Living in New Zealand: Marmite

I recently stumbled across an article about American foods that haven’t proved all that popular the world-over.  It was an interesting read.  Some of them aren’t favorites of mine (scrapple – ick, or fried green tomatoes), but some made me smile and have a gumbly homesick tummy.

It got me to thinking about some of the foods and meals that I never saw until moving to New Zealand.  Some (many?) didn’t exactly originate on these shores, but they’re still not things that you’d routinely see in the US, at least not in the parts of the US where I’ve lived.

Such as Marmite.

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Marmite – not to be confused with Vegemite – is not something that I’d choose to eat regularly, but for many Kiwis, it’s black gold.  It’s a Kiwi incarnation of the original British spread and has been made in NZ for over 100 years.  Described as having a “distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty and savoury”, it’s something that unless you’ve grown up eating it, most people won’t take a liking to.

Marmite is an especially hot commodity in New Zealand these days and in short supply. Why?  Well, the Canterbury earthquake back in February 2011 has long-reaching fingers.  The main plant for Marmite was damaged and as a result, production has ceased until repairs can be effected.  People have responded with tales of “Marmegeddon”, hoarding, and half-eaten jars of the stuff being sold on TradeMe.  Sound crazy to you?  It did to me, but then Americans are known for selling grilled cheese sandwiches with what looks to be the face of Jesus on them on eBay, so I suppose I ought not say too much.  Though I must admit that I had to laugh when I saw it listed as an “endangered species” by Stuff.co.nz.

The Marmite shortage was mildly big news for a little bit, with even the Prime Minister discussing the issue.  Truth be told, I’m a little behind the times in sharing about it.  I suppose the reason why I’m bringing it up is because, every now and again, you hear about it or see auctions for it.  As I mentioned above, people are selling (and bidding on) half-used jars of the stuff…

I still occasionally read about Marmite stashes being unearthed and the joy that ensues.  Some people use these discoveries for good – they auction it off for charity (the proceeds of the auction above is apparently going to the SPCA).  Others use it as a means of drumming up business, such as a restaurant that recently found 100 of the single-serve packets of Marmite in a storeroom somewhere.  Sure enough, there was an article in the newspaper, talking about their lucky find and how they intended to share it with their patrons, both old and (hopefully a few more) new.  Whatever it takes to get by in business, right?

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5 comments

  1. Ashley says:

    HAHAHA. I posted the picture of Anika eating the vegemite on my FB page last night and a few NZ family and friends piped up about Marmite being better and how the factory is down…I didnt realize the factory was in Chch. Someone on my page asked what the difference between marmite and vegemite is and a kiwis friend responded its like the difference between shiraz and merlot 🙂 I have no idea. I usually HATE both, but I put a TINY TINY skim on my veggie burger sandwich last night, and it was actually ok…I guess I was using too much before!

  2. Becca says:

    Ooh, I had Marmite once, the UK version… A friend broiled an English muffin sandwich for me with fresh tomato, sharp cheddar cheese, and the teensiest bit of Marmite. Yum yum yum. But I would definitely not like it glopped on crackers! LOL

  3. Valerie says:

    Ugh… marmite does not sound very appealing to me but then I guess taste really does depend on what foods you ate as you grew up. The article you linked was interesting (really, root beer isn’t loved the world round?!) and I guess I should give marmite it’s fair chance. 😉

  4. Michelle says:

    I’m a Vegemite girl. We have Marmite unopened in the pantry for Pete, I think I’ll save it for when he wants mousetraps for lunch 🙂

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