Saturday, February 27, 2010

Other Butter Option 1: Marmite!

Here's another way in which I make my life hard:

I don't believe in margarine.

I'll eat it if I have to, that is, if I'm at my grandma's house and there's the tub of it on the table or if it's in cookies my friend made or if my father put it on the pb&j he made for me before remembering I don't usually go there on my pb&j. But I won't buy it. Perhaps it is healthier, in some cases, than butter, but I still think it's weird. Part of the snobetarian purity clause. If you want butter, suffer the consequences. Just don't eat it with a spoon.

Unless you want to, of course. Ya'll are big boys and girls.

As a vegan, however, I can't eat butter. This isn't much of a problem as far as things butter goes into - baked goods, etc - because there are other ways. Veggie oil for one. (I know, I know, it's basically margarine in another state, but here we are. I feel more comfortable with the liquid.) Where it really gets me down is in the toast department. I eat a lot of sourdough toast, and while the flavor of the bread stands up on its own, I'd still prefer a little butter to dry. So I'm on a mission to find a butter alternative. Not a substitute, that would be margarine, but something I can use instead of butter that has some of the same qualities. It's not butter, but it's still good.

The first option I'm going to present is: marmite. (Omg go to their website. It's adorable.) If you have no idea what this is, you're probably not alone. It's a UK product that doesn't get a lot of press here in the States. This may be because some people find it pretty offensive. As their ad campaign proclaims: you either love it or you hate it.

I happen to love it.

Basically, marmite is a spread consisting of yeast extract, vitamins and veggie and spice extracts. Brown in color, I've heard tell of people mistaking it for chocolate – by sight – and being rudely surprised upon mouth contact. It tastes nothing like chocolate. Nothing like chocolate. It's a savory spreads with a pretty strong flavor – definitely in the salty category. And when I say strong, I mean whoa, like butter wouldn't stand a chance getting through with marmite around. That's the main issue I have here using it instead of butter; it doesn't have the same anonymity. This is a spread with a no-miss personality, but it does satisfy the same umami-salt craving as butter. It just does it much more loudly.

Here's why I think it's particularly awesome for vegans: it's good for you. It has vitamin B12 as well as several other members of the vitamin B complex - thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid. Something non-meat eaters really need. And for those vegans out there who already make use of nutritional yeast as a cheese-type alternative, it's got the same type of savoriness. I'd the say flavor quality is somewhere between Bragg's and nutritional yeast – a combo that I use in a lot of Asian dishes to sub out the shrimp or fish paste.

It can be hard to find outside of big cities – in the BR you can get it at Whole Foods or World Market. If you have such things in your city, the small specialty import shop will often carry it. I imagine you can order it off line. It's an eensy bit pricey on this side of the Atlantic, but a little goes a long way. If you haven't tried it, give it a whirl. You might hate it, but you could love it, too.

I've been eating it on bread with tomato and local honey – questionably vegan, I know, but I think honey is magical and bee-keeping is magical and I always support magic.


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  2. J.M. Snobby, there's someone who sells honey a block away from my house, let's go: