The day before the trip I met up with Sui Mai. We had a short but profound conversation about something we both like.
Me: Do you want anything from London?
Sui Mai: Erm....
Me: I am getting some Marmite. Do you like Marmite?
Sui Mai: I lurve Marmite...
followed by a brief but intense mutual adoration of said black goo
Me: Do you know there is also Guiness Marmite (GM)?
Sui Mai: OMG you've heard about it too? Last time I went to UK I looked and looked but couldn't find any. It's only produced in limited edition. Oh, if it is not too much trouble, could you get me two jars of GM, please, please, pretty please?
(or something like that, since it was a conversation that happened more than a week ago and my memory is not as sound as it was)
People either love or hate Marmite. I belong firmly in the LOVE camp.
In Asia, a little dollop of it in rice porridge will tempt the appetites of even the most difficult child, and then, well, it inevitably develops into a lifetime habit as I, Jess and many others can attest to. In recent years it's even found its way into restaurants, witness the inclusion of Marmite Crab in any self-respecting Malaysian seafood joint. Closer to home, I have a weird Marmite habit: if I feel peckish at night yet do not want to eat anything calorific, I'll make instead a cup which is then sprinkled with a few drops of Tabasco- the spicy sodium overload tricks the mind into believing it's eaten and the appetite gets satiated.
Now then, the first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to look for Marmite. In a nearby Tesco Express I found Marmite biscuits but no jarred Marmites. And was distracted by a display case of Krispy Kreme (folks, don't worry, I also later ate the hot-off-the-belt-version from the Harrods foodhall outlet, and it was better. Not mindblowingly good, but at least I came closer to understanding why people are crazy about them) Of course I also had to get my fix of low-brow magazines and crossword puzzles, doesn't every one do that in England?
At the next supermarket, a proper one this time- you know, the typical Brit supermarket where one can happily spend hours in, what with the twin attack of gorgeous flowers arrayed out front and smells of fresh bread baking drifting from the baked goods section deep within, rows and rows of appetising looking food in the belly of the store, and the finale, so says my mind so conditioned to appalling French service, the best part was at the checkout counter, where sat a friendly cashier who actually works the registers and pack groceries simultaneously- I found what I was looking for. A bit of an anticlimax in fact, since I was poised for a dramatic traverse across the grocery landscape of inner London, but I got over my disappointment almost immediately. Which was followed by an agonising moment of many indecisions- how many of each should I get, how many can I actually carry, what if I don't like GM, etc etc.
In the end I bought a jar of 'classic', 4 of the GMs and one of the squeezable type; the last contained less Marmite but cost almost twice as much as ordinary ones but I thought my little V would find it fun.
Back home in Paris, we made a pot of chicken congee and had our first taste of Marmite in ages. The GM was fabulous, like the classic, but with deeper, more intense, more concentrated (if that is possible in such a tarry goo) flavours. Husband immediately pronounced them excellent, and I had to relay his request to fourth sister in London to buy a half-dozen more.
The Marmite cheese crackers were fine, the Marmite flavour not too prominent so one can still discern the taste of baked cheese bits encrusted on one side. We haven't got round to sampling the biscuits but I don't think it'll be that bad. As for V, she didn't like her first taste of Marmite. Not even if it came out of a jar in cute squiggles. Never mind, she is still little, she'll come around eventually....