I cannot hear the name without producing one, singular response:
Most North Americans are unfamiliar with the British condiment Marmite. Nothing remotely like it can be found in the pantries of the new world. Or, for that matter, the rest of the old world. Tiger penis soup might still be considered edible in China, and the French of course have their propensity to ingest the most imaginative of dishes (calf brains with a side of roast snails, anyone?). But they still have the good sense to turn their noses up at Marmite.
For those of you with the good fortune to have escaped the experience, I simply cannot find the words to describe what Marmite tastes like. All I can think of is BLEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGHHHH. Elsewhere I have heard that it tastes “like licking the bottom of a shoe.” But I know enough to advise the uninitiated that ignorance, in this case, truly is bliss.
Devotees however embrace it wholeheartedly with the same passion that its detractors despise it, and Marmite has very cleverly played this to its advantage with an ad campaign that proudly declares, “Love it or hate it.”
As testimony to this, my wife loves the stuff with a fervent ardor that perfectly balances my intense hatred. So much so that when I responded to the mere mention of it at a dinner party with “BLEEEEEEEAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGHHH” she became so incensed that we had to drop the subject instantly.
“I love absolutely everything about Marmite: it’s full of vitamins, it tastes like heaven, and it comes from beer.”
(Marmite’s makers and fans go to great length to endorse its high levels of vitamin B, an assertion I find rather silly: it’s not a health product. Just admit you like it because of the taste. It is however a by-product of beer manufacturing, which I find both charming and disgusting in equal measure.)
“I cannot hear it maligned,” she said. “And this is really winding me up. We have to stop talking about this.”
No joke, it took a good half hour for her to relax. She couldn’t even speak to me for 15 minutes.
If there’s anything in the world I hate more than Marmite it is upsetting Bex.
So I swallowed my pride and bought her a tub of it, which I left wrapped in a Jack’O’Lantern on her bed.
Later that night when I came home I found this on the kitchen table – evidence both to the primacy of friendship over taste as well as Bex’s unparalleled poetic skills:
My darling wife, my lady fair
With warmth of autumn in her hair
I can’t express
Nor words convey
The burst of joy I felt today
You hid it in a pumpkin head
He smiled up with a note that said
“Present for wife. Inside.”
And what did Jack’O’lantern hide?
A joy of black, heavy and new
The perfect gift to me from you
But know this, please, my love, my light
That if it were my wife’s delight
I wouldn’t moan, or toss, or fight
To give up, for you, always… Marmite.
If Marmite’s manufacturers had any sense they would hire her immediately to master their marketing campaigns.