Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Mate....Love em or Hate em??

It's actually impressive that a food item can make it's way to iconic status and still be holding on strong after 108 years and counting. This retro cool and alluringly foreign looking little jar has been flirting with me off the shelves of my local grocer for decades. I remember hearing tales of Marmite's cousin Vegemite, from a grade school pen pal from Australia, and I remember comments from others on how much of an 'acquired taste' it was even though it enjoys remarkable popularity which is evidenced by its rather lengthy history. So last week, on a trip to the grocers....I decided that I would take the plunge and try out this foreign compound and see what to make of it. As it turns out, only Marmite was available in that particular store........well close enough for my I purchased it....$4 CDN for this little 125g jar. Pricey...a bit.......but it has traveled here all the way from Britain.

Once I got the little fellow home, I started to worry about what this Marmite might be........but a little google surfing put my mind at ease. I my surprise that the Marmite brand celebrated its 100th birthday back in 2002, that it is a similar and competitive product to Vegemite, that it was first invented in Germany, and it was later mass produced in England for market sale as Marmite. I also found reference to it's flavour...which is savory and salty which is a good thing to keep in mind before you layer on Marmite as if it were jam. It's saltiness level was described as being along the lines of soy sauce which I would agree with. And by that I mean a good Chinese Soy like China Lily which is not chemically tasting. There is also, underlying the saltiness, a deeper flavour almost like that of a soup base which is not unpleasant but also cautions moderation. There are also undertones of carmel and not surprisingly .....yeast.......I mean you are essentially licking the bottom of the fermentation kettle in a brewery.
There are some interesting places to look at with regards to Marmite, so if you'd like to know more, have a look here and here (stop and see the Marmite Kiss video on that last link). I decided my first experiment would be to try Marmite on toast (a scant 1/4 tsp per) with a bit of butter which seems to be the most basic application. One Marmite user described mixing the Marmite in with softened butter to get a more even spread....which I will have to try as this particular jar of Marmite is thicker than molassas. Do you love the fancy toast dish??? dishwasher is running now so I grabbed the first dish out of the china cabinet......a souvenir of Washington State from the 70's. Also note to self: Need to see if the results of the above mentioned Marmite Kiss video can be reproduced at home.....
After tasting my first experiment with Marmite........ it was very much as I had imagined it, and while I cannot say that I 'Love' it, I can say that it is intriguing enough that some day I just might. It's kind of like dating a super interesting....but not super attractive guy. The more time you spend with him....the better his looks seem to get. So I am a little concerned with what I might have started here....I hope I'm not getting in over my head:)
Should you be intrigued enough by all this to try Marmite yourself (assuming you have not already) be prepared for the fact that it is a salty and savoury experience, and if that flavour combination is not your may not be a fan. I was not so very worried to try it as I can and do eat canned anchovies left over from making Caesar Salad.......Not to worry though, if you find you don't care for can use it up flavouring soups, and stews........use it as you would any concentrated soup flavouring where its effects will be more subtle.
While investigating all things Marmite I found reference to Marmite and Cheese Scrolls.......which are next on my Marmite to do list........that is....if there is enough left in the jar:) While I am not a huge fan of quick breads (good ones are very good.......and bad ones are just awful).......I am curious enough to give it a go.


Marybeth said...

Interesting... The only time I ever heard of vegemite was in that old song by Men At Work, "Land Down Under," that was popular in the 80's. I thought it was peanut butter!

Alison said...

I have a wee jar of Marmite in my cupboard as well and very occasionally scrape some across my hot buttered toast. Marmite and cheese is my favourite way to have it (melted cheese, of course). Bread, Marmite, cheese under the broiler = mousetraps or cheeseymite scrolls is an excellent way to have it & that is my favourite bakery purchase (I like a yeast bread variety the best). Good luck with your experimenting! BTW, you can buy cheese spread & marmite mixed together (still coming up with a name, jars currently say "name me") and you can also purchase a line of potato chips with "Kiwi as" flavours, one of the flavours being cheeseymite (out of interest, the other "kiwi as" flavours are onion dip or meat pie & tomato sauce). Bit of trivia for your day.

LittleRed said...

Hey Alison:)
The Cheeseymite scrolls did not come back in the lunch box.....Ike ate them:)Good thing since the recipe made way more than I could eat. However...Ike will not even bite them if you tell him there is Marmite in them as Jim has freaked him out about it. Am interested to try the yeast variety next, but I may have to spread them around to the neighbours as the recipe also looks large. Another opportunity to try out the bread improver too:)

LittleRed said...

Is that the Vegemite product isnack2.0??? If so, good to rename it as that was a super bad name.....Vegemite Cheesybite is a much better choice. you need to refrigerate this Marmite stuff....I am assuming not with the amount of salt in it.