Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Marmite v Bovril ...




Love it – or hate it … or both … when we were growing up after the War – we would have Bovril as a drink when we were ill in bed or recovering, or Marmite as a spread to help us get better or later on … just because that’s what we liked …






So ours were two distinctly different kitchen items … now I have just one: Marmite.




Marmite is the vegetarian version … as I’ve just been told this by the Chairman of our local Astronomical Society … I’m fairly certain it is true?! 


We don't get these at our meetings ... coffee and
biscuits: this would make a good student lunch -
perhaps x two slices!  Marmite and cheese on toast.
We were at our local Geology meeting – where we’re discussing galaxies and stars … the precursors to ‘us’ … and life on earth.  Don’t ask … posts will appear one day!  Dark Matter will be first …




Back to the subjects of this post …


It appears that Bovril has the longer history … in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1), Napoleon III ordered one million cans of beef to feed his troops.


Strangely, well I find it strange, this task went to a Scotsman living in Canada (John Lawson Johnston).  Transport and storage were problematic … and thus Johnston created a product known as ‘Johnston’s Fluid Beef’ …


Early poster - about 1900 AD




In less than 20 years (by 1888) over 3,000 UK public houses, grocers and dispensing chemists were selling Bovril.  The name coming about from the Latin bos for “ox”. 






Sci-Fi fans ... se my post


Johnston took the vril suffix from Bulwer-Lytton’s then-popular novel, The Power of the  Coming Race (1870), whose plot revolves around a superior race of people, the Vril-ya, who derive their powers from an electromagnetic substance named “Vril” … thus we have Bovril … and a Sci-Fi link …




Now to Marmite … ‘Marmeet’ … this is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing … a way of cutting down on one’s pint perhaps … or increasing said drinks because of the salty nature of Marmite.


A stylised French Marmite pot -
casserole or stock pot

It’s not obvious why it was named ‘Marmite’ – but could have been because of the earthenware pot, similar to the French ‘Marmeet’ cooking pot, that the product was originally sold in.



A German scientist, in 19th C, discovered that brewer’s yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten.  By 1902 the Marmite Food Extract Company was formed in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England near the Bass Brewery, which would supply the essential yeast by-product.

Edouard Manet:
 a bar at the
Folies-Bergere: 1882 a bottle of
Bass Beer on the table


At the turn of the 20th century, there seemed to be an ‘exponential’ expansion of its popularity ... when it was distributed around the world.



By 1912, the discovery of vitamins was a boost, as the spread is a rich source of the vitamin B complex … eight water-soluble vitamins essential to good health.  The British troops in World War One were issued with Marmite in their rations.


Copied from "The Week" ... but many would like
a marmite well!
It is a valuable source of Folic Acid … a supplement during pregnancy, and now many countries require it to be in certain foods as a measure to decrease the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.  It is exceedingly helpful in overcoming beri-beri, wherever it is prevalent.




The company, Bovril, took over Marmite, but now both brands have been subsumed into Unilever …


Puff Pastry cheese and marmite wheels
The choice probably is … the one you’ve grown up with … I would drink Bovril, but smear or spread Marmite … while both can be added to savoury dishes to bring some zing …



Marmite on toast … Marmite with Cheese … both would warm the cockles of my heart – normally called tummy!  Cheese Straws or Cheesy puff pastry rolls – good for party snacks …. Marmite soldiers for young children (or old for that matter!) …


Toasted Cheese and Marmite sandwich
with pickle
Bovril apparently is an icon of British culture … it is commonly associated with football culture … that’s put me off somewhat!  Still I don’t own any Bovril now … but a flask of Bovril would be put to good use if caught in a winter storm …


We have Mandela featuring again … in his book “Conversations with Myself” in 1980 he mentioned he’d like some marmite!



But …. a hundred years ago the Pope had the last laugh … Bovril holds the unusual position of having been advertised with a Pope – as you can see Pope Leon XIII seated on his throne, bearing a mug of Bovril … see the slogan:

“The Two Infallible Powers – The Pope and Bovril” : a 1900 poster …





Well now it’s lunchtime and this has got me very hungry … I’d better round this off and disappear to my kitchen larder and rustle up a marmite sandwich!!


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

58 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

It is undoubtedly apocryphal but I was told that Marmite was originally called Pawill.
I prefer it to our vegemite, though both are too salty for my taste. Good in cooking though.
I don't think I have ever had Bovril..

A Heron's View said...

