So, I recently made my husband a Marmite sandwich as a quick and easy, savoury midday snack as the fridge was decidedly barren of any meat or cheese products, or really anything for that matter. Yes, a shopping trip was long overdue but in my defence, we had been away all of that week and the weekend and I was unsure as to whether we would also be away for the whole of the following week too.
Obviously, a Marmite sandwich must be served on soft white sliced bread, buttered right to the edges and then a generous spread of Marmite to be enjoyed at it’s absolute best. Thankfully, we at least had fresh bread and butter and there is always a pot of opened Marmite in the cupboard.
As it turns out, at the age of 49, it was the first ever Marmite sandwich that my husband had knowingly experienced (he’s previously only ever partaken of Marmite ‘on toast’ before) and he enjoyed it very much indeed.
Being the total domestic Goddess that I am, I told him, “You wait until summer is here then and I make you a Marmite and cucumber sandwich, that is gonna blow your mind baby!”
I know, I’m such a little tease.
Imagine my surprise when in my boredom yesterday, I googled ‘Marmite and Cucumber sandwich’ only to discover that it is an actual thing!
Literally hundreds and hundreds of references to it.
I just presumed it was some weird concoction that my Mum had invented during my childhood. I didn’t imagine for one minute that anyone else would have ever thought to put these two ingredients together!
I certainly drew funny looks from my friends back in the day when I mentioned it to them.
I would proudly announce to my friends that I had Marmite and cucumber sandwiches for my ‘pack up’ and my friends would screw their faces up in disgust as though I had just told them that my guilty secret was that I liked to collect and eat dog poo!
Even my best friend who, as a baby, used to pick bird poo off the wall and eat it (unbelievable but absolutely true!) Yes, even she, the bird-crap-eater would wrinkle her nose at me as though I were some total freak for enjoying the tangy combination of Marmite, the creaminess of butter and the freshness of cucumber between, soft, doughy, white sliced bread.
We would be on school trips to London or Howletts Zoo or Detling County Show, where a packed lunch would be absolutely necessary and as was the case back then, back in the days before a gazillion pocket-sized electronic gadgets existed to provide every distraction possible, we would actually sit on the coach and chatter excitedly to our friends and inevitably about half an hour after we had departed the school car park at 7.30am, and with absolutely nobody to stop us, we would be cracking open our packed lunch boxes with a celebratory and rebellious air and guzzling their contents.
First, the chocolate would go, then the crisps, then the apple and if we were lucky the sandwiches would actually last us until lunchtime!
There would always be some poor sod who’s mother had prepared egg sandwiches for them and as they opened their little Tupperware box with its trademark little trump (Paaaaarp! Pffffffff! ) then the dreaded ‘egg’ smell would follow.
“Ugh. Watson yer knobhead, shut yer lunchbox before I barf” the boys would scuffle boisterously.
I believe that it was customary for anyone carrying egg sandwiches aboard to find that they were wrestled to the ground, their sandwiches taken roughly from their possession and unceremoniously jettisoned (or ‘luzzed’ as we called it) out of the window.
I don’t know where the term to ‘luzz’ something came from but it was prevalent all through my secondary school years, as items were snatched from one student or another in the classroom and calls of “Luzz it over ‘ere” were sung out from various corners of the room, as the person’s possessions were thrown from one to another. I suppose my school days were reminiscent of ‘Grange Hill‘, or ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too‘ (without the sexual encounters). My husband thinks I’m a right little cockney, all ‘Cor Blimey Guvnor’ but only because he comes from Leicester, so he is basically a Northerner!
I don’t actually sound anything like Kathy Burke or Danny Dyer. I’m really quite well spoken, hence why I was chosen to record many of the departmental ‘out of office’ greetings and voice announcements on our digital telephone system at my previous company and also why I was asked to do some ‘voice over’ work for a well known London-based magician.
Occasionally, the item would be ‘luzzed’ to someone least expecting it and after connecting with the back of their head, they might turn round angrily in their seat and say something like “Ew, frew vat?” (Who threw that?)
