Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Brown Stuff

I was having a bit of toast and Marmite this morning and was in pensive mood. There were two jars in the cupboard one big and one small.

I got to thinking why would anyone would have two sizes. When I were a nipper Marmite used to be almost cheap. These days the content of a large jar is fast approaching the price of the most expensive commodity known to man - bubble jet printer ink. Dollop for dollop small jars cost significantly more. For something that used to be scraped from the arse-end of the brewing industry and fed to pigs this is quite an achievement.

There was also a jar of Bovril in the cupboard. 

It reminded me a an exchange I have had with a number of, otherwise sensible, people along the lines of:

“Have you got any Marmite?”

“No, but I’ve got some Bovril.”

Why do some people think these are interchangeable, that  one is a suitable substitute for the other? It’s like saying have you got a bicycle? No but I've got a shed. Just plain stupid.

Of course the reason is that these two foodstuffs have some things in common. They are brown and can be put on bread or diluted to make a drink. The other main similarity is the shape of the jar.

If you could be bothered to soak the labels off and swap the lids around your average non-specialist would be hard pressed to tell the difference. 

Both products are made by Unilever and I suppose the jars come from the same place... hmmm.

Another blind spot which is revealed by the crass suggestion that these two products are synonymous is that Marmite is 100% vegetarian. And while Bovril does include yeast extract, the major ingredient is the body parts of dead cows and consequently fails miserably in the ‘being nice to animals’ stakes in which Marmite ranks so highly. The current Bovril label even has a graphic based on a cattle brand which reads BEEF - how clear can you be?

Moving on to the ubiquity of Marmite...

Twiglets must have been the first commercially produced Marmite flavoured snack.

And anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting a British pub in the last 20 years is likely to have come across Marmite flavour crisps.

You can just hear them at Marmite Towers "hmmmm, too good for Walkers, let's make our own"

But Cashew nuts?

Then things began to get really silly.

I first noticed when they started to sell the stuff in squeezy bottles. Not only are they upside down, but the large size doesn't even say Marmite on the front (well, it does but only on the little cooking pot for which the tuff is named.)


And for the last few years they have been on something of an offensive.

Champagne Marmite
for Valentines day
Guinness flavour?

The Official Spread of the
England Cricket Team
Marmite with added cheese
And if a pot of Marmite with cheese doesn't quite grab you how about a block of cheese with added Marmite:

Too lazy to actually spread the damn stuff yourself?

 Or maybe you do love spreading it yourself and never leave home without it:

We are obvioulsy going to hell in a handcart, time to blame some foriegners...

You can enter the ‘completely predictable conversation is about to happen’ stakes by saying the word ‘Marmite’ to an Australian who is almost guaranteed to utter a sentence including the work ‘Vegemite’ probably with some expression of brand preference which is unlikely to favour Marmite.

Fer Christ’s sake, it’s not even
in the right type of jar…
And I have it on good authority that it is entirely devoid of vitamin B12. This is what happens when you get your yeast extract from a brewery that makes Fosters, Castlemaine and those other frozen parodies of beer. I wonder what the sheep equivalent of Bovril tastes like...

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