An Unctuous Eulogy to a Friend from England
Text and photos by Ross Hunter, gourmand
Christmas is coming, you are alone in Moscow, a long way from home. The photo album is out, Verdi’s ‘Song of the Hebrew Slaves’ is gently haunting the living room. What is it that you most truly miss about Britain? Sport, weather, politics, the tabloid press, 99p pricing, another eternal final sale at the sofa shop, red buses and black taxis? Expendable, all of them.
Missing Marmite is the one true mark of the exiled Brit. The only thing that cannot be bought or rented in Moscow. The essential question asked by and of any visitor with space in their case is can you bring me a jar?
Never mind the fancy recipes, the man home alone needs Marmite in the fridge door. On toast in the morning, with cheese for lunch, sharpening up afternoon tea, as garnish, spice, sauce, or neat spoonful, Marmite has more uses than ketchup. It is rumored to cure hangovers, but I wouldn’t know about that. It is genetically imprinted on the Englishman’s tongue.
What is it? A splendid spread, rich, dark and full of vitamins. Brought to life literally at the back end of the Burton-on-Trent breweries, it is the poor man’s caviar. As Omar Khayyam almost said
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Jar of Marmite, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Admit it: you can feel your taste buds tingling. If you are English, that is. Marmite is an acquired taste. Like cricket, it takes at least three generations for its essential subtlety and complexity to eat its way into the DNA. Poor impoverished foreigners miss the point entirely. One of the funniest party games is a blindfold tasting game with a Russian (or any other external). But you will need to clean the carpet afterwards, once you have finished laughing. Taken in hot water, Marmite is brilliant at warding off winter colds, and better still, like garlic to a vampire, it is fantastic at warding off Australians, who, poor souls, maintain a devotion to their own impoverished product. Spread the word!