I absolutely adore the stuff! I know people either love it or hate it, but I am well and truly in the LOVE IT camp. I eat it by the spoonful when I’m in Marmite mode. (I have to confess to being a bit faddy about food.)  Mind you, when I say people either love it or hate it that excludes my work colleague, Suzette, who says she doesn’t like it but loves Twiglets????? And who craves it sometimes?????

I hadn’t had Marmite for ages, although I always have a pot of it in the house (great for flavouring soups, etc) but then my friend, Anne Germain, said that she was being eaten alive by insects when in the garden and I remembered that whenever I’ve eaten Marmite, or taken B complex vitamins, I’ve never been bitten. The little beasties love me too, but I stopped eating Marmite on toast for breakfast when I gave up wheat about 15 years ago, and have only recently started eating wheat free bread again (it used to be pretty grim but is much better now).

Marmite is the French word for a large earthenware or metal cooking pot with a lid, hence the picture on the Marmite label. Back in the 19th century a German scientist named Justus von Liebig discovered that brewer’s yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten. One can only imagine what he was taking to put him onto that train of thought, but I’m so glad he did it!

The Marmite Food Extract Company was founded in 1902 in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire. Back then, it was sold in earthenware pots. The glass jars that we know and love didn’t come into play until the 1920s. The yeast required to make the Marmite came from the nearby Bass Brewery. By 1907, Marmite had become so popular that a second factory opened up in Camberwell Green in South London. The factory was closed in the 1960s. Apparently, the local residents tried to get a reduction on their rates (basically, what we now know as Council Tax) because the smell from the factory was so awful!

The UK version of Marmite is sold pretty much all over the world, except in New Zealand, Australia and the surrounding areas. This is because it is manufactured under licence in Christchurch, New Zealand, using a modified recipe. It is apparently not as “tangy” as the British version. (I don’t want to hear any more comments about Whinging Poms then!)

During the First World War, Marmite was issued to British troops as part of their rations as it had been discovered that it helped in prevention of beriberi, a deficiency disease. In the 1930s, a British scientist named Lucy Wills used it to treat anaemia. It was later found that it was the Folic Acid present in the Marmite that did the trick.

It’s not just me who loves the big M. Apparently the Rolling Stones and Dido are huge fans! Yay, I knew there was a reason I liked their music. So are Britney Spears and Eddie Redmayne. Madonna and Russell Brand both hate it. Never mind.


Things you didn’t know about Marmite

Both Gary Rhodes and Nigella Lawson have used it in recipes.

Footballer Nicolas Anelker is scared of it, even though he’s never tried it.

If you put a blob on a plate and keep tapping it with a spoon, it goes a lighter colour. Apparently, it’s because it gets air bubbles in it… Mmm, something to do when you’re bored I guess.

It’s popular in prisons, with the inmates, at any rate. Apparently it can be used to make alcohol.

It is generally considered to be gluten free, although the manufacturers will not confirm this.

In Sri Lanka, it’s a hangover cure. It’s made into a hot drink, with lime juice and a fried, sliced onion. Well, I’d give it a try.

There is a Marmite cook book by Paul Hartley.

There is a sculpture in Burton-on-Trent called Monumite.

In 2009, a thief stole 18 jars in one month from a petrol station. They ceased stocking it after that.

© Susan Shirley 2015


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