"My mate, Marmite!"

Beer sludge for the open-minded traveler

A travel column for The Appalachian, App State's student newspaper: http://theapp.appstate.edu/content/view/5602/56/

I think it is safe to presume that college students love beer. 

They love drinking it: in plastic red cups, out of holes on the side of the can and through homemade funnels. They love playing with it: beer pong tournaments, endless card games and chugging contests. They love promoting it: neon signs hung in cluttered apartments, logos on worn-out t-shirts and embroidered on sweat-stained ball caps.

I have recently learned of a way to take this passion a step further by eating it.

Well, not necessarily eating beer, but more of byproduct of the drink that is popular here in the South Pacific.

It can be purchased at any supermarket and most convenience stores and comes in a variety of sizes of plastic jars with red caps.

This New Zealand delicacy is known as Marmite.

After beer is brewed, concentrated yeast sludge is left coating the bottom of the barrel. This thick, dark, tar-like substance is then processed and packed with salt, vitamins and extra ingredients before pressed into a jar and sold to kiwis and other daring individuals.

My native New Zealand flatmates can’t seem to describe the flavor other than just plain “tasty.”

Generously buttered toast with a thin layer of Marmite spread on top is an enjoyable snack that they’ve been eating since they were old enough to chew solid food.

But for Americans, it’s not as appetizing and is repeatedly described as “salty” and “bitter.”

“It tastes like salty dirt,” Boston native Kristen Keaney said. Keaney has been living and studying in New Zealand for four months and refuses to eat Marmite.

“If I need to coax myself into to eating something, I’m not meant to eat it,” she said.

I tried the spread within the first few days I arrived here. After smearing about half a teaspoon on a piece of toast with butter, I took a small bite while keeping an open mind.

It has a sharp, unusual taste with a slight meaty flavor, although it’s 100% vegetarian.

I have continued to eat it this way while remembering the fact that there is some aspect of it that kiwi’s adore.

Now, four months later, my thin layer has turned into a solid, gooey coating across a piece of multigrain toast.

Like my flatmates, I can’t tell you why I enjoy the spread and or why it is such a satisfying snack, but I like it.

I’m just glad I was able to keep an open mind and try it. I think this mind-set is one that every traveler should maintain while in a foreign environment.

You do not have to like every entity of that culture, but you will be more apt to enjoy it if you approach an experience without negative expectations.

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