“Don’t go without your freebie”, the cheerful shop assistant chimed, popping a red labelled brown tub into the carrier bag. Little did I realise the significance in this seemingly mundane, yet unexpectedly welcome, transaction.

“Mate, you know what this is?” Enquired Kiwi Geoff’s mate Dean excitedly. “It’s the end of Marmageddon!”

The end? What? Marmageddon? What the blazes?

One of the more bizarre offshoots of the cataclysmic Christchurch earthquake of two years ago was the loss of New Zealand’s sole Marmite factory. Subsequently, Kiwis have been starved of their yeasty breakfast feast for over two years, hence Marmageddon. Rations of this divisive delicacy have been in short supply, with jars selling for extortionate prices on TradeMe plus the creation of Corporal Walker from Dad’s Army types stealthily preying on the weaker of the Marmite dependants. Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key lambasted the company, Sanitarium Foods, for not getting their act together quick enough as yesterday’s reintroduction came six months later than originally planned.

Once it was announced Marmite was coming back, fans have been counting the days. Online chat rooms and social media have been awash with the most revered comeback in the Land of the Long White Cloud since Martin Crowe announced he was returning to cricket. For their sake, let’s hope this ends happier than that one. Keen to find out what the fuss is all about, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I remember, vaguely, trying Vegemite, once, for something to do and being underwhelmed by it all. For me, the original is the best. I am a big fan of the British version, enjoying a love affair with Marmite from indulgent tea time treat as a kid to morning hangover cure as an even bigger kid. Loosely spread over finger-smarting toast while the butter obediently melts and washed down with a strong cup of Rosie simultaneously while poring over the Telegraph, simply, is one of life’s great pleasures.

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Taking my cue from the label’s boisterous exhortation I go ahead and dig in. The knife plunges through the tar thick substance coating half the blade. Re-emerging from the all-black stickiness, a pliable lump spreads all too easily over the bread. Half the fun of eating the British version is taming the unpredictable brown trail that trickles in the knife’s wake over kitchen tops, tables, plates and clothing before ensnaring the Marmite, via your fingers, in between your lips.

Splayed cumbersomely over the golden toast, the colour is the unmistakeable shade of the last big oil slick disaster. I half expect Michael Buerk’s serious voice to provide the VoiceOver to my breakfast and hope to high heaven I don’t come across the remnants of a cormorant somewhere within the dark goo.

The spread’s inherent bitterness sticks to my palate. My goodness, it actually tastes like the Exxon Valdez too.

Good Lord, no. This will not do. Awful stuff.

Thankfully the Yorkshire Tea comes to the rescue, dutifully dispersing the rancid flavours from my grateful mouth. I take several more restorative glugs before quickly moving on to haven of the fruit bowl.
Marmageddon indeed. You’d have thought with two years off, Sanitarium Foods would have learned to make some decent Marmite for their misguided countrymen.
As thoughts turn to my return to Blighty, I’m looking forward to seeing My Mate again next weekend.

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