Marmageddon? A measured appreciation for Marmite

20 Mar

News of New Zealand’s Marmite shortage prompts an obsessive condiment quest and savory baked buns


Driving to the grocery store last evening, I hear on NPR what I initially take for an early April Fool’s Day joke: “‘Don’t freak.’ That’s what New Zealanders are being told about the Marmite shortage there. For Kiwis, that’s a big deal. So the manufacturer of Marmite is doing its best to avert panic…”

Say what, Robert Siegel?

Sitting in the grocery store parking lot, I listen to the rest of the story, waiting for the punchline. There isn’t one. Apparently, a world away, this is a big deal. Marmite, I learn, is a dark, salty spread, a “culinary cousin of Vegemite”, a yeast extract, and a beloved breakfast staple for New Zealanders. It is now being rationed because of supply shortages, brought on by last year’s earthquake that affected the country’s processing plant. As I listen, I whip out my phone and quickly Google the stuff, trying to understand how this condiment’s curtailment could make waves as world news. I read the following fun facts. Marmite is:

  • A dark, salty, savory spread, made from yeast yielded as a by-product of brewing beer;
  • Produced in the United Kingdom by Unilever, and sold as a sweeter version in New Zealand by a company called Sanitarium;
  • Touted as very nutritional, being high in B-vitamins, riboflavin, and niacin;
  • Commonly used as a spread on toast or in sandwiches;
  • Named for the French word for stock pot or cooking pot;
  • Popular with vegetarians as a meat-free alternative to beef extract products;
  • Best consumed with cheese and bread…

Well, hello there. An accompaniment to cheese and bread? Marmite, I must have you now. Suddenly, my grocery shopping takes an obsessive turn. I must get my hands on Marmite, before the rationing hits our hemisphere! It doesn’t occur to me that Marmite is not readily available locally. While shopping, I slowly pick through the “International” aisle, but go figure…there is no “British/Australian/New Zealand” section. Nothing turns up in the organic/healthier food aisles, either. Then I decide to try the downtown “snooty foods” specialty market. I call first.

“Hi. Do you carry Marmite?” Pause, then giggle. “Um, yes.”

Ten minutes later, with a miniscule $8 jar in hand, I am at the register as the store is closing. “Are you the one who just called about the Marmite? Man, I wouldn’t know what to do with that stuff!” Me, sheepishly: “Yeah, I am not really sure either. But they say it’s supposed to be good with cheese.” Clerk: “Yeah, and bread…”

Homeward bound with my petite pot of brown gold, I mentally think through my experimental preparation. And recall Robert Siegel’s closing words to the All Things Considered segment that kicked off this quest: “Marmite production is expected to resume in July. One can only hope that will be soon enough to avert what Kiwis are calling ‘Marmageddon’…”


Savory Marmite Cheddar Buns

Three simple ingredients: Refrigerated buttery crescent roll dough, Marmite, and 6 oz. shredded sharp Cheddar

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the crescent dough from the packaging, then ball it up!

Roll out the dough until it is quite thin, and about 9×12 inches.

Sparingly spread Marmite onto the rolled dough. This stuff is potent! Top with shredded Cheddar.

Tightly roll the topped dough from the narrower end. Seal the end of the roll with your fingertips to secure snugly. Slice into 1-inch sections, creating 8-10 rolls, and place onto baking sheet.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. 

Best enjoyed with a strong beer. I find that Marmite is definitely an acquired taste, and am not sure how Kiwis eat the stuff for breakfast, even in a sweeter form. The consistency and depth of, say, molasses, but with the bite of Worcestershire sauce and salty acidity of tomato paste. The Marmite website is a lot of fun, and has some other recipes that I will definitely try, as they are variations on this bread-cheddar-Marmite theme.

Have you tried Marmite? Are you a “lover” or a “hater”? How do you eat it? Would you like to buy a slightly used jar of Marmite for, say, $7.50?

