It was during the late 1960’s, at around the age of five years old, when I first became aware of marmite. A realisation manifesting while sitting eating breakfast in the kitchen of my grandparent’s Calverley home, west of Leeds. A juncture in my ageing process where I first caught sight of the iconic little black jar with yellow screw cap lid.
My first meal of that day, one of the tiny boxes of Frosties from a Kelloggs Variety Pack. My inaugural witnessing of a marmite container occurring when my grandma slid open a duck egg blue coloured cupboard door. This act exposing the jar of a spread which in later adulthood became my habitually preferred toast topping.
Incidentally, when speaking of eating a tiny box of Kellogg’s Frosties, I’m referencing the consumption of the boxes contents. Not that my petit dejeuner was a cardboard platter. I was born and raised in working class areas of the north of England, but we weren’t that poor. That being said, during childhood there were occasions I did chew on paper and cardboard if bored in school class..
Thankfully, this habit wasn’t frequent enough to render my homework unreadable. Akin to blaming your dog, any potential excuse to teacher of “I’m sorry, but I ate my homework!” wouldn’t have been well received…… Although, I could possibly defend such an act by pointing out we pupils were often told to consume as much knowledge as possible!.
The latter advocacy misheard by a hard hearing member of my form as porridge, not knowledge. Leading to his perennial moaning about the blandness of an all Scots oats-diet.
Anyhow, while my three year old year old brother Ian, who was sitting opposite, ate a separate cereal from the Variety Pack, the predominance of the marmite jar’s yellow and red hue had attracted my gaze.Eyesight which seconds early had be scanning the picture of Tony the Tiger on the Frosties packaging.
“What’s that, grandma?” I inquisitively mentioned to my dad’s mum, pointing toward the jar in the food storage unit.
She broke from her cooking of her and my grandad’s breakfast.to respond “What’s what, Gary?…… What are you pointed at, love?” grandma sought to clarify in soft Yorkshire tones.
“That jar with the yellow top in your wall cupboard, grandma.” I confirmed.
“Oh, that’s marmite, Gary…… You won’t like that.” came the old ladies presumptive response.
“Why’s that, grandma…… Is it poisonous?!” I continued with the inquisitiveness of youth.
After chuckling to herself, with grin on face, she responded “No, love, why would I keep poison in my food cupboard?…… That’d be very dangerous!”
“You could have it there to put in someones tea if you didn’t like them.” I argued, with what was clearly a shaky youthful understanding of the UK’s murder legislation.
After a further chuckle, gran assured me “I don’t hate anyone, Gary……. And even if I did I’d end up in Armley jail if I put poison in their food.”.
“What about uncle Archie?” I questioned.
“What about him, love?” grandma queried curiously.
“Well, yesterday I overheard you telling grandad you think he an idiot!” I pointed out with childhood naivety and candour.
Between flailing attempts at suppressing giggles, my forebear assured me that “Uncle Archie can be a bit silly sometimes….. But, I don’t really think he’s an idiot!”
“Does grandad?!” I sought to investigate further.
“Of course not, love!….. Why?!” came grandma’s tentative query.
“Because after you called uncle Archie an idiot. Grandad said uncle wanders around with his head up his arse!” I professed in youthful candour.
Choking back laughter, grandma assured me my grandad Jack was kidding, and was naughty for using the ‘a’ word. Going on to tell me I should never use it myself.
“Can our Ian use the word arse?” I asked, seeking to clarify if the edict applied solely to me.
“No, children shouldn’t use naughty words.” I was assured by my dad’s mum..
“If you did really think uncle Archie was an idiot, would you use the stuff in the yellow topped jar to poison him, grandma?” I tenaciously sought to ascertain.
“No, Gary!….. You’re not allowed to poison people!” gran chortled.
At this point my grandad came in for his full English breakfast. While chomping on a rasher of bacon, he informed grandma Phoebe that “Our Archie’s just rung to say he’s locked himself out again!!…… What an arse that man is!!”
Language which led to a terse grandmotherly admonishment of “Jack!!…. The grandkids are here!!”
Incidentally, my grandma was wrong, I love marmite.