Book review: The Mish-Mash Dictionary of Marmite
Long time readers of this blog may know that I have an obsessive interest in certain foods. Near the top of the list of these is Marmite, the viscous, salty, dark brown yeast spread from Britain. Heck, I even have a category for it.
My main Marmite post so far in the 6 year history of this blog is when I tasted and compared three yeast spreads - Marmite, Vegemite and Cenovis (the last one is a not-so-well known Swiss brand of yeast spread). This study is summarized on pages 169-170 of the book The Mish-Mash Dictionary of Marmite: An Anecdotal A-Z of Tar-in-a-jar by Maggie Hall. “Who better to turn to for an unbiased opinion [about Marmite vs. Vegemite] than someone from Japan” she says. I’m not sure how unbiased I am (since I did spend some years of my youth in England, where I first learned to love Marmite), but I’m quite flattered to be included in this fun little book.
As the title says, the book is filled with amusing and often fascinating facts and anecdotes about this loved/hated product. For instance, did you know that some people claim that Marmite is an mosquito repellent (page 116)? Or that it may help you catch more fish, if you soak your bait in it (page 64)? And some mothers put Marmite on their nipples to try to wean their babies faster (WHAT??) — not a good idea if the baby has a yeast allergy (page 14)? From history to science to Odes to Marmite, there’s a little bit of everything here.
I only have two little quibbles with it. One is that there are no recipes — it would have been great to have a few. Also, I have to say that I hate the front cover. I guess the objective was to make a scary Marmite on toast image, but just doesn’t work for me. Something along the lines of the back cover image, which lists some of the topics in the book in the format of a Marmite jar label, would have been better in my opinion. The Marmite jar design is so iconic and so well done, why not take advantage of it?
In any case, it’s a great casual read as well as being quite absorbing — a great gift for any Marmite fan. Even The Guy, who is emphatically not a Marmite fan, enjoyed it a lot.