Friday, December 16, 2011

The Marmite Effect

Marmite, that tar-like extremely savory yeast extract beloved by British people and despised by almost everyone else, is so proud of its ability to arouse such opposing passions, that it has designed its entire publicity engine around it. The website asks you to choose: Love It or Hate It? Each takes you to a different version of the site. Their TV advertising even capitalized on the strength of people’s reactions to the stuff, both pro and con. Marmite has become so well known as a polarizing product that there is something known as “the Marmite Effect” to describe something that provokes extremes.

The British like to think that you have to be raised on Marmite in order to develop a love for it. Certainly, coming to its pungent flavor late in life is not likely to result in quite the same following as a native consumer. There is no middle ground, no mild tolerance. It is so firmly embedded in the taste buds of the patriotic that it has been included in the rations of British troops from WWI on. For those living abroad in places where it can't be found on supermarket shelves, it is considered black gold, something to be devoutly treasured, with every last sticky smear scraped from the inside of the dark jar by the tip of a butter knife.

Marmite is made primarily from the sludge leftover from beer production — brewer’s yeast. It is very rich in B vitamins (including folic acid) and minerals, vegetarian, and very good for you. It is traditionally spread thinly on buttered toast, though it also makes for flavorsome stock and a hearty drink when mixed with water.

Here’s Nigella Lawson cooking Spaghetti With Marmite.

And the recipe reproduced from her book, Nigella’s Kitchen:

For Hitch, who loved Marmite, and extremes. You can take a man out of England, but you can’t take England out of the man.

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