I’M a patient and long-suffering sort at heart. While I may chunter away under my breath about how the world’s gone to hell in a handcart it takes a lot to really get my goat, but the straw that snaps the spine has now been applied to the camel of my consciousness.
So please, can we stop mucking about with Marmite?
They say you either love or hate the brown sludge spread with the distinctive state, and I’m firmly in the former camp.
My childhood exposure to yeast extracts came through Jardox – can you see what they did with the name? I didn’t clock it until years later – which I think was always a trade supplier, rather than a retail offer, and may well be to this day.
Jardox was always much runnier than Marmite, and easier for a small child to dribble over a slice of Sunblest, but there’s no doubt that Marmite is the superior product.
I like it on toast, I like it spread on a slice of cheddar, I use it in sauces and gravies. I’m a fan.
But what I don’t like is the way that a pot of useful stuff, a clever idea to turn brewing by-products into a food that sits in my pantry cupboard waiting to serve, has been turned into a personality, a happening, a brand.
Marmite has its own Facebook page, of course. It has a Twitter feed, you won’t be surprised to know. It has a fan club, too, from which all sorts of Marmite mania merchandise is available.
Look, I like it, but it’s really not that important.
So you won’t be surprised to learn that what really riles me are the special editions, profit-boosting partnerships and other ventures that try and get beyond the central truth that Marmite has an odd but appealing taste and is a handy extra for many recipes.
Over the years we’ve had Marmite flavoured with Guinness, with bitter, even with champagne.
It’s been used to flavour crisps, cereal bars, and all sorts of other stuff. Starbucks even offers a Cheese and marmite panini on its menu.
For years it came in a distinctive jar and that was the only option – now you can get it in a squeezy bottle, in a sachet, you can probably get it in tablet form if you want it.
And what’s the latest wheeze? You may have seen it on the shelves of your local supermarket – a makeover to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which doesn’t involve any new recipe but has just seen the label tweaked to turn it into Ma’amite. Count to ten, breathe out, relax. No, it still irritates me more than I can say.
This way madness lies. I am sure the Marmite marketing team are even now chewing the ends off pencils and brainstorming other ideas. A special edition to be sold at rural markets called Farmite? A Buddhist option, to be diluted in soothing tea, which will go by the name of Karmite? An adults only variation in which that tell-tale aroma is added to a deodorant spray, dubbed Underarmite?
Why can’t anything be left alone? Marmite is a useful, but a very minor, part of my life, and it pottered along happily enough for a century or so before all this makeover nonsense started. It served a purpose, which is all we can all ask – but that’s apparently just not enough any more.