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'Danish Marmite ban, be damned': British ex-pat

'Danish Marmite ban, be damned': British ex-pat

Published: 01 Jun 2011 14:09 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Jun 2011 14:09 GMT+02:00

The news that Denmark has recently banned Marmite caused widespread panic among British ex-pats there, leaving UK native and Marmite lover Tim Harvey wondering whether the decision may have even more far-reaching consequences.

Since I emigrated to Malmö just over a month ago, I have often, from the lofty position that is the eleventh floor of my apartment, contemplated the beautiful land that is Denmark glinting at me from across 500 metres of bitterly cold Baltic Sea.

I have laughed and reminisced at length about great parties in Copenhagen, and discussed the virtues of a country whose inhabitants seem almost impossibly well-mannered and carefree.

So why, then, does the same view now cause a sickening knot to twist in my stomach, debilitating me and forcing me to quickly draw the blinds?

Why does the land that once emanated so much warmth and conviviality now seem angry, loveless and ensconced in the unforgiving clutches of my antipathy?

The answer is simple: Denmark, to my immeasurable anguish, has banned my favourite foodstuff, Marmite.

The savoury spread has become so synonymous with the mantra ‘you either love it or hate it’, you suspect that it is only a matter of time before the definition of ambivalence is replaced in the dictionary by the words ‘See Marmite’.

Those who hate it react to the slightest taste of it by spluttering, gasping for water and generally pulling a face like a 17th century gargoyle. They talk about it in the same reproachful, venomous way that they would talk about al Qaeda, the congestion charge, or Gary Glitter.

Those who love it can talk about it breezily, and affectionately, in the way that you would expect someone to discuss their favourite childhood cartoon series, and are at once capable of launching an impassioned defence of the delicious, salty spread to any curmudgeonly detractor.

But it is the added vitamins contained within yeast extract (Marmite’s official, periodic table name, commonly abbreviated to YE. It‘s next to Einsteinium) that have irked the Danish government into adding Marmite to the list of substances in its naughty book, alongside Bovril and Marmite’s feral cousin, Vegemite.

These added vitamins, the Danish government would have you believe, contain malicious chemicals which are capable of causing a great deal of harm to all whom they meet.

To say that this been met with opprobrium by the ex-pats who currently call Denmark home would be nothing short of a massive understatement. There has been outright fury from Marmite consumers all over Denmark who have not let geography hinder their consumption of the vitamin-B-rich spread. Apoplectic messages have appeared all over internet forums from defiant Marmite fans who promise that the Danish authorities will have to pry open their cold, lifeless fingers in order snatch away what for many of them is the ultimate home comfort.

Tit-for-tat retaliation has even been mooted in some quarters, with a blanket ban on Danish bacon and Carlsberg beer exports being suggested as the perfect riposte to these newfangled sanctions.

Why does this concern an expatriate living in Sweden though, I hear you ask. Have there been rumblings about a similar ban being introduced in Sweden?

Are we about to see the kind of blatant Scandinavian supporting vote more commonly associated with the latter stages of the Eurovision Song Contest?

Or have clandestine Danish officials infiltrated Sweden’s top brass, bribing them into mirroring the ban in the first act of a greater coercive movement which could eventually spell doom for Marmite on a global scale?

Well, no, not really.

In fact, it seems that Sweden’s reputation for harmony and tolerance is still very much intact, at least on the Marmite front (The Marmite Front, incidentally, being the name of a group of fanatical Marmite fans who have been suggesting the most extreme acts of revenge. NB. Not to be confused with the United Front of Marmite, who are an altogether more docile organisation).

No, the cause of my unease is that for me, and anyone who lives in Skåne, it is far easier to travel to Sweden via Copenhagen, and that raises all manner of problems.

Though I have only been in Sweden a month, I have already exhausted my first batch of rations which, owing to the 35 kilos of other stuff in my baggage, was the most I could manage to bring on my first trip.

These rations included a box of Jaffa Cakes (which are available at Netto, proving the folly of this rash inclusion), some English Breakfast teabags (another unwise selection, given the wide availability of English tea in Sweden) and of course, a lovely pot of Marmite.

I lasted a good three days without the black stuff before I realised I was teetering on the brink of insanity, and was forced to visit a shop devoted to providing for British expatriates in Malmö.

Purchasing the smallest pot I could, my Marmite hit was satisfied, though my wallet has left bloodied and bruised by the encounter.

I knew this was not a long term solution. Not if I still harboured hopes of keeping the wolves from the door every month.

My plan had been to head back to the UK in June and, on my return, stow as much Marmite in my luggage as physically possible, in the hope of lasting until my next return home.

I’ll admit to patting myself on the back for conceiving what seemed such a watertight system. As far as spanners in the works go, the Danish government has well and truly reset the bar. They’ve swatted aside my childish solution with a scornful sneer.

“Nice try, son.”

In light of Denmark announcing, as recently as last week, that they are set to renew border control measures to Sweden, this leaves me with few, if any, options…

It appears that I am going to have to take a leaf out of Howard Marks’ book, Mr. Nice.

In order to satisfy my Marmite lust, I am either going to have to become perhaps the world’s first Marmite smuggler, or I am going to have to, on finishing my last pot, section myself for fear of harming those around me in a kind of maniacal rage that would frighten the horrific zombies of 28 Days Later into sitting down and having a glass of milk.

Denmark, I loved you like no other, but you have broken the heart of a man with only the most modest of needs.

If you have a rethink any time soon, you’ll find me sat in my room, blinds drawn, hoping for a cloudy day.

Need I suggest the perfect reconciliation gift?

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

15:18 June 1, 2011 by JulieLou40
What a load of crap. It has not been banned at all. The truth is that Marmite had not applied for the appropriate licence to sell it in Denmark. Hence I doubt whether the authorities would care whether you brought some into Denmark with you or not, as long as you didn't buy it there.

A total non-story.
15:31 June 1, 2011 by Rick Methven
You could of course buy up all of the English shop's stock of Marmite and corner the market in southern Sweden/Denmark.

This would enable you to take the ferry across the Baltic and sell your pots of Marmite at highly inflated prices to marmite addicts suffering withdrawal agonies who would pay anything you ask for a Marmite fix. Not only would you get your own supply free you would also make a nice little earner.

The only reason that I am suggesting this, is because I HATE the stuff
16:36 June 1, 2011 by MaggieHall
To really make you feel home-sick for Marmite, I've got to suggest (at the risk of self-promotion) that you get a copy of The Mish-Mash Dictionary of Marmite: an anecdotal A-Z of 'Tar-in-a-Jar'. I've sent a copy to the 'suits' in Copenhagen. Under no illusion it will change minds (though it should as only B-12 is added) but they will, if they flip through it, be mightly entertained. As an ex-pat your best bet to buy it (or any book for that matter) is from The Book Depository. It has free-shipping world-wide! Thanks and keep on 'spreading' the Mighty-M word.

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Mish-mash-Dictionary-Marmite-Maggie-Hall/9780956368607
00:01 June 2, 2011 by Nemesis
The British Royal Navy should go for a goodwill visit to Copenhagen and have all its sailors distribute Marmite openly and for free, as a gift to all Danish to improve Danish-British relations.

Of course I would hope the Danish government will thank the British for there gift to Danish society:)
00:20 June 2, 2011 by spy
Is Sweden is so boring that TL has to find rubbish stories from Denmark?
00:34 June 2, 2011 by Tanskalainen
Can it be used as a sexual lubricant?
06:02 June 2, 2011 by volvoman9
@ tanskalainen,,, Have you ever smelled this crap? Let alone put it in your mouth/? Ahgggg! For once the Danes have made the right choice. The Brits are renowned for their culinary oddities.
07:54 June 2, 2011 by dazhug
dear ex pat. try britishcornershop.com for all you marmite an other british goodies you miss fraybentos pies etc an proper malt vinegar...all shipped by weight to any country.. also marmite is great for keeping mozzies away when eaten every day what better reason to start eating the lovely stuff ....
08:27 June 2, 2011 by Nemesis
Marmite is readily available all over Europe from britishcornershop.com.

Also people in Copenhagen or Skåne, can get the train to Malmö and purchase at the English Shop in Gustav Adolfs Torg 8B, Malmö (city center).

Anyone in any part of Sweden, can order there Marmite online from here :)

http://www.englishshop.se/Search(1).asp?searchFor=marmite

They do home delivery of very suspect Marmite packages direct to your door.

@ Tanskalainen

I suppose someone might try that one, although that is a very disturbing thought. That would take fetishism to a completely different level :)
15:15 June 2, 2011 by SkaneLover
Why on earth is Mr Harvey getting so worked up about the Danes banning a product he can easily buy in Sweden anyway?

'Tar-In-a-jar' indeed, so presumably a lorry load is 'muck-in-a-truck'.
22:36 June 2, 2011 by dizzymoe33
Why don't they just lick the salt shaker instead isn't that about the same stuff? :)
23:24 June 2, 2011 by superturbo
probably just as well this stuff was banned. The brits are world renowned for their bad eating habits :P
09:08 June 3, 2011 by What?
Oh geez - aren't these newpaper reporters getting really bored? How about informing the public about important things instead of this kind of ridiculousness?

Vegimite should never have been exported and stayed Down and Under!

It tastes like microwaved camel dung! Don't ever get close to it or even try!
19:41 June 3, 2011 by Puffin
@ JulieLou40

Why are you so eager to accept that Denmark should classify marmite as a medical product?? A licence to sell marmite sounds ridiculous- since when is medical licensing requirements applied to foodstuffs?

The licensing issue is a major red herring - as the Australian company Vegemite *did* play ball and apply for a licence ...... and was promptly REFUSED
21:45 June 3, 2011 by Tanskalainen
I thought a Vegemite was someone who sodomizes turnips.
01:31 June 4, 2011 by darkrealm
I live in London there is plenty of Marmite here. But why moan about it. Think about me I hate Marmite but Love Swedish Snus. I have to fly to Sweden every 3 months fill my bag with Snus come home. I would happily trade.
01:57 June 6, 2011 by What?
imagine "peanut butter" but made of beans instead!

tastes TERRIBLE!

only Aussies would invent and like such yak!
09:19 June 6, 2011 by Nemesis
@ Puffin,

There refusal to alloow Vegemite is terrible.

We need to organise a protest in Copenhagen against the banning of such good products.

Of course the protest would naturally be led by the ministry of funny walks:)
21:05 June 6, 2011 by SkaneLover
@darkrealm

Much as I hate Marmite, snus is an even more disgusting thing.

At least Marmite won't give you cancer of the mouth.
22:54 June 6, 2011 by darkrealm
@Skanelover snus has been medically proven not to cause oral cancer. whereas marmite made my pubes turn grey.
08:49 June 7, 2011 by JulieLou40
@ Puffin: I think if you bother to read my comment properly, you will see that NOWHERE did I say that Denmark should classify Marmite as a medical product. As a matter of fact, I think that would be ridiculous. I merely stated that this had been the case. Something which I think you yourself mentioned on MIS!!
09:11 June 7, 2011 by Puffin
From the Telegraph

Denmark recently rejected an application to sell Vegemite, an Australian Marmite-style spread. But one EU official pointed out that Danish food risk assessments are carried out on a case-by-case basis and "this does not necessarily imply that a similar ban will be introduced on Marmite".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/8537021/Marmite-makers-urged-to-fight-Denmark-ban.html

So perhaps not as simple as the "apply for a licence" version suggests
09:32 June 7, 2011 by karex
@skanelover

If this were FB I would have hit the "like" button on your comment, very amusing!
09:46 June 7, 2011 by Nemesis
@ Puffin,

The whole thing with Marmite has been rumbling in the background in Denmark for three years now to the best of my knowledge. It may possibly be a bit longer.

I know that some small supermarkets that stocked Marmite recieved letters about it a couple of years ago in Copenhagen, Åhus and Roskilde. I used to work along the street from one of those shops three years ago and was told in the shop next to my work that they no longer sell, it as it is not approved for sale in Denmark. That which suprised me and seemed to suprise the manager in the shop.

I had bought a jar the week before from that shop and was getting another for my neighbour to wind up his family at there crayfish party as his parents wanted to try traditional british food. That was three years ago in may, as it was when I had a short contract in a bar along the street from that supermarket at the time in Copenhagen, for the summer.

Now it appears to have spread to the ex-pat shops. I am not sure if that is recent or not.
13:09 June 7, 2011 by maxbrando
What kind of smarmy jerk wrote this?? He should be licking a..es instead.
15:13 June 7, 2011 by philster61
Snus is the best birth control ever invented...Marmite is the best laxative.
16:47 June 7, 2011 by SkaneLover
@darkrealm

Snus mightn't cause oral cancer, but it supposedly increases the risk of cancer of the pancreas. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/556437

On a lighter note, why were you putting Marmite on your pubes anyway? ;-))
22:49 June 8, 2011 by Ivan Juric
Vegemite has also been banned in Denmark. Fat load of good it did us here in Oz sending over Princess Mary of Tasmania.
11:53 June 9, 2011 by big5
This article is horribly written and should never have been published. It's a heap of adjectives and cute phrases that are neither clever nor informative.
01:51 June 11, 2011 by Tsivertsen
Never tried the stuff but my curiosity has been piqued. I'll order a jar online.

Don't think it's far from peoples sentiments regarding swedish kaviar in a tube, some love it, some barf.

Marmite sounds like the cauldron the druid in Asterix mixed his famous potion in.

In Mexico you can eat tacos of the burnt-sticky-salty remains at the bottom of the cauldrons in which "carnitas" are boiled in lard. Can't remember what it's called, though it's real good!

I hope all you who are in need of your daily marmite fix can fix this evident problem. I was just as pissed when Läkerol stopped the production of Cisali flavoured pastilles back in 2003 (4?) (if you've any idea what I'm talking about)(and that can't be repaired!).
19:14 June 13, 2011 by darkrealm
@ SkaneLover

The reason I put marmite on my pubic hair is to be kept between me and my marmite loving girlfriend.
12:27 June 14, 2011 by farnoxo
if god had to choose one food....it would be marmite. Hence the Denmark is the great satan and no Danes will be taken away in the rapture ... oops .. I forgot, the rapture was supposed to already have happened - anyone got any tickets left (or a spare bottle of illegally smuggled marmite)
00:27 June 15, 2011 by Nemesis
@ darkrealm,

As kinks go, I will not comment as I am just stumped, literally:)

However if we manage to get the ministry of funny walks to organise a protest, can we count you in?
02:31 June 16, 2011 by J Jack
The world will never be right without marmite,, :-(
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