A jar of Marmite

OK, it can now be said (at least I said it to a 9-year-old boy this morning whose father was worried that he ate the same thing every day for breakfast):

I ate a Marmite sandwich every school day from (gulp) first grade to 12th grade.  Yep, that’s right.  Every school day for 12 years.  That’s a total of 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 9 months a year, for 12 years.

This equals 2,160 Marmite sandwiches that I’ve consumed on schooldays, which doesn’t even count all the other hundreds of times I’ve eaten Marmite.

What is Marmite? I hear you ask.

Marmite is a yeast extract.  It is black and glutinous.  It’s something that no one outside the British Isles, with the possible exception of outposts of the British Empire such as Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, can stand.

My friend Debbie Kovacs, the author of the Catie Copley children’s books, and my best friend from first to fourth grade, inclusive, as she says, tried it once.  And immediately spat it out.  She said it looked and tasted like “tar.”  This is a word that is often used in connection with the word “Marmite.”

I find that highly insulting.  Marmite is a delicacy.  An English delicacy, surpassing Welsh rarebit and even chocolate digestives.  But I do admit that it’s an acquired taste, best acquired before age three, I would say.

When I was one, two, and three years old, I was living in Cambridge, England, being fed Marmite sandwiches.  When my sister was three, we were living in State College, Pennsylvania, and she wasn’t being fed Marmite sandwiches because in those days foreign delicacies weren’t shipped across the world as they are now.  She was being fed peanut butter.

Consequently, my sister loved peanut butter and hated Marmite, and I loved Marmite and hated peanut butter, and neither of us could or would switch.  As I said, it’s an acquired taste.


Marmite has been much in the news of late.  Two days ago, a Member of Parliament said thusly about George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer:  [He] is a Marmite politician. You either really like him, or you simply can’t stand him.” (Guardian November 28, 2011).

And yesterday, a truck/lorry carrying 2 tons/tonnes of Marmite crashed on the M1, Britain’s major motorway/highway, as pictured below.


The Huffington Post had this to say:

‘Marmite’ Motorway Clean-Up Begins

A large-scale clean-up operation is under way after a tanker carrying more than 20 tonnes of yeast extract – believed to be Marmite – overturned on a busy motorway.

Police shut a section of the M1 in South Yorkshire at around 10.15pm on Monday following the incident, which saw the vehicle crash and and spill its contents onto the carriageway.

The road remains closed in both directions between junction 32 and 33 near Sheffield and is expected to cause delays for rush hour commuters.

A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said the tanker overturned after being involved in a collision with a motorcaravan.

The tanker driver was taken to hospital but their injuries are not believed to be serious, she added.

“We were called at 10.15pm yesterday to reports of a tanker, which was carrying 23.5 tonnes of waste yeast, overturning,” the force spokeswoman said.

“Some of the contents were spilled on the northbound carriageway and we are in the process of emptying the remaining contents of the tanker and clearing up the spillage before it can be moved and the road reopened.”

The Highways Agency said it expected the road to be reopened at around 8am.”

The incident with the Marmite spillage brought about some punning from Guardian readers:

“Marmite lorry has crashed on the M1. The driver is being yeast extracted from the wreckage.” @markfrary

“Did it affect the yeastbound carriageway?” @suthers

“If marmite have made a mess but at yeast nobody was hurt, 2 page spread inside…” @Ladadie

“My mum’s driving down the M1 to see me. I’m worried marmite be late.” @malcolmcoles

“We want to toast all those wanting to help mop up the spread of Marmite on the M1. Thankfully the driver has no serious injuries…” @thisismarmite


All I know is, when times are hard and I need a bit of comfort, I head to the jar of Marmite.  Just seeing that luscious brownness and smelling that delicious aroma makes me happy.  In fact, I could use a bit of comfort right now.  Marmite on toast would be just the thing.  Marmite.  There’s nothing like it.