I remember my first encounter with Marmite like if it was yesterday. I was in London and having breakfast with Mr. Brit. It was a sunny and hot day, very unusual for the UK. We were just good friends back then, and I was just passing by London for a couple of days. That morning we met up and decided to go for a buffet type of breakfast and he was very excited when he saw that Marmite was part of the offer — not so much because he could have it, more because he could finally have me try it.
Yes, finally — because Mr. Brit had been raving about Marmite since the very second day after I met him. Apart from being “very good for you, trust me on this one,” Marmite is also the English spread that is known for being “the spread you grew up with,” and therefore you either love it or you hate it.
Well, folks, I hated it.
“Of course, you didn’t grow up with it, that’s why.” Mr. Brit immediately commented when he witnessed my face going all “ugh” with a facial expression that probably resembled the one of a baby trying green apple puree for the first time.
I didn’t grow up with it, indeed. In fact, I grew up with Nutella. And believing that a world without Nutella would be a very sad one, according to their famous TV commercials.
However, a couple of months after that day in London, I decided to give Marmite another go. And the second time was not as bad actually.
Mr. Brit was astonished and quite skeptical. “It’s not possible that you are starting to liking it. You didn’t grow up with it. It’s not that sort of thing that grows on you. You are pretending you like it because of me.” he replied when I told him that Marmite was slowly becoming a pleasant experience for me.
In reality, I did enjoyed my warm toast with butter and Marmite — and I tried to explain that, in my opinion, the spread is so pungent and strong in taste and smell that you inevitably associate it with the emotions of the moments and with the environment that surrounds you when you first eat it. That’s why you “either love it or hate it” — because it’s emotionally connected to your childhood, and the memories you have of you enjoying it as an afternoon snack as a kid. More or less like Proust’s Madelaine. It plays on your emotional memory. Therefore, I liked it because my first memory of Marmite was link to a sunny day in London, having breakfast with him in the sun, laughing and having a good time.
I also told Mr. Brit that if Marmite wanted to go global, that would be a great marketing perspective and they should give out samples at big, emotional, fun events so that people associate the spread with something they enjoyed. It was a genius plan. That was met with a “This sounds like a bunch of BS, but I’m glad you like it” type of face.
Anyway. To this day, I still make myself a toast, butter and Marmite snack sometimes, as it brings back a good memory.
However, I have to be honest to myself. When I open the kitchen cupboard and see the Marmite jar next to the Nutella jar…well, first instinct is still to grab the latter. I guess the hazelnut heavenly cream is all over my genes and DNA after all!