You Ask, We Answer: Marmite

Staying with yesterday's quirky theme, today seems to be a good one for saying something about one of the more unusual items in our British cuisine. You either love it, or hate it: can you tell which one I am? The clue's in the amount I put on the knife...

...yes, I hate it. My mum still proudly tells the tale of how she put Marmite on my bread soldiers when I was little and I immediately threw them on the floor whilst pulling the most screwed up baby face you could ever imagine. NAH of course loves it, so I have to bear the sight and smell of this muck spread most lunchtimes :(

I find it surprising how such a lovely product such as beer results in jars of yeast extract. Well, I suppose I shouldn't be really because the yeast used for beer making has enough at the end of the brewing process to start another 5 batches of beer. Thus a home has to be found for the other four fifths, otherwise over time our breweries wouldn't have enough room to produce any more beer and would be awash with loads of creamy, browny looking foam instead.

With our breweries facing such a disaster, some clever people in Burton-on-Trent decided the excess could be used to make yeast extract and that it would also be rather jolly if they put it in a jar modelled on the shape of a french stockpot, aka marmite.

What's more, it's choc full of all those tricky B-vitamins that were quite hard to come by in the diets of yore, so it could be marketed to mums like mine as a nutritious tea-time (or breakfast or lunch) treat for their families. Bet they didn't imagine screaming toddlers throwing it on the floor though, just happy, smiley family faces instead. However, there must have been plenty of each scenario happening all over the land, otherwise how else could the phrase Marmite Moment have come about? [for a practical example of the use of this term, you need look no further than this post here - Ed]

So, Mr. McGregor's Daughter (and not forgetting Gail), you can feel relieved that no lovely furry creatures like marmosets were harmed in the making of this fare, just lots of budding yeast cells instead. And if you're reading this in countries like Australia or New Zealand, I'm afraid your Vegemite comes nowhere near to being as yukky as Marmite actually is. And no, it's nothing like its deliciously meaty cousin, Bovril either, even if both brands are owned by the same company and they're made in the same town.

Unbelievably this post only scratches the surface as far as Marmite is concerned, so the You Ask, We Answer team have helpfully added this link [and this one, plus this one's rather fun - Ed] should you wish to know more.


  1. Marmite!

    Yuck, yuck, yuckity yuck -
    Fun post VP

  2. Marmite on bread,Vegemite on toast.
    Very important not to get them mixed up!

  3. No, no, no, Marmite is the food of the gods! When I finally go I'll be buried smothered in butter with a jar clamped in each hand. I might be brown bread, but at least I’ll be a tasty slice.

  4. Totally with you BG - another big Marmite fan here. I so agree with the bloke who was kidnapped in Colombia or wherever it was - the only thing I missed when on my travels was Marmite.... and maybe pubs. Which sell a different branch of the same thing, if you think about it.

    And how can anyone mention that pale imitation, Vegemite (pah!) in the same sentence as Marmite! It's a mere downunder upstart wannabe if you ask me. Tastes nothing like the wonderful Marmite, on toast or on bread. So there.

  5. I love marmite and bovril especially on warm toast with lots of melted butter

    We used to get given cups of marmite or bovril 'tea' when I was little. A spoon full was dissolved in boiling water.

  6. Both parents loved Marmite (Marmite and onion sandwiches, especially), but the Marmite genes were definitely not passed along to my sister and I.

    However, the good thing: We always knew one thing to get our frugal ol' dad for Christmas... a great, wacking jar of Marmite. He was always thrilled. In Canada, Marmite is imported and relatively expensive.

  7. I just love the stuff: dripping into the holes of a crumpet, on toast with grilled tomatoes on the top (perfect lunch-time nosh for that tomato glut), on savoury biscuits/crackers/whatever with some cheese on top, added to a crisp sandwich.... I could go on. If I feel peaky it perks me up!

  8. Yipes, I 'ave dropped my haitch in "whacking." Incidentally, French Canadians do funny things with Hs, too. My father-in-law is known to say: I'm ongry, let's heat.

  9. There are some rather good cycling jerseys you can get - one has the marmite logo emblazoned on it and says 'I hate Jam' SAnother has a pot of jam on it and says 'hate marmite.'

    I am in the second camp.

    I also used to like that advert where the guy kisses his girlfriend and she recoils in horror - ughhh, yuk - then slogan appears, Marmite; love it or ate it.

  10. I find it surprising how such a revolting product as beer results in jars of yummy marmite ;)

  11. Like you I don't like it and never have! Flighty xx

  12. Thank you for the link love & for the explanation, I'm so relieved on behalf of marmosets everywhere. It's also very timely, as I'm reading Jasper Fforde's "The Well of Lost Plots," and Thursday Next has just given a jar of Marmite to Marianne Dashwood. I think I'd like to try Marmite, I actually like the smell of a brewery, so I might like the taste of one too.

  13. I love Marmite but had to stop eating it when I developed a yeast intolerance. Since then I have had Bovril instead. Imagine my surprise when I found that beefy Bovril hasn't had beef in it since the BSE days of 2004 and is now wholly vegetarian and quite possibly as yeasty as Marmite.

  14. Love it especially on buttered toast on a winter's day but as I have to cut down on the salt these days it rarely passes my lips.Oh woe is me - I am suffering from withdrawal symptoms :(

  15. Oh mercy, VP, thanks so much for this explanation! I was fed Marmite when on an archaeological dig at St. Alban's during a college summer and could not believe how horrid it was!!! (Ditto Vegemite.) But I had no idea what it was made from. Kudos to the Marmite folks at least for creative recycling! I understand that people who didn't grow up with peanut butter often feel the same loathing for it. But I'm stunned by the pro-Marmite contingent checking in here. There must be a better use for spent beer yeast!!!

  16. Nothing like fresh warm bread, butter and marmite.
    I always wash the last bit out of the jar with hot water and add it to soup as a stock.

  17. Ms Sock - your link says Malaysians eat Bovril in porridge and coffee. ??? Oh yuck!

  18. Hmm - I seem to be mainly surrounded by Marmite lovers then!

    A big welcome to first-time commenters Bensgarden, Ms B and Pickleandpreserve - good to see you :D

  19. Love it, especially on toast.

  20. Thanks for your welcome VP. I have been lurking for some time but it took marmite to winkle me out of the woodwork so to speak!

  21. Love it, love it, love it. (And the post too, of course.) I agree with Mrs Be, it's one of those things that you can eat when you're really tired and haven't got the energy to have a proper meal. Got to have lots of butter with it, though. Even the sight of the jar makes me smile.
    I only have one negative thing to say about Marmite - it is slightly inclined to give me hiccups. But that's probably down to the speed at which I scoff it!

  22. Hermes - :(

    Ms B - you're very welcome. It's lovely when people de-lurk. I also see you make exceeding good butterfly cakes ;)

    Victoria - I'm with OFB at the peanut butter end of things when it comes to speedy snacks. Ooh, and salad cream sandwiches :)

  23. I'm not trying to take over here, but just had to tell all those marmite lovers here that I read in the Guardian today that there is a marmite pop-up shop open on Regent St. I might just pop along!

  24. Ms B - further contributions are always welcome :)

    If anyone would like to find out more, here's the link

    And Arabella's link from earlier...

  25. Apparently the prisoners at HMP Dartmoor were lovers and used it with syrup and fruit to make hooch... until discoverd. Very enterprising.

    Forgive the link

  26. Colleen - that's a fab addition! Thank you :)


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