North America has nothing to compare to the salty, umami, bitter, tangy savor of Marmite. Nothing!
I'd never planned to do more than try Marmite, thinking from its pungent smell and sticky texture that I wouldn't like it. I tried it for form's sake, at West Dean College, probably at one of the rare breakfasts I took in the dining room (not being a morning person, I usually had coffee and yogurt in my room.) Marmite eaten plain is too strong for me (although I like strong flavors), but I soon found that it was splendid, spread thinly on buttered toast.
Marmite owes its existence to frugality and a smart business decision to turn product waste into product. It's a by-product of the beer-brewing process; I believe it is largely the concentrated lees--the sediment of brewing, usually made up of dead yeast and grain solids. I know that doesn't sound appetizing, but if you think on it, you 'll cotton on to the fact that fermentation products are nearly universally, delicious, nutritious and not to be wasted. Pickles, cheese, beer, wine, and bread are all the managed results of yeasts, sugar, warmth and damp.
As I mentioned, Marmite is sticky , like honey, so it must be eaten on something else (if only a spoon: I tried that once and don't recommend it for Marmite virgins.) It is so strong-tasting that it 's usually eaten with something else because the flavor is too intense to be consumed on its own. In fact, some would consider Marmite a condiment, but that would be an error, as condiments enhance other foods, while Marmite is the major player, relegating toast, crackers and even crisps to accompanist status.
At a month-long stay at Conishead Priory, I found that the Kadampa buddhists there, while not eschewing eggs, don't serve them at breakfast (except when there is a course and many visitors.) Finding that cereal left me starving by ten, I started with peanut-butter on toast, but that soon palled. I turned to the nearly-full bottle of Marmite, splendidly regal in is brown glass jar, isolated and ignored among the rotating, quickly-demolished selection of jams.
Most people wouldn't touch the stuff. One other volunteer, from Croatia, told me that she had mistaken it for blackberry preserves, smearing a thick layer of it on her toast and biting it with extreme and hasty relish. The shock made certain she would never, ever try that again, poor thing. I tried to reason with her, to explain that in the proper amount, with the correct expectation, Marmite would be a delicious addition to her diet, and nutritious, too, containing B vitamins. She just laughed and shook her head. Sigh. Another possible convert lost to the element of surprise. (Maybe Marmite should add to its label a caution for the far-sighted, the non-English speaker or the absent-minded: something like, "Beware! This is NOT a jam!"
With a little experimentation, I found that the most delicious Marmite experience is to be had by mixing the Marmite paste 50/50 with soft butter before applying it to the toast. (Rye and whole wheat are nicer than white breads, adding that nutty toasted grain flavor.) The butterfat and creamy mouthfeel softens the bitterness without softening the umami tang, and enhances smoothness, added richness to the whole. It's better than spreading the Marmite on already-buttered toast, as the two elements are blended: otherwise, you experience a sharp top layer that eradicates the effect of the butter. Blending the two creates a flavor synergy you can't get by layering. Don't laugh: these things are important!
I bought the smallest jar of Marmite at Poundland just before leaving Chichester, and brought it back to the US with me, emptying it in four months. I've now been Marmite-deprived for nearly ten months because the only place that sells it here charges nearly $8 for the same sized jar--a heartbreaking turn of events. (I'm going to write about Poundland one of these days.) The only product that even vaguely approaches it s rich, salty savor is brown miso paste--and the two really aren't close, although both brothers of fermentation and extracting, miso being made from fermented soy.
What I mean to say is, when I was rich in Marmite and tried it as a cup of broth, it was rough going to get it down, unlike miso. But as I write this, I realize it never occurred to me to try substituting miso, blended 50/50 with butter, for my beloved Marmite toast. Maybe, just until I can find a decently-priced Marmite, I should avail myself of the three-year miso supply in the fridge (I don't love it all that much) and try to replicate the Marmite toast recipe that delighted my tastebuds and made my breakfast satisfying during those happy days at Conishead Priory. In fact, I think I'll try it today. But just until I find a new source of Marmite, an unbelievable luxury in this wild, lonely, foreign place.