What can be more British than Marmite? To my American readers, Marmite is a thick, dark, tangy, rich and glutinous mess that you spread on your toast, typically at breakfast or perhaps as a late night supper snack. For years I assumed, wrongly, that it was some sort of meat derivative, but it's actually made from brewer's yeast, and so in theory at least, is suitable for vegetarians.
The Marmite Food Extract Company was founded in 1902. Some clever spark realised that you could manufacture an edible savoury paste out of the waste yeast used in beer making. In fact, the Edwardians were heavily into these yeast extracts ( Bovril being another example, but with the addition, shock horror, of beef ); one reason being that you could make up a cheap but nourising bouillon with the simple addition of boiling water. As you gourmands all know, the word Marmite means a pot or casserole in French, and that's why the cultish jar is shaped, er- like a marmite.
And now ( trumpet fanfare, gasps of amazement ) there's new limited edition Guinness Marmite. It's got Guinness in it! I am dying to try it, but it seems to have sold out across the nation, and the supermarket shelves are bare. There's seems to be some sort of dubious looking trade in the stuff on ebay, but I have yet to bring myself to fork out the obligatory ten quid or so required to get hold of a jar.