14 Responses to “Marmageddon? A measured appreciation for Marmite”

  1. waterfallsandcaribous March 20, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Arggggghhhhh I make a similar recipe myself…though I can’t believe you SULLIED Marmite with that horrid, orange coloured cheese!!!! Waaaaah 😦 But yum – its times like this I miss having an oven.

    • ramblings&roasts March 20, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Oh, Waterfalls, I hear ya. Trust me: I am NOT a Cracker Barrel aficionada, or a fan of anything with “annatto” orange coloring added to it, or made by evil, ubiquitous Kraft Foods. My preference was for a nice, natural sharp Cheddar made by Vermont-based Cabot, or–had I not been so cheap or fixated on time with my hunt for Marmite gold–even a lovely, authentic, British Cheddar. But alas, the dreaded Cracker Barrel. Color me yellow with culinary shame! 🙂

      • waterfallsandcaribous March 20, 2012 at 10:05 am #

        Haha okay, for that response, you’re totally forgiven 🙂 Seriously, I loved seeing the pictures of your baking efforts. Marmite scrolls (or Vegemite) are one of my favourite indulgent treats, warm from the oven.

  2. Sarah March 20, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Fantastic post!! You are a brave, brave girl my dear. I once spent a month traveling in New Zealand, and had to eat Marmite almost every morning. It’s an acquired taste alright – you acquire it or you go hungry over there. I acquired it. What can I say, Kiwis are some of the nicest people on the planet, I couldn’t disappoint them! Although I don’t indulge in it too often, I don’t mind it either. With the shortage, maybe my Kiwi friends won’t feel the need to send me some this year? I guess I’ll have to buy yours. 🙂

    I REALLY admire how you dove right in and tried it. I don’t know enough people like you, you know? It’s fun trying new things! Even when you don’t particularly care for something in the end. Your cheddar buns look delicious! Don’t tell my cheesehead friends, but I have a big crush on Vermont cheddar. BIG crush.

    SO happy to wake up to this post. It goes swell with my morning coffee. AND, I’m thrilled I’m getting email notifications from you again. I did have to unfollow and follow again though….thanks for that tip dear. 🙂

    My turn to wish New York much love!!!!! xoxo

    • ramblings&roasts March 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      Haha! Thanks, Sarah. New Zealand has always been a dream destination of mine. I wanted to work on a sheep farm there instead of go to college. But, alas…I would love to hear about your adventures there. Your “acquire” comment makes me laugh! Enjoy the day.

      • Sarah March 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

        And that’s where I stayed in NZ, a big sheep ranch. Fabulous. As opposed to my stay in Australia; 2 weeks in Melbourne (loved!!!) but apparently they thought the best way to learn about Australia for the following 2 weeks was by spending it on a dairy farm. Helllloooooooo. From WI, remember?

  3. realfunfood March 20, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Oh my gosh … I HAVE to try this. I absolutely love Marmite + cheese toasties in the morning and this is way more fun!!! Thanks for posting!!

    • ramblings&roasts March 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. I am inspired by your own “realfunfood”…lovely pics over there!

  4. Vik Chhabra March 20, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    This look delish … I enjoy savory buns. I wonder how this would be w/ a goat cheese.

    • ramblings&roasts March 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      Hmmm…I definitely think it’s a Cheddar-y sort of thing. Goat might clash or get lost. Have you ever had Welsh Rarebit? Sort of like a tangy cheese dip? I bet that Marmite is used in that. Ask for it the next time you’re at Fitzgerald’s (that’s the name, yes?)…I am sure they know of this! Google Marmite today…so funny to see it all over the news…lots of lovers, and lots of folks who liken it to “inedible sludge” 🙂

  5. Ash April 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    That’s British Marmite, same brand-name, but completely different since 1919. (See Wikipedia’s entry on Marmite to explain the difference.) In particular, the shortage in NZ is due to the only site of manufacture of Sanitarium Marmite being a factory in Christchurch, damaged during the 2011 quake. The stuff they make and eat in the UK is in no shortage.

  6. click here June 4, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    Weird , your site shows up with a dark hue to it, what color is the primary color on your site?

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