marmite is sold with cheeky liners "Love it or hate it", "Spread the Love" or even "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Marmite you're Brown & I Love You". Today, I discovered a Marmite fanpage on Facebook too!
But I am worried - my jar of Marmite won't last beyond a month from now. Godrej Nature's Basket has run out of Marmite stocks. I would have to ask my folks to pick it up from some departmental store in Delhi! I hope I get my replenishments fast, so that I can continue spreading the love!