Will Dylan Eat It: Marmite

Immediately after the Maitre d’ called the previous taste-test too easy, I decided to call his bluff and haul out something completely disgusting (to some people, anyway; I rather like the stuff): Marmite.

A jar of evil.
Marmite, food of Satan.

If you’re not British or a part-time Anglophile like the Chef, you probably haven’t been exposed to this exotic foodstuff. But then, considering that the British Isles have also produced supposedly edible things like haggis and jellied eels, most sane and rational people avoid the region’s cooking at all costs. Note that neither the Chef nor the Maitre d’ suffer from being sane and rational. Questions of our sanity aside, Marmite is a spread made from yeast extract, usually put thinly on toast. Basically, sometime in the early 20th century, some genius said, “Hey, we have all of this yeast left over from making beer. What can we do to make it useful?” (The British are, needless to say, big on that whole “waste not, want not”, thing.) It was discovered that adding enough salt to kill a horse coincidentally also killed the yeast culture, which after some processing yielded up a thick, sticky paste that might be edible. It also has an unfortunate brown color that doesn’t help many people’s opinion of it.

Marmite’s flavor is very strong and unusual, which leads people to one of two reactions: they either can’t stand the stuff and want to see its creators burned at the stake, or they love Marmite and want to get nekkid, slather themselves with it, and toast themselves between two large slices of bread. It’s also well-loved with hard cheeses, especially the sharp varieties (the Chef’s favorite is a sandwich with Marmite and Cracker Barrel Extra-Sharp White, a sort of international lovefest on bread). Marmite is also full of B vitamins, making it a popular with parents.

Fortunately, Unilever Bestfoods, the makers of Marmite, have taken the public’s polarization with the usual British good humor (or humour, if you’re feeling especially English), working the divide into most of their advertising campaigns. Even the product’s web site is divided into “love it” or “hate it” sections, allowing you to choose your faction in the war on Marmite (which is sort of like the war on terrorism, but much tastier).

As a side note, I’m sad that I never got my hands on any of the special edition Guinness-flavored Marmite. I love Marmite and I love Guinness, and the two together must be a combination greater than Batman and Robin, chocolate and peanut butter, and Donnie and Marie all mixed together in a blender.

Is it supposed to smell like that?
Is it supposed to
smell like that?

Unfortunately for Dylan, this unholy bread spread (try saying that ten times fast, folks) would be his next challenge. He gamely took a sniff of the opened jar, recoiling in fear from the odor that emanated from it. Meanwhile, the Chef basked in the glow of Marmite-powered victory: if Dylan failed to consume this foodstuff and keep it down, he would have to be the Chef’s sex slave for the rest of his life. Or something like that – we never did actually set down any terms for failure. I can always make something up on the spur of the moment, though.

Is it supposed to stick to my finger like that?
The banister’s sticky.

Experimentally, the Maitre d’ dipped the tip of his finger into the jar. Words can’t explain how sticky Marmite is. If you took all of the stickiness from maple syrup, melted Jolly Ranchers, a little kid’s face after a sucker, and a jar of rubber cement and put them together, you might have something the consistency of Marmite. It gets everywhere – on your fingers, your knife, your plate, your clothes, anywhere you get your utensils near, everywhere. And it doesn’t come off very easily.

About The Chef

The Chef was born 856 years ago on a small planet orbiting a star in the Argolis cluster. It was prophesied that the arrival of a child with a birthmark shaped like a tentacle would herald the planet's destruction. When the future Chef was born with just such a birthmark, panic ensued (this would not be the last time the Chef inspired such emotion). The child, tentacle and all, was loaded into a rocket-powered garbage scow and launched into space. Unfortunately, the rocket's exhaust ignited one of the spectators' flatulence, resulting in a massive explosion that detonated the planet's core, destroying the world and killing everyone on it.

The Chef.
Your host, hero to millions, the Chef.
Oblivious, the dumpster containing the infant Chef sped on. It crashed on a small blue world due to a freakish loophole in the laws of nature that virtually guarantees any object shot randomly into space will always land on Earth. The garbage scow remained buried in the icy wastes of the frozen north until the Chef awoke in 1901. Unfortunately, a passing Norwegian sailor accidentally drove a boat through his head, causing him to go back to sleep for another 23 years.

When the would-be Chef awoke from his torpor, he looked around at the new world he found himself on. His first words were, “Hey, this place sucks." Disguising himself as one of the planet's dominant species of semi-domesticated ape, the being who would become known as the Chef wandered the Earth until he ended up in its most disreputable slum - Paris, France.

Taking a job as a can-can dancer, the young Chef made a living that way until one day one of the cooks at a local bistro fell ill with food poisoning (oh, bitter irony). In a desperate move, the bistro's owner rushed into one of the local dance halls, searching for a replacement. He grabbed the ugliest can-can dancer he could find, and found himself instead with an enterprising (if strange) young man who now decided, based on this random encounter, to only answer to the name “Chef".

His success as a French chef was immediate (but considering that this is a country where frogs and snails are considered delicacies, this may or may not be a significant achievement). Not only was the Chef's food delicious, it also kept down the local homeless population. He rose to the heights of stardom in French cuisine, and started a holy war against the United Kingdom to end the reign of terror British food had inflicted on its citizens.

When the Crimean War broke out around France, the Chef assisted Nikola Tesla and Galileo in perfecting the scanning electron microscope, which was crucial in driving back the oncoming Communist hordes. It would later be said that without the Chef, the war would have been lost. He was personally awarded a Purple Heart by the King of France.

After that, the Chef traveled to America, home of such dubious culinary delights as McDonald's Quarter Pounder With Cheese. He immediately adopted the Third World nation as his new home, seeing it as his job to protect and enlighten it. When the Vietnam War began, he immediately volunteered and served in the Army of the Potomac under Robert E. Lee and General Patton. During the war, the Chef killed dozens of Nazis, most of them with his bare hands.

Marching home from war across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, stark-naked and freezing, the Chef wound up on the shores of Mexico. He spent several years there, drinking tequila with Pancho Villa and James Dean. He put his culinary skills to the test when he invented the 5,000-calorie Breakfast Chili Burrito With Orange Sauce (which is today still a favorite in some parts of Sonora).

Eventually, the Chef returned to his adopted home of America, where he met a slimy, well-coiffed weasel who was starting up a new kind of buffet - one dedicated to providing the highest-quality unmentionable appetizers to the online community. The Chef dedicated himself to spreading the word of his famous Lard Sandwich (two large patties of fried lard, in between two slices of toasted buttered lard, with bacon and cheese), as well as occasionally writing about his opinions on less-important topics than food.

Every word of this is true, if only in the sense that every word of this exists in the English language.