Normally Marmite is dearly loved in countries that used to belong to the British Empire, so I was expecting to be offered some at breakfast in NZ, maybe with a royal wedding spoon stuck into it.
Little did I now that in NZ they have their own special recipe for Marmite, that Marmite is a kiwiana icon, and that the only factory producing it was damaged during the Christchurch earthquake so the production was stalled and has not resumed to this date.
I discovered all this one morning, when I was having a chat with my very kind host and she was telling me about her niece who lives in Rome and misses Marmite terribly. I could confirm that Marmite does not exists in Italy (and if it existed, no one would dream of eating it) and I suggested that maybe she could have it sent from England or stock up when travelling to London. Oh but we have our own kiwi recipe here, it’s darker, different, she said. What?! Darker?! Different?! Oh my! At my unexpected interest in Marmite she continued explaining that since the earthquake Marmite is out of stock and people can’t wait to have it back, with the company (Sanitarium, not Unilever) sending out regular updates on the situation.
For example this is the message you get when visiting the web site right now.
At some point she looked at me, then went into the kitchen and came back with a small jar, containing her personal reserve of kiwi Marmite. I tasted a tiny little bit, reverently. Well it really is darker, and different, and totally incompatible with the Italian taste.
As for Vegemite, it’s available in NZ, but it’s Australian, so, you see. And in the end I did find a Charles and Diana spoon stuck into a bowl one morning, it was a bowl of homemade tomato sauce.