Friday, October 30, 2009
Marmite and Vegemite
You either love 'em or hate 'em. These sticky, pungent, almost black accompaniments for toast are British and Australian classics.
Marmite and Vegemite (the latter an Australian knock-off of the former) are made from brewer's yeast, salt, and spice extracts. Both contain added vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid) and in addition, Marmite contains vitamin B12. They are both completely vegetarian. Lots of Britons grew up eating Marmite as soon as they were weaned, and our Australian flat-mate, Matt, is a Vegemite boy.
I did a taste test to find out once and for all which of these I like to eat. Or, perhaps, which I hate less. The Marmite is darker and viscous, a bit like thick molasses. I had to twirl the knife around to keep from trailing threads of Marmite over the edge of the jar. The Vegemite is more brown than black, more solid than liquid. It spread a bit like thick, brown cream cheese. I covered half of my warm toast with each one.
The Marmite toast tasted mellow and salty. The flavour was deep and dark. The Vegemite side was also salty, but also seemed a bit vinegary. The Vegemite tasted tangy and piercing. Thinking about the differences between them was like considering a young and old advice-giver: Marmite was a calm, authoritative voice, while Vegemite was an insistent, high-pitched talker.
I think Marmite will be my unguent substance of choice from now on. I can even imagine coming to quite like it in time. But I have to say that after the taste test, I spread the other piece of toast with apricot jam, as a palate cleanser. At the moment, sweet tops salty any day for me.