The Marmite recipe has changed from what it used to be though still high in yeast extract which is not good if you are prone to yeast infections.
Vegemite is the vegetarian/vegan equivalent and so to is Vege which is Gluten free, Nut free, Wheat free, Low sugar Low fat.
The problem I have with all of these products is their salt content.

Out on the prairie said...

I have heard of these but never tried them. I always have a concentrated soup stock on hand that is in a margarine base. I use it for sauces and gravies, or just a warm me up when I have been out in the cold.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Interesting that yeast extract is loaded with vitamins. I wonder if we can get it here in the states?

Mike Goad said...

I've heard of Marmite, but not Bovril. At this late date in life, I doubt I'd try either (I'm sort of picky.

I have, in the past, mixed beef or chicken bullion ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouillon_cube ) in water as a hot drink, adding Tabasco for spicy seasoning.

Karen Walker said...

Like Mike, I've heard (and tried) Marmite (in Australia) but not Bovil. I didn't care for Marmite, though. I'm not a salty person.

Jo said...

I never liked Bovril although the name derivation is interesting, but I did like Marmite. Haven't had it in years though. Not even sure you can get it here. I agree that is odd that Napoleon III went to Canada for his supply. I was going to say Australians would argue Vegemite was better but according to one comment already, it wasn't so. Good post again Hilary, thanks.

Betsy Brock said...

I've never tried it or even seen it here in the USA. But I've heard of it as a British thing!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They are both an acquired taste, but if you grew up with them, then I can see why you enjoy them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC – it’s the Australian version: Vegemite … and is only 90 years old … still it’s too stood the test of time. I gather it was called Vegemite, then changed to Parwill, then back to Vegemite … after poor sales. Now it’s a standard.
https://www.vegemite.com.au/heritage/vegemite%20story

Bovril is similar … but different!

@ Mel – yes they are salty … but occasionally I crave some salt and a marmite spread does perfectly. I can see allergic reactions to yeast would be difficult, probably impossible for some people. Thanks for the update though.

@ Steve – well you’ve found your alternative … and concentrated stock cubes are so useful …

@ Diane – yes both are available in the States … I just checked!

@ Mike – I can understand you not wanting to try them now … I’d probably be the same. And yes I use bouillon cubes for stews etc … and add tabasco if I feel that extra spice is needed …

@ Karen – you probably had vegemite in Australia … but could well have been Marmite … and Bovril is more used for ‘drinks’ rather than spreading … I can understand the salt aspect though.

@ Jo – I did enjoy having the choice … and we always had Bovril for drinking, and Marmite for spreading. I thought the back story for both products was interesting … I think I had vegemite in South Africa – it is not so potent … but I still prefer the two British varieties! I guess if you can get them in the States, you can get them in Canada …

@ Betsy – it is a British thing … but can be obtained via the dreaded A….. (supplier of all things) in the States …

@ Alex – they are acquired tastes … but probably were so important after WWII, but essential in WW1 … and if I had kids they’d be having them or probably have had them by now!

Cheers to you all –it’s interesting to see your comments and to learn a little more … Hilary

Joanne said...

It must be an acquired taste. I've tried Marmite and wasn't thrilled. The name Bovril does not sound appetizing at all. Interesting history nonetheless. I always learn something from this blog

Chrys Fey said...

I haven't heard of either of these. If it's really vegetarian, I'd give Marmite a try.

bazza said...

Hi Hilary. I've eaten Bovril and Marmite ONCE each! 'nuff said? However I enjoyed this post and the history. Great research as always. By the way, the Bass beer in the Manet painting is reputed to be the first ever depicted trade mark in fine art.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s resumed Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Anabel Marsh said...

We have a love-hate relationship with Marmite in our house. He loves it, I hate it!

Janie Junebug said...

My daughter's first British boyfriend (she met him because he was an exchange student at her prep school) came to our house for spring break with his jar of Marmite in hand. I couldn't bring myself to taste it. My daughter wouldn't, either. I don't know if she ever tried when she went to Cambridge. I say first British boyfriend because she seems to have a liking for British men, but I think the current boyfriend is an American. Two British men proposed, were accepted (not at the same time), and then rejected. She's a heartbreaker.

Love,
Janie

Liz A. said...

I've never heard of either of them. Interesting.

Lynda R Young said...

The Aussie version of Marmite is Vegemite. Yum.
Bovril, however, is nasty stuff! ;)

beste barki said...

I had no idea about either of these. I find all this very interesting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joanne – I think probably we grow up with them and so get used to them … the history though I did find interesting ..