Another favourite was the word ‘Lush’. Everything, from George Michael to a pair of stiletto shoes were ‘lush’. That lipstick is ‘lush’, our young, good-looking history teacher, Mr Parker, was ‘lush’, Stuart ‘Ash’ Ashetton, the most fancied sixth-former at our school, was ‘well lush’, the ‘well’ meaning ‘very’ or ‘distinctly more so’. As a bit of a wordie these days with a love of our language and vocabulary, it seems so odd to me now, that we used just two or three basic words to describe literally everything in our life from food and fashion to friends. It was as though, despite being bright young things, we were insistent on coming across as totally moronic but, of course, at the time we thought we were the epitome of cool, too cool for school that’s for sure, with our Shockwaves hairspray and Frankie says ‘RELAX’ T-shirts and our pink frosted lipstick and blue mascara!
Once we were on a school trip to Wales, for a week. We were told that, along with a week’s worth of suitable attire and a modest amount of pocket money, we would need a packed lunch to cover ‘two meals’ for the initial day of our travels since it would take such a long time to get there (a packed lunch for the return journey was to be provided by the holiday camp). Well, for the most of us this basically meant two penguin bars, two packets of crisps, two or three rounds of sandwiches (Marmite or otherwise) and a couple of drinks, plus a piece of fruit, but there was one boy, a great big round chubby fellow, who was on our trip, (I do remember his full name but I don’t feel the need to share it) who’s packed lunch was something else entirely.
Let me give you a mental picture of him, he looked like Augustus Gloop only much, much fatter, and he had to have his trousers specially made because he was such a size.
Well, on this particular trip he arrived with an enormous suitcase and a huge duffel gym bag, we had previously been told that all our luggage had to go in the luggage compartment underneath the coach, so when they tried to take the gym bag from him he said “No, Sir! That’s my packed lunch!”
Not only that, but as he kissed his supersized Mum and Dad goodbye and heaved himself and his gym-bag-smorgasbord onto the coach steps, his Mum reached down towards the path for something and handed him a full forty-eight pack box of crisps which he struggled up the aisle with whilst bashing us all in the back of the heads to cries of:
“Ugh, Steven you greedy fat bastard” or
“Oi, watch me bonce you fat twat*” until he arrived at the back row and claimed several of the seats, side by side and we were all told to settle back down by the teacher at the front of the coach who was doing his best to keep some order amongst us all. Ha Ha Ha….no chance!
Yes, I know. Kids can be cruel! Honest……but cruel!
I had only ever seen a BOX of crisps like this under the counter at a pub. I had never known of anyone actually ‘owning’ a whole one to themselves.
Forty-eight packs! A mere snack, no doubt.
*At this point, I would just like to mention, that hailing from the South East of England, the word TWAT has never really had quite the same meaning or offensive nature as it does to many of our Midland or Northern counterparts. To many in the South East, the word Twat was the conversational equivalent to calling someone a Twit or a Twonk, and as such was widely used (or perhaps misused) to convey that you simply thought someone was a bit silly, slow, thick or just being a bit of a buffoon. We were certainly completely innocent of any more offensive significance or intention of the slur. Even my Dad, who grew up all his life in the South East of England and moved to Cumbria in his Fifties was caught unawares after calling someone in a rough Cockermouth pub, a ‘Twat’ one afternoon, when he merely intended to jokingly imply that they were a bit of an idiot. He was quite unprepared for the ominous silence that descended upon the shocked inhabitants and the fact that the exchange nearly ended in fisty cuffs or pistols at dawn.
He wasn’t overly bothered by the threat, he would have easily laid the other chap out with a single withering stare and to be honest, I can’t really say that he learnt much from that particular first offence. I believe that after that, he just deliberately used the word more often and gained quite a reputation for being a bit of a ‘hard nut’ as a result, but for me, it was a bit of a learning curve, especially when I met my husband who hails from the East Midlands where the use of the word ‘twat’ is an offence of the highest order!
