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THE MARMITE PAPERS:

On the Development of the Marmite Theory of Migratory Evolution

By JC Mitchell, Doctor of Marmitology

Origin of Theory Further Correspondence Method of Introduction Links
FURTHER CORRESPONDENCE


...and of course the creative process progressed, generating both serious scientific theory and art in the form of haiku:

To: Dogandi (Chicago, IL, USA)
From: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: 8 Nov 2002

Just to see if all this fits together I attempted to express my Marmite Theory of Migratory Evolution in haiku, and it works!

As to the Marmite
Theory of Migratory
Evolution, thus:

Living with my mom
Who constantly loses pens,
Even my pens, has

Brought me to realise
There is a certain offshoot
of Darwinism

at work in this house.
This is demonstrated by
This phenomenon:

No item, when moved
from its current position
will ever return

To the same locale
Or at least within 9 feet
of said position,

Unless enclosed in
A refrigerator, in
which case it will be

No less than 14
inches -- and never will come
back to the same shelf.

This law will apply
to all writing implements,
all pairs of scissors,

All remote controls,
Key sections of newspapers,
Jars of nut butter,

Cartons of coffee
creamer, pots of yogurt, sharp
knives, reading glasses,

Phone directories,
Important to-do lists, and
cordless telephones.

Certain items will,
by their physical nature,
cycle through changes

in positioning
on the globe so rapidly
that they disappear

from present time and
space, destined to reappear
at some future point.

These items include
2-for-1 restaurant coupons,
flat-head screwdrivers,

shopping lists, and the
author's glass of water, where-
ever it may be.

So all the contents
of the house do not become
a churning cauldron

of total chaos,
there are 5 constants which are
destined to return

to the same locale
no matter how often and
how far they are moved.

These constants include
the dog bowl, the computer,
the author's slippers,

the author's day bag,
and the jar of Marmite on
the kitchen counter.
To: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
From: Dogandi (Chicago, IL, USA)
Date: 8 Nov 2002

You are an f'n (in the good sense of f'n) genius... I'm awestruck by your brilliance... would you recommend posting in one edition of The Lost Years Haiku Project, or one per daily edition for the next six years?
To: Mistah Rick (Oakland, CA, USA)
From: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: 8 Nov 2002

I've become obsessed with my Marmite theory! I've decided it relates to everything! Dogandi has been unwittingly writing a play in Haiku which I keep pushing him to finish, and it inspired not only romantic potato haiku but also my own scientific vision in verse. Following is Dogandi's brilliance:

Excerpt from a haiku play (work-in-progress)...

Vicomte de Naniac: You WILL dine with us?
Lady Basildon: [coldly] I can only dine alone.
Vicomte de Naniac: [remorsefully] Alone, you shall be.

[haiku drama (con't'd.)]

Lady Basildon: (effervescently) I must dine alone...
Vicomte de Naniac: (unflippantly) Yes, that is what you just told me.
Lady Basildon: (rhetorically) In five syllables?

[haiku drama fragment 3]
Vicomte de Naniac: I shan't sleep alone.
Lady Basildon: To sleep is a luxury...
Vicomte de Naniac: I can ill afford.

[act II, Scene 3]

(Twilight. No one stirs.
A half-baked potato cools
on the veranda.)

[act 1, scene 2]

Lady Basildon: Form is emptiness.
Vicomte de Naniac: Emptiness is form, alas.
(enter Guido of Arezzo, stage left)
Guido of Arezzo: Que dia es hoy?

To: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
From: Mistah Rick (Oakland, CA, USA)
Date: 10 Nov 2002

I have been receiving the haiku-du-jour from Dogandi. The ongoing, unfolding drama in dialog released me from the notion that each haiku must be complete in itself. And your Marmite verses enlarge haiku to a whole new realm (the scientific), lend clarity to the subject and don't seem forced the way I would have expected.

So I'm starting to see:

It's a forced ballet,
A coarse peg in a smooth hole,
My legs won't do it

Limericks, yes, but
No matter how hard I try
I can't write haiku

To dream in haiku
Just like the day I first thought
"Le ciel est bleu"

A double edged sword,
The incredible lightness
of being earnest

To: Dogandi (Chicago, IL, USA)
From: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: 17 Nov 2002

My daily horoscope keeps saying Fortune and Fame are coming to me right now, here they come, just around the corner -- the Publisher's Clearing House people have pulled into a Shell station right now to ask directions to my mom's house -- but still I wait and wait. I do have a lot of transatlantic telepathic power at the moment, though, so perhaps I'm supposed to visualise this fame and fortune. But all I can visualise is...a pen, lying next to a PowerBook somewhere in Chicago...trying to roll just a little bit...ah, but it's a little too tired. Sorry -- there's some interference so I can't demonstrate my powers.

But wait! Right at this very minute I believe a very large dog named Soter is visualising...a jar of Marmite...I can hear it in my mom's kitchen, attempting to wriggle across the counter...
To: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
From: Dogandi
Date: 17 Nov 2002

I don't even look at my horoscope anymore, or at least since I read one a few months back that said:

"Now is the time to begin a graduate program in Library and Information Science which will allow you to earn a degree, pursue a career in the library/information field and drift into anonymity for the remainder of your days, up until the night you die alone on the kitchen floor."

