Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Marmite... Black Gold

How could I go so long without a post on Marmite?

Years ago there was a cafe (I'm fairly sure it's no longer in existence) in downtown Toronto, near or on Charles Street, just off Yonge. They served a sandwich called "Prince Charles' Favourite" or words to that effect. And it incorporated Marmite the way it was supposed to be eaten: thinly smeared on buttered bread, with a strong cheddar cheese and lettuce. On the big chalk board in the cafe which listed the fare, there was an asterisk by the word "Marmite" and at the bottom, the asterisk went on to explain thusly: "As Satchmo said, if you has to ask, you won't like it."

They had a point. Unlike chocolate, fennel, olives and single malt scotch, I have never met someone who has "come over to the dark side" in regards to Marmite. It seems you have to at least have been born in the British Isles to get the appeal. Even then, it's not a sure-fire guarantee that you will be able to stomach the stuff. And I think that possibly coming to it as an adult doesn't work either.

So what is Marmite? Wikipedia puts it well: "A British savoury spread made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. Marmite is a sticky, dark brown paste with a distinctive, powerful taste that polarizes consumer opinion. This is reflected in the company's marketing slogan: "Love it or hate it"." Warning: it's salty, it's dark, it's thick, it looks like something you'd scrape out of an old car engine... it's heaven!

I think the problem for most people, is a heavy hand in application. This isn't Nutella. You don't open the jar and stand there spooning it into your mouth (not that I've ever done that of course, but I've heard of such carryings-on. Speaking of which, have you ever tried Nutella on a toasted crumpet, oozing into all those steamy little holes? Boutros Boutros Golly!). Marmite heavily applied would be vile. The secret is to thinly spread it. Here is your ideal sandwich:

Put the kettle on and get some good tea brewing.

Generously butter (unsalted) two slices of good wholewheat bread. On to the bottom one, thinly apply a translucent layer of Marmite. Gently does it! You can experiment with adding more to future sandwiches, but be extra gentle the first time. Add thin slices of good, aged cheddar. Add very crisp lettuce. Place the second slice of bread on top. Gently crush the sandwich in a loving way to let it know you are boss, and as a promise of the shared pleasure to come. Cut into four.

Pour the tea, sit in your favourite chair. Turn on the Archers. Sit back. Take a sip of hot tea. Mmmmmm. A minute later bite into your sandwich. Feel the good chewy bread, the crispy, refreshing lettuce, the sharp cheese, the cool, sweet butter, and finally.... the salty tang of that marvelous black gold.... Marmite.

Options: check out the Marmite site for other recipes. My boss's wife has it on buttered toast, with a mound of scrambled eggs on top.

As for nutrition, I really couldn't care less. All I know is I love it, it's 11 o'clock at night and I'm salivating.

Feeling brave? Well, Loblaws, for one, carries it... if you dare.


Anonymous said...

I thoroughly agree and, as a Marmite enthusiast since the '40s, I cannot wait to nip upstairs and get out the bread and butter. Kettle's already on.
Thank you FF&F!!!

Blog Princess G said...

Yummy! I"ll be there in 1/2 hour.

Capt. Luke said...

Sorry, I am not sold...:-)