@ Chrys – if you like something salty at times, or to use in some types of food … it’d be worth looking at … and you can get it in the States.

@ Bazza – oh dear another ‘once each’ person … I so enjoy marmite – craving comes, satisfied with lots, and goes away for a while!

Oh thanks for the update re the Manet painting and the Bass Beer depiction being the first ‘trade mark’ in art … I did wonder, but got no further …

@ Anabel – seems to be the way of Marmite ... he loves, you hate!

@ Janie – well your daughter had good choice choosing a British man … still if she’s a heart-breaker we’ll leave the American men to pursue their dreams with her! We’ll keep our British men for us … !!

@ Liz – obviously not taken off in the States …

@ Lynda – yes I gather vegemite is the Aussie version and am glad you like it … Bovril I quite enjoy – though rarely have now-a-days …

@ Beste – they seem to be very British … but I was interested finding out the history …

Cheers to you all – have happy IWSG days … Hilary

Rhonda Albom said...

Very interesting story on the Bovril name (and the sci-fi link). We have "marmite" here in New Zealand but it is not the same as the British counterpart. However, Both are better than Vegimite :)

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Lovely post, Hilary. 'A Marmite thing' has entered our language, hasn't it - meaning something you either love or hate. It wasn't part of my growing-up, but I got into it at university and has stayed with me ever since. My dad would dissolve an Oxo cube in a cup of boiling water and drink that, though..!

Patsy said...

Bovril in drinks, Marmite on toast - that is the correct way round. I don't know why, it just is.

Nicola said...

I don't like either. The smell... makes my stomach turn. A wonderfully interesting post though Hilary - thank you. Wishing you a lovely December.

Jean Davis said...

I have to say, you lost me at fluid beef. However, I've heard of both of these products and always wondered just what they were. Now I know. :)

Elsie Amata said...

I've never heard of these before and I'm not sure if I'd like it, but I'll give anything a try once. I lived outside the states and learned that you have to give all foods a chance.

Julie Flanders said...

I've never heard of Bovril but have heard of Marmite a bunch of times from reading British mystery novels. I was always curious about it, and couldn't wait to try it when I visited England back in the early 2000s. Sad to say I hated it! I was disappointed. :D

Christine Rains said...

I've never heard of Bovril either. Strange with all the BBC shows I watch! Love learning the history of these every day things. :)

Rhodesia said...

I have to admit to not being madly fond of Bovril but if it is cold it does help warm one up. Marmite I love and I can eat it by the spoonful but as Nigel hates it we never have it in the house! I must get some when we are in the UK for Xmas! As for Vegemite, yuck there is no comparison. Have a good day Diane

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I've never heard of Bovril before, but I've tried Marmite. As a child, I was very anemic, and the doctor prescribed some sort of yeast pills for me. They were disgusting, but I figured if they were good for me, the Marmite must be, too, right? The one time I tried it, though, I didn't care for it. But since its shelf life appears to be eternal, I'll try it again sometime. I'm sure it's an acquired taste. I simply haven't... acquired it yet.

Kelly Hashway/Ashelyn Drake said...

I've never heard of these. I'm wondering if we have them in the US.

Paula Kaye said...

I have never heard of either. But you gave me a good lesson on them!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rhonda – isn’t the storyline interesting re the Sci-Fi link … like all things: Vegemite has its supporters … but I’m glad you support us Brits and our Marmite or Bovril …

@ Mike – yes that saying has entered our lexicon … that’s interesting you found it at Uni – inexpensive, but very good for you … Oxo cubes – Justus von Liebeg ‘found’ the yeast extract used in Marmite now … was the chap who gave the foundation for Oxo cubes … in about 1840. I’m happy to put an Oxo cube into my stews … but not drinking it …

@ Patsy – glad you agree … Bovril as a drink, Marmite as a spread … and yes it seems to be the correct way of eating them …

@ Nicola – oh dear … sorry! But glad you enjoyed the history element though …

@ Jean – ah well ‘fluid beef’ such a wonderful phrase?! Yes, now you know … but not what they taste like …

@ Elsie – they are a love them or hate them tastes … and yes, you do have to give all foods a chance …

@ Julie – interesting you’ve heard of Marmite, but not Bovril … those murder mystery novels! Oh sorry – another hater … it is interesting how we think we will like something then when we don’t disappointment sets in …

@ Christine – Brand placement … they’re quite careful about those things … especially now – except companies are making money from placing brands into films, tv shows etc …

@ Diane – it’s fascinating how many hate, and how many love Marmite … oh that’ll be good that you’re buying a pot when you’re over here … I wasn’t keen on vegemite …

@ Susan – Yeast pills are disgusting … and yes Marmite would be good for you … I was with a friend when your comment came through … and I think she’s off to get some Marmite and perhaps Bovril … as she is quite anaemic!!!

