We were expecting friends for dinner…..the dining room table had been cleared of papers, tablets, bills and blood pressure monitors….the kitchen harboured plates, cutlery, glasses and serving dishes…the pud had been made, starters likewise, packets of mixed nuts and maize crisps were ready to have their foil seals violated by the knife…

And then came The Intervention.

I am not always sure if the internet is a blessing or a curse.
I use it to check out stuff…but don’t have a lot of confidence in it…I use it for telephoning family and friends through Skype…and, of course use the e mail and blogging functions.

My husband uses it to encourage his enthusiasms.

We have undergone a number of these enthusiasms in our time, notably kitchen gadgets…but just lately watches which don’t work but which seem to cost a fortune if the customs catches them in transit have been in favour…taking over from bitter almond kernels, seeds from India which arrive in matchboxes and sprout into alarming monstrosities, and, of course, socks.

But, revenons a nos moutons….
I was just sorting out the veg and the main course when suddenly my big saucepan was confiscated.
He had found the lees of the banana wine which I had planned to dump on the compost heap and had…thanks to the internet…decided to make Marmite.

Previously we could buy Marmite at the Queen’s birthday party at the British Embassy…but the new very PC ambassador doesn’t want to continue the tradition….

So we are dependent on visitors for supplies. Unless we want to fly to Miami and I am blowed if, even for Marmite, I will enter the hell that is an American airport with its bullying staff and thieving baggage handlers….not to speak of paranoid immigration officers and customs officials intent on confiscating the ingredients of my picnic.
I have been sorely tempted to thrust a liquorice stick into an orange and mark it BOMB in felt tip pen….but they have no sense of humour and would inevitably take it amiss.

The Belgian visitors are exemplary…not only do we get Belgian smoked fish, the best chocolate in the world and cheese that would knock your socks off but they ransack the English Shop for Stilton, pork pies and, of course, Marmite.
But no Belgian visitors are due for another year and the supplies brought by our last visitor from London will run out before the next batch arrive from Europe.
Though I shall ask the visitor coming from South Africa if Marmite is available in Cape Town….

So, passing the number of jars in review, husband had grown alarmed and had consulted the internet.
Which had supplied the answer.
Yeast….the wine lees.
And my saucepan.

Chef assumes the controls.

An area of the work surface is cleared….carrots, onions and celery commandeered from my prep area, chopped and put on to boil….

I find a smaller saucepan, pick out more veg, and find a corner of the stove to blanch them….

Where’s the funnel? I want to pour off the bit of wine on the top.

Pause for rummagings in the cupboard under the sink as things best left undisturbed emerge blinking into the light.

Why do you keep the souffle dishes in here?

Further pause while souffle dishes are removed to the cupboard where I keep my dry goods.
I seize the moment to drain my veg and run the cold water over them.
Tap turned off.

Don’t get water in my yeast!

Veg rescued and removed to be tied up in chive ribbons before going into the fridge.
Wine poured off and drunk.

Why don’t you leave the wine on the lees longer…this is much better….
Smaller saucepan seized, put on the stove and the lees poured into it.

Just give it a stir from time to time…don’t want it sticking.

Technical details attended to he retires to the balcony.

I now have two saucepans in use and two gas rings. I have dinner to prepare. One involving a few pots and pans.
And I mustn’t forget to stir the lees which look a bit like the estuary of the Amazon on a windy day.
Or let the assorted veg boil dry….

The clock is ticking.

Chef returns.

Where’s the colander?

More rummaging in the cupboard under the sink.

Why do you keep this conical strainer in here?

Pause while the chinois is removed to the cupboard where I keep the spices.

The colander is placed over the saucepan containing the lees and the veg water poured into it.

I thought you didn’t want water in the yeast….

This is stock.

I rescue the pan, put the veg aside for the dogs, and put on water to skin my tomatoes.

All is returning to normal….tomatoes skinned, garlic cloves ready to go, chicken cut into portions, butter in the freezer for the sauce….

Table laid, I retire to the shower.

A head round the door.

Aren’t you stirring the yeast?

I reply that as the shower operates on water, not stock, I had thought it unwise to bring the saucepan in with me.

Do I have to do everything? Why is it that I’m the one who has to worry about when we run out of Marmite……

Chef retires to stir the yeast.

Cleaned up, dressed and aproned (I am a true muckworm when it comes to splashes and stains) I return to the kitchen.
Chef retires to the shower.

