The Marmite Chronicles
So it's fortunate, really, that I received the following email from the ever-witty Lady yesterday. Not only that but, having given up on her own blog, she's given me permission to reproduce her words here for public consumption. Which means I get to look as though I'm blogging when I'm actually just rushing to the loo every five minutes. Good, huh?
Dear Lady Bracknell,
I was poking around in my tornado of a room when I discovered a small packet of marmite. Instantly, I was sticken with the horrible knowledge that I had never responded to Boogaloo Dude's...um....well, 'kind gift' isn't the proper phrase. Why would you inflict this stuff on a foriegner? Really, what has America ever done to him?
So, in the interests of repairing international relations (though, at this point, I'm not sure if I actually *want* to repair them), here is an American's experience of marmite:
In the beginning....
As you will recall, all this began with your blog post of May 30, 2007, in which you used the phrase 'half inched'. Dude wagered a peck of marmite that no Colonial would know what this phrase meant. I immediatly responded that it was a fragment of Cockney rhyming slang; 'half inched' rhymes with 'pinched', which is another word for 'stole'.
I grew up on a healthy combination of British children's books and crime stories. Fear my esoteric and outdated knowlege!
Much to my shock, Dude requested my address via your email.
At the time, I lived in what could kindly be called a student ghetto. Realistically, it was a nasty little rat-warren of once-nice homes that had been infested with college students. Any package left on a porch was stolen, as was junk mail. So I gave my parents' address. A while later, I received a baffled call from my mother to tell me that England had sent me something.
I thought this was very nice of the entire country. Thankyou, England.
Further investigation revealed that it was a large padded envelope. Inside was a very nice note from Dude, complete with a picture of him. I put this in a safe place, and then I lost the safe place. I suspect it is cozied up to other important documents, like my social security card.
There was also a small bag of individual marmite packets. I and my mother admired them for a while. They were heart shaped, possibly in an attempt to suggest this was something I would love, and we are very vulnerable to twee things like that. The only way we would have liked the little packets more was if there were pictures of kittens in a boot on them.
Dude's note mentioned that his daughters liked marmite on toast and peanutbutter. Under the theory that small children wouldn't eat something disgusting, I decided to try it this way first. Foolish me. I forgot that small children were once babies, and babies eat things like strained squash and bugs.
Toast was toasted. Peanutbutter was spread. The marmite was opened.
"It looks like a badly refined petroleum byproduct." I observed kindly.
"You're actually going to eat that?" asked my mother.
In answer, I picked up a knife and spread a thin layer of marmite on the peanutbutter. I stared at it. It stared at me. I savoured the novel experience of holding a snack that my mother hadn't stolen a bite from, for the first time in 25 years. This was just another warning I ignored. My mother will eat food that no one else considers edible, up to and including hot dogs so badly burnt that they explode into black tinsel when bitten.
What was I talking about?
Right. Marmite. I took a bite. I chewed and I swallowed. Then I took another bite, because I literally could not believe what I was eating. Chewed, swallowed. I opened my mouth for another, and my jaws would not close on the toast. This proves that the body is smarter than the mind.
"How's it taste?" asked Mom. Clearly, she'd missed the quiver of horror that was running through me.
"Its.....have some, Mom." Once, she served me asparagus. She deserved this.
But she must have seen something in my face. Possibly the rictus of disgust.
"Really, Mom. Have some."
By now, the full impact of the flavor had made its way through my shuddering nerves to my brain. The conversation halted in favor of watching me run like heck to brush my teeth.
The marmited toast fell to the floor, where the cat promptly avoided it. This was a cat who delighted in licking the wings off of beetles. Draw your own conclusions.
Try, try again....
A nice British fellow (he never sent me foul things by mail) that I know from the internet told me that the best way to try marmite was to make some toast with real butter on it, then spread a gauzily thin layer of marmite on it.
I like butter. I mean...I really like butter. I get this from my Mom, who used to eat sticks of butter as a kid. This is what being the only girl, and a blonde to boot, will get you. I never got to eat just butter. I had a sister, and she was blonder. She's still blonder, the rat.
Toast was made. Butter was spread. Marmite was spread in a layer that existed only on the atomic scale.
A bite, and I fled to the bathroom to scour at my teeth again. The taste, it stuck to the enamel...
....and try again...
Perhaps pure marmite was too much for my inexperienced palate. I enjoy many strong flavors that are too strong on their own - onion, garlic, tabasco. Maybe it needed to be diluted into a larger dish. I poked at a nice lady from the north of England until she gave me a recipe for marmite sandwiches. Roughly:
Take a piece of toast. Slice a cucumber, put it on the toast. Put a dollop of cottage cheese on the toast. Take another piece of toast. Spread Philadelphia cream cheese on the toast. Meditate on the oddness of combining a low-fat, healthy food with cream cheese. Now ruin the sandwich by putting marmite on it.
Guess how much I liked it. Go on. Guess.
Another poke at the web yielded a recipe that basically went like this: get a jalepeno pepper. Slice in half, remove seeds. Smear with marmite then sour cream. Eat.
Jalepeno pepper would surely overwhelm the taste of almost anything, right?
Wrong. So wrong. So very, tragically, horribly wrong...
So, veggies didn't do it. Okay. The majority of a world power of a country couldn't be completely insane, right? (See how I'm avoiding a joke about American politics here? I feel proud.)
I had a flicker of hope when I found a dish called petite marmite, but it turned out that this didn't contain any actual marmite. After some thought, I realized that eating a marmite dish that didn't actually contain marmite was probably not going to fulfill my determination to like this most disgusting of foodstuffs.
Then I was given a recipe for marmite-glazed seared beef. Sounds tasty, right? It had all sorts of Asian spices and such in it. Years of eating food prepared in the back of trucks has left me with the impression that enough ginger and soy sauce can make anything palatable.
So I made the seared and marmited beef. I had to make it at my parents' house, because my roommates had a little talk with me. One was holding a heavy book, the other a loaded cat.
So. I bought a small amount of beef and made the stuff. My mother wandered into the kitchen to see what the smell was and peered at the plate I was holding morosely.
"Jess" she asked, "Are you sure the English like you?"
All the recipes above were made from..I dunno. Four packets of marmite? There were trace amounts in each of the dishes, and that was still too much.
We have a nice British guy in the department. I gave him the three remaining marmite packets. He was very happy to get them. I was impressed he could be that drunk and still walking upright. That's grad students for you.
The English? You're all crazy.
I'll have my revenge, though. I have a friend who tells me he knows where he can get some non-aerosolized cheese-like food suitable for international shipping....