Loved your comment ‘since its shelf life appears to be eternal’ … you’ll give it another go sometime … I think acquired taste is a good word …

@ Kelly – they are available in the States … but I’d get to try some first!

@ Paula - glad you could realise what I was talking about ...

Cheers to you all – love the comments and reasoning … I am hungry now – better start thinking about supper … Hilary

Sara said...

As I read a lot of historical books about England, this post was very helpful, especially about the Marmite. I'd read about it in books, but have no idea what it actually was. So, thanks!!!

I hope all is well with you. It's been way too long since I visited, but I'm hoping to change that. I have missed your posts very much, especially the ones about Britain. You make me sound much smarter when I talk to my daughter who lives in London:~)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I have heard of Bovril and Marmite, mostly from reading books set in Britain, but I have never had either. I always thought Marmite was sweet, like some kind of molasses. Thanks for setting me straight!

DMS said...

How fascinating! I tried Marmite in high school because a friend who moved here from England had it at her house. I have never tried Bovril. I would be curious to try them both now that I am much older than my high school days (in my 40s). :) Thanks for sharing such interesting information with us.
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara - it's interesting how you've mentioned Marmite from books, but had no idea what it was ... glad I've enlightened you. Delighted my blog helps you re England when you talk to your daughter ... good to see you.

@ Dianne - again - it's fascinating to see how they are known via books ... I'd never thought I'd come across the knowledge of them via books. Thank goodness you now know Marmite is salty and not sweet ... that would have surprised you ...

@ Jess - well perhaps one day you'll get a chance to try both Marmite again, and Bovril for the first time at some stage ...

Cheers to you three ... I'm now on coffee! Hilary

A Cuban In London said...

I love Marmite! :-) Very quickly I learnt about the "Marmite issue" (love it or hate it) over here. :-)

Greetings from London.

diedre Knight said...

"Two infallible Powers" - that's funny! I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy Bovril in a winter storm. Sounds a bit like beef broth, but perhaps hardier. It's always such a treat to visit your posts as I never fail to learn something new!

Stephen Tremp said...

I have not heard of these. Here in the States we had Tang an orange powdered drink mixed with water that wasn't very good. It became popular because the astronauts drank it.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Hilary,

Another interesting post. I've never heard of either of these products, but I guess they may be similar in some way to spam....

Very interesting that they showed up in art pieces!

Wishing you a lovely and festive holiday season and all the best for 2017.... what happened to 2016? Has it been a year already. Geez, if time goes any faster we are all going to have whiplash!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ ACIL - that's great ... it is a delicious spread - me too ... I get cravings! and that "Marmite Issue" doesn't go away - can't see it disappearing either ...

@ Diedre - that Pope advert with the jar of Bovril was a classic I thought - so am delighted you enjoyed it ... it is similar to a very rich, very concentrated beef broth. A winter storm would suit Bovril just fine!

@ Stephen - these go back to early 1900 days and were full of natural vitamins, they were natural products as far as possible ... we then learnt how to concoct the nutritional drinks that came along ... interesting development ...

@ Michael - they are a British thing ... but they they went global with the diaspora ... and are most definitely not like spam!! These are drinks or spreads, spam is 'a meat' ... pulled pork shoulder with ham ... pounded together into the canned form. Now you've got me laughing about your description of spam.

Yes I was interested in the seeing the product placement in Monet's painting of 1882 ... that is an idea that has spread recently ...


Thanks so much for visiting with some interesting takes on these drinks-come-spreads ... and as Michael says ... life is running away ... so near to 2017 - enjoy the rest of 2016 - cheers Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Of course, it's vegemite for me. Toast with avocado, vegemite and tomato is just about the perfect sandwich for me. I've tried marmite. An acquired taste, like vegemite.

Greetings for the season, Hilary! Enjoy!

Denise :-)

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

I hope this finds you and yours doing well. May we display your header on our new site directory? As it is now, the site title (linked back to its home page) is listed, and we think displaying the header will attract more attention. In any event, we hope you will come by and see what is going on at SiteHoundSniffs.com.

Nilanjana Bose said...

I was given Marmite on toast as a child, definitely an acquired taste! haven't had the chance to try Bovril though...would be interesting to try Marmite again as an adult...