Progress is made. I am up with the clock.

Where are my socks?

I had, unforgivably, moved them to a drawer in the new wardrobe without leaving a trail of arrows pointing there from their previous abode.

The estuary of the Amazon now looks as if the tide is going out….

Duly socked…if only…Chef emerges.

Are you stirring it?

Our friends arrive….the mud of the Amazon is removed from the heat and an enjoyable evening begins.

It is while I am turning in circles wondering where my conical strainer had gone…ah yes, of course, in with the spices…. that I hear Chef informing our friends that he had spent the afternoon making Marmite.
Being Costa Rican, they are not familiar with this nectar of the gods so he comes in to take an opened jar and a couple of spoons to give samples.

As I whisk the butter into the strained sauce I hear the voice of Eduardo….

And you spent all afternoon making this?
Whatever for?


48 thoughts on “Marmite!”

  1. Sorry, no sympathy from me.
    Having guests, cooking dinner for them, getting tidied up myself, is a chore enough by itself without a husband getting in the way and making something he can perfectly well make on another day.

    I also have no hesitation in saying so at the time, which makes a husband scuttle out of the way, possibly only as far as the wine racks, one of the few places where he can make himself useful.

    Marmite, I loathe the stuff, but if you need it urgently, I’d be willing to send you some; I cannot imagine a CR customs officer being so misguided that they’d pinch it. Unless they needed it to stimulate their compost heaps.

    1. Clearly I need more practice with whip and chair!

      That’s a lovely offer, and thank you very much….but I think with the help of the home made variety we shall survive.
      Though I’m not too sure that banana flavoured Marmite would take off commercially.

  2. I WISH i could disagree with you about the loathsome people who work in American airports, but I cannot. You are right yet again. As to Marmite, it is something for which I’ve yet to develop a taste…though I do love bananas.

  3. I love Marmite but my husband hates it so we seldom have it in the house:-( I can just eat it by the spoonful. Yes South Africa has plenty of Marmite on the shelves, or they certainly did in the 50 years I lived in Rhodesia/S.A. Sure it will be an easier method of getting it than to try and make it :-)) Keep well Diane

    1. Hot toast and Marmite..sheer bliss!
      I’ll be contacting our South African friend right away as I could do without another Marmite session in the kitchen….

  4. We are a Friends of Marmite House and I want to marry your husband. Our last jar hit the bin last week – Cold turkey has already set in. Please post the recipe.

    1. He used the lees of the banana wine…about two litres…and then another litre of water in which he cooked off carrots, onion and celery. He let the whole thing reduce to sludge.
      There is a sort of banana back taste to it…but it is recognisably of the Marmite family.

      He had his recipe (doubtless adapted) from the internet so it might be worth you taking a look…..

  5. Having lived in Australia for 30+ years, I’ve acquired the taste for Vegemite. (Most English folk shudder) But only to have on hot buttery toast.

    Love the thought of you tying ribbons of chives , all the while grabbing wandering pans and fielding chinois…you’re a cartoonist’s delight, you are!

  6. Is there a day job available? A course he might want to take? This would have been my father, and for the life of me I can’t recall how my mother solved the problem, except she did.

  7. I was helpless with laughter at this, and somewhat horrified that there even exists a means of reproducing Marmite using bananas…A pity this comes some 15 years too late, but TH worked briefly in Burton-on-Trent, within sight of the Marmite factory. I’m sure I could have persuaded him to start work on the Great Burton-to-San-Juan Marmite Pipeline..

    1. If he was in Burton on Trent I’d have settled for a beer pipeline….

      I’m pretty sure that bananas did not figure in the internet recipe…but as he had the lees to hand that’s what he used.

  8. I regret to say that I’m with Eduardo. πŸ™‚ I’ve never been a Marmite-lover, but even so I can sympathise with the plight of one who is and whose stocks have run out. Full marks to your husband for ingenuity, but he definitely comes bottom of the class in timing.

  9. Its pretty predictable that he would announce that HE spent the afternoon making it. I love Marmite too. At the moment I’m scraping the last of a jar that I found at the back of the cupboard that’s a couple of years out of date…I’m sure it doesn’t go off though. Not sure I could be bothered to make it!

