Marmite Food Company's original product
Marmite Food Company's original product

My family is from the United States, but I grew up in Singapore. Singapore has always had lots of imported goods flowing into it, especially since the country used to be a port for the British colony in the mid-1900s. Of these goods is marmite –a yeast extract (the same kind of yeast that could be used to make beer) that was invented in 1902 by Justus Von Liebig. After being included as a food ration during WWI, Liebig’s smooth, dark brown, savory spread became a big hit in London, England. Marmite has been a popular product ever since …or at least popular enough for my family to be able to find and buy it from a grocery store in Singapore decades later.

I can still remember the first time I tasted marmite. The marmite was spread atop a toasted bagel with melted butter, and I savored the salty-savory sensation. As someone who is not white, it feels weird to think about how marmite –a food that I enjoy now and remember fondly as part of my childhood –was introduced to me as a result of colonial pathways. In many ways I am conflicted by my feelings of both appreciation and disgust for the impact of colonization on modern day patterns for the movement of goods. On one hand, distribution and immigration has allowed for me to try a food I otherwise would not have; on the other hand, the mechanism behind globalism favor a few specific countries and increase wealth disparities. Lots to think about, but in the meantime I'll eat my butter and marmite bagels!

Place(s): Singapore, UK

– Melanie

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