Anyway, that was a bit of a departure from my story, but I felt the need to cover that particular point.
So back to our school trip.
That week in Wales was thoroughly miserable. We were all ill, we were constantly all starving, except Steven with his week’s supply of food, it was wet, it was cold, it was grim, I was homesick, basically, it was SHIT!
It was certainly not the exciting adventure ‘holiday’ we had expected, I remember us all feeling so hard done by and comparing it to being in a ‘Nazi concentration camp’, in total teenage-girl overly, dramatic style (the true horrors of the Holocaust not quite having made their full mark on us at this tender age).
Fundamentally, if there was a week designed to make surly, know-it-all, teenagers truly appreciate their families and their homes then this must have been it.
I couldn’t wait to get back home
I cried a lot, in the nights. Once I was sure my best friend was fast asleep and I was certain no-one would hear me, I would lay there and cry and think about home and count the days, the hours and the minutes until I could be back.
Back to my freezing cold bedroom with the rattling, sash windows and my walls adorned in David Bowie posters covered in lipstick kisses, back home to my tedious nerd of a brother whom I argued with constantly but would vehemently defend should anyone else take issue with him, standing protectively in front of him with my arms crossed and a menacing look at anyone who would dare come for us, home to my Mum and Dad who I mostly disagreed with but now realised that I dearly missed, home to my comforts of the toilet with the temperamental flush, the weird and wonderful objects that my parents would buy on their weekly trips to the numerous boot fairs they attended, the whistling cold tap in the even colder bathroom that had needed a new washer for about three years, the ‘permanently on loan’ supermarket trolley parked in the front garden behind the Wisteria bush on account of the fact that we lived just one street away from Tesco’s, home to my garden path with the loose terracotta Victorian tiles that you could lift with the toe of your shoes if you were bored and being absentmindedly destructive, home to the gate that I would be told off for swinging on because now that I was no longer a tiny little slip of a thing, it was starting to lift the bricks on the post which in turn would make the wall fall down!
Home to my family, to familiarity, to Marmite sandwiches and cups of hot, sugary tea in the lounge in front of the roaring fire.
Wow, I haven’t thought about that trip in years. It’s amazing what you can discover in the archives of your mind.
So what is your favourite Marmite sandwich combo?
I wonder if bacon and Marmite is a good combination?
I saw an advert the other day for making a crumpet, cheddar and Marmite loaf, shared on Facebook by one of my friends. I will happily admit that without even reading the rest of the article, it made my mouth water!
So just why is Marmite so extraordinarily revered or reviled with relatively no room for any other reaction sandwiched between?
The history of Marmite and it’s popularity in British culture is actually not half as boring as it may sound and so mighty is this instantly recognisable little pot of heaven or hell (depending on which camp you are from) it is even used as a metaphor in British language for meaning something that draws such opposite/polarised reactions or to mean that something is an ‘acquired taste’. If you go to see a new show at the Theatre, you may describe it as ‘Marmite’ meaning that people will either Love it or Hate it.
Personally, I love Marmite, or even Farmite (Fake Marmite e.g. Tesco’s Yeast Extract).
Whether I genuinely ‘love’ it enough to pay seven euros for a small jar from our local supermarket is yet to be seen but thankfully I have always had a good stock to hand from our various visitors or our own trips back to the UK where I will buy five or six jars at a time. We currently have four jars in the cupboard, so that should be good for another year or so, unless my husband starts to request Marmite sandwiches on a regular basis, to which I might have to suggest,
“Oi, hands off my Marmite”
There exists (somewhere) a picture of me, about 7 or 8 years old with pigtails, my hands on my hips and a deep frown on my face as I look menacingly into the camera. This would be the perfect accompaniment to this comment. Alas, I do not have a copy of this picture. I think it is affectionately known as
“Oi, that’s my bike!” (pronounced ‘moy boike’) photo.
On that boisterous note, I bid you farewell. Until next week……
The Virtual Recluse