  10. Hilarious!
    But why bother unless you wish to lose friends…..?
    I’m sure it can be obtained by post……

    1. There are problems with the post….thanks to various unlovely persons having persuaded the Health Ministry that they and only they can import foodstuffs there is a great risk that something like Marmite would be confiscated, have to undergo expensive tests and no doubt have a tax slapped on it.

      Mark you, if the parcel was marked Bomb no doubt it would arrive unhindered…..

  11. I never got on with British Marmite, New Zealand Marmite is a staple product in my pantry. I’m going to be able to perform a unique service to the people of New Zealand soon. In the Christchurch Earthquake the Marmite factory was destroyed and as cupboard stocks of Marmite ran out. Marmageddon ensued. There was no marmite anywhere in New Zealand. None! Well except the handful of jars in my Cupboard in England. So I now have the worlds last pot of original Kiwi Marmite. The new factory has been finished and has started making new Marmite and the New Zealanders are saying..”It’s not the same”. They have no point of reference since it’s over a year since they ran out. I have my pot of original and I’ve got a pot of the new stuff coming. I and I alone will be able to advise the Kiwis if the new Marmite is the same as the old Marmite or not. I’m looking forward to milking that one.

  12. Well you can get Marmite here – but I could send Vegemite as well. You have to have one or the other on toast!

  13. But was the Marmite project worth the effort? Does it taste as good?

    You are SO tolerant. If MOH had attempted such a thing at such a time (not that he would, being unable to even heat up a pan of soup), the word “frying pan” and “cranium” spring to mind.

    As for the ritual humiliation and contempt visitors to the United States are subjected to by their Immigration folk, once was enough. Twice was twice too often. Never again.

    Have a nice day, now.

    1. Does it taste as good…no.
      It is Marmite-ish, recognisably so…but I think the banana lees have a lot for which to answer.
      Frying pan and cranium certainly did spring to mind – I’m not known for my patience – but it was quicker to let him get on and get out from under my feet as my object was to have a meal present and correct when our friends arrived.

      And as for the U.S….I feel we are not alone in that view.

  14. Oh lordy I’m with Eduardo!

    Think if it was me I’d have been urgently waving a nicely sharpened meat cleaver or fleshing knife under the nose of the marmite fan!

    Will be happy to send you a jar or 2 if severe withdrawal symptoms occur –the local SuperU stocks the stuff.

    1. Luckily the South African visitor will be bringing supplies…thank you Diane (above) for the tip….so you will be spared a visit to what in my time was known as the ‘exotic products’ shelf. Since when has Marmite been exotic!

      He can take a hint: today I had put out my washing to dry before the afternoon rains started when he emerged from the tilapia tanks with buckets of fish – think tritons in welllies – with the idea of smoking them.
      The Look persuaded him that the smoker could wait to be lit until the washing was dry….

  15. My daughters regard Marmite as one of their essential nutrients but even they have never thought of making it. Or even asking me to make it, which is more probable.

  16. Hi Helen – we have a split household, I don’t do marmite but Clive adores the stuff. He’s happy that he gets to eat the whole jar himself. I’d pay just to spend an hour or two watching and listening to you and hubby interacting like that, it sounds hilarious. I can concur that marmite is readily available in SA.
    By the way, am I allowed to add your blog to my reading list on my blog so I know when you update or would you prefer that I not? I need to remember to check out the link at the moment to see if you’ve posted…

    1. CraIg, please feel free to add the blog to your reading list…most kind of you.

      We do have our moments it must be admitted….fired with enthusiasm he reminds me sometimes of the White Knight in Alice…
      ‘It’s an invention of my own…’

  17. I’m with Annie, I want to marry your husband too if he can make Marmite. We’ve just finished our last jar and have to wait a month before my mum comes. (Though to be honest, there’s a British shop that sells it – but at a price beyond what I can bear to part with in one go.) I would never have thought of making it….hmmm…

    1. I could buy Marmite in France…but the price was more than Scots blood could stand….

      His ersatz version wasn’t too bad…but I’ll take the tip in the link from Merewoman (above) and wash the lees if he ever feels inspired to make it again.

  18. Haha a wonderful comment! And also a revelation. I shall have to give it to someone I know who has two young kids who adore the stuff. I am not sure that those quantities are really good for them actually. Still, there is one question in my mind. Are you sure you have not made Vegemite or one of those awful Marmite imitations you get in Tesco? That would be simply terrible, after all the work you have put in πŸ™‚

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