Jacqui Murray said...

I have never heard of either. I thought Spam was the only meat substitute. I will have to Google both of these though you've provided a wonderful summary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Denise - ah a vegemite fan ... mind you it sounds a good sandwich ... ! Both acquired tastes ... thanks for the wishes ...

@ Jerry - I couldn't work out the header aspect - so I'll leave it for now, thank you.

@ Nila - yes Marmite on toast is something related to growing up. Certainly they are different products ... and at some stage I hope you get a chance to try them both ...

@ Jacqui - I may have not quite described Spam 'correctly' .. but near enough. These are a spread, or the liquid concentration ... so not 'meat' like ... I hope you can find out more from Google ..

Cheers to you all - thanks for visiting ... Hilary

Murees Dupé said...

Hello Hilary! Nice post. I am familiar with both, but have never enjoyed either, so a steer clear of them unfortunately. But my family and most South Africans also enjoy either one. My sisters like the Marmite with cheese, as you have mentioned.

Take care and keep well.

Lynn said...

Hmmm - that would be fun to try. I think I've seen them in specialty shops over here.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Hilary, I've been cooking with Bovril most of my life, until my husband became gluten intolerant. My mother cooked with Bovril. After the war, when times were particularly tight, she would add a small teaspoon to hot water and make us soup. I've probably had Marmite, but I can't remember. Great post, young lady.

cleemckenzie said...

I did try Marmite when I was staying with friends in England. It wasn't bad, but not exactly what I'd munch on regularly. However, your pictures look darn appetizing. I just ate it between two slices of toast. You've made me curious about trying this out again, Hilary! As always, great post.

N. R. Williams said...

Interesting as always Hilary. I've never had it and I'm not sure if it is even sold here. Thanks for being so loyal to always stop by and read my post.
Nancy

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Murees - they are definitely acquired tastes ... and you're right a family member often enjoys them, the cheese and marmite 'delights' seem to be a favourite ...

@ Lynn - I hope you can give them a go ... if you enjoy this sort of taste ...

@ Joylene - interesting that you've stuck with Bovril til your hubby became gluten intolerant. I'm sure my Ma would have put some Bovril in the hearty stews she made ... but I don't remember it. Bovril soup/drink we've had ... Thanks for the 'young lady'!!

@ Lee - it's pretty rough just spread between toast ... it needs an extra little moisture - rich buttery base, or with cheese meltingly across a marmite spread base.

@ Nancy - thanks ... it is sold in the States ... but obviously doesn't stand out ... it was good to pop over and see you.

Cheers to you all - have a good week in the run up to Christmas ... Hilary

Juliet Batten said...

We didn't have Bovril here when I was growing up, but every household had a pot of marmite (which we pronounced Mar - might). It was, and still is, made here in New Zealand. When we were sick our mother brought us marmite drinks: not very palatable but they seemed to work. I think it was the vitamin B in particular that always settled our stomachs.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - yes you've pronounced it correctly ... MarMite?! They certainly had Bovril in Australia .. but it obviously wasn't one of the common foods around in New Zealand. I much preferred Bovril to drink ... it had a 'richer' feel to it ... but as you say the B vitamins in both were the salient aspects to the products. I hadn't thought about settling one's stomach ... but they gave us nutrients without the need to eat, or digest ... until we felt better.

Cheers and thanks for the extra note ...

Eddie Bluelights said...

Gosh . . . how interesting. I am still a Marmite baby and have it almost every day on toast. I have not tried Bovril for a while but recently saw a jar in Tescos and almost bought it. Will do so next time. I always pour biling water into an almost empty jar of Marmaite and our it into a mug to drink it ~ lovely . . . :)

Loved the history of both products . . :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Eddie - my SIL has Marmite everyday ... I have it for a binge out occasionally! Bovril is good for drinking ... while pouring hot water into the empty jar of Marmite is a very good idea (using every last bit: waste not want not) ... but mine goes into a stew.

I was interested in the history ...

Good to see you and so glad you enjoyed the post - cheers Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

I suppose it's an acquired taste...I really wanted to like it, because it's a British staple...but I just can't. On the other hand, I tasted it for the first time when I brought a jar over from England to Turkey, to my grandmother's house, and now the memory of tasting it is associated with my Great-Aunt, who liked it very much!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz - it is definitely an acquired taste often started as a child. But it's wonderful you can at least associate Marmite with memories of your Great-Aunt ... those are good ones ... and happy times for you - cheers Hilary