Tuesday, 29 November 2011

When does waste yeast become Marmite?

There's been a Marmite spill on the M1. This has led to many, many jokes about sending soldiers to clean it up, etc. The way that Independent article reported it though was a bit odd.

Now, for what follows you need to know that Marmite is a spread, and its generic name (i.e. what the supermarkets have to call their own brand) is 'yeast extract'. It's apparently similar to Australian Vegemite, but not to NewZealand Marmite, which has a different flavour, according to Wikipedia. It is a very dark brown, sticky goo and has a very strong flavour. I can't really describe the flavour but it's what they use to make roast beef flavour crisps. It's basically pure umami and I love it, but their slogan in 'Love it or hate it' because some people can't stand it. My mother won't have it in the house. At my grandma's 90th birthday party earlier this year, me and my dad and my uncles and cousins were all standing around eating Marmite on toast and I think my mother left the room and started thinking about disowning us.

So, what the Independent said was this:
A large-scale clean-up operation is under way after a tanker carrying more than 20 tonnes of yeast extract - believed to be Marmite - overturned on a busy motorway.
So it is probably Marmite, OK? But later in the article they quote the South Yorkshire police spokeswoman:
We were called at 10.15pm yesterday to reports of a tanker, which was carrying 23.5 tonnes of waste yeast, overturning.
Now it's waste yeast? Marmite was originally a by-product of the brewing industry. This means that technically, it's not much different from waste yeast. But it is different, in the crucial sense that you can't just eat waste yeast, and I imagine that there is a fairly complicated (but secret) manufacturing process to obtain one from t'other.

Newspaper articles often end up using a lot of synonyms or near-synonyms because they value variety of expression over clarity. This can lead to phrases like 'the busty blonde, 23' or 'the former banker' which, while adding extra information, are often superfluous. I think that's what's caused the problem here. But waste yeast and Marmite are NOT synonyms. As Lynneguist said over on Twitter:
Britain, a land where 'waste yeast' and 'food' can be considered synonyms
Anyway, to finish all this up, here's Nigella's Marmite spaghetti recipe, which is surprisingly delicious (though you do have to like Marmite; it's not going to convert any haters):

Cook spaghetti.
Melt 50g butter and Marmite (as much as you like - a big spoonful or so) and add the drained pasta. 
She suggests serving with parmesan - we didn't have any and it's fine without, but adding it would add to the immense umami overkill. 

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