Must find Marmite...
To: Dogandi (Chicago, IL, USA)
From: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: 18 Nov 2002

I suppose this is why I couldn't quite levitate the pen on your desk or the jar of Marmite in Soter's mind: I was apparently engaged in another subconscious balancing act: the 5-7-5 syllabic construction in haiku.
To: Drewline (Sheffield, UK)
From: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: 19 Nov 2002

Oh, how crazy it's been. I spent the entire night in a strange out-of-body experience: I was thirsty, and every time I would wake up I would watch myself reach for the water glass and take a drink of water -- but I couldn't actually feel myself doing it. It was very very strange...and then this morning as I was making breakfast I couldn't screw the lid back on the jar of Marmite -- it was as if the threads on my secret-of-the-universe Marmite-Theory-of-Evolutionary-Migration jar had reversed direction overnight. Very very odd...
To: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
From: Kimmer (Pasadena, CA, USA)
Date: 23 Dec 2002

It appears that my husband Michael is now addicted to Marmite; he has been carrying a jar to work in his tool bag.

Mikey's Marmite
To: Kimmer (Pasadena, CA, USA)
From: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: 23 Dec 2002

I'm so happy to know another American Marmitophile. They're rare, you know.
To: JC (Long Beach, CA, USA)
From: Kimmer (Pasadena, CA, USA)
Date: 4 Jan 2003

Michael, aware that I was again trying to compose e-mail to my soon-to-be-expatriate friend JC, began to relate his most recent Marmite experience. Apparently, he has managed to repulse many of his coworkers by generously offering them a taste of the yeasty treat.
marmite on my mind
will ben and jerry mix it
into their ice cream?

-- from judith meskill's knowledge notes, August 3, 2003
To: JC (UK)
From: JP (Long Beach, CA, USA)
Date: August 10, 2003

I seem to remember reading many years ago about a little known theory of Einstein's. He proved that if you pick a single point on the surface of the coffee in a coffee cup and stir that coffee, that eventually that point will come back to the exact position it started from. The theory doesn't mention how long that might take or, I suppose, how long one must keep stirring. Now, I have also heard -- in fact actually held some in my hand -- of another product of Australian origin called, "Vegemite". Could the existence of this Vegemite (or considering the origin, Vege...Mate) be in conflict with your Marmite Theory of Migratory Evolution? Or could it be a second constant as it were, although Vegemite is attracted to or influenced by southern magnetic pole as possibly Marmite is by the north? Of course, beer runs through them both.

Any comments?

Christmas 2003 Edition
To: JP (Long Beach, CA, USA)
From: JC (UK)
Date: August 23, 2003

This sounds a bit like a roomful of monkeys typing up the entire works of Shakespeare. I wonder what would happen if you had a roomful of monkeys, each with a cup of coffee and a spoon, and they were all seated around a large jar of Marmite...

It's interesting that the most recent jars of Marmite in this country have had "MyMate" in place of the logo on the back of the jar. As "mate" is not a hemispherist invention but a British empirical constant, this makes me wonder just what the "Mar" refers to in "Marmite". We know what "Vege" refers to.

By the way, I've tasted both and I can say that not only does Marmite taste much better than Vegemite, but it comes in a much more appealingly rounded, sensual jar, around which my fingers delight in wrapping themselves. I couldn't really imagine your standard jar of Vegemite making much difference to life, the universe, and everything -- although if I were an Aussie I'd probably be quite upset if I woke up hungry for breakfast and discovered my standard jar of Vegemite happened to be empty.

Surfer Girl and Flipper ride the Wall O' Marmite, off the South Yorkshire Coast
To: Mistah Rick (Oakland, CA, USA), Kimmer (Pasadena, CA, USA)
From: JC (UK)
Date: May 4, 2006

Recently I read about a horrid new invention, the first new product for decades from the makers of Marmite. Yes, it's Marmite in a squeezy bottle! Is that sacrilegious or what?

I'm not alone in my horror. Laura Barton of the Guardian said the following:

"There are only certain things that should come in squeezy tubes, and broadly speaking we can refer to these as toothpaste and antiseptic cream. Where foodstuffs are concerned I pretty much draw the line at tomato ketchup, and that vivid yellow American mustard. It should not include cheese spread, and absolutely on no occasion should it ever mean Marmite." The spokesperson for Marmite told her that this new Marmite tastes exactly the same as the old Marmite, but it's brewed to a medium rather than a thicker scale so it can be squeezable. Laura's main complaint is this new consistency. "You can't have it squelching all over the place in a great splurge of yeast; as you spread it finely across your toast, it should display the same dark stickiness as walking on hot tarmac."

In the Times, Michael Gove complains about the prospect of a plastic bottle, saying that "one of the iron rules of gastronomy is that products taken out of glass and dispensed from other containers invariably taste worse. Ketchup is worse in plastic, as is mayo. And both wine and milk suffer when they're in cardboard rather than glass." He waxes on about how, since the age of 18, he has spent "many long hours trying to extract Marmite from the most distant corners of the jar, working with all the desperation, but none of the skill, of a miner digging out a final seam of coal from a soon-to-be exhausted pit."

And as a fan of lovely glass vessels, glass containers, and smooth-as-glass art pieces, I've always found a jar of Marmite both comforting and exciting to hold in my hands as I subtly stroke and fondle those simple form-as-function yet most delectable curves. It's a pleasure to rub against my face, especially when I feel a hot flash coming on, and I worship the growing parade of nearly-empty* Marmite jars which circle the top of the microwave.

Not only is this new container plastic, but it's also printed upside down, so you can store it lid-down in your cupboard just like a bottle of body wash or a family-sized tube of toothpaste. So even if you pretend it's an old-fashioned glass jar of Marmite and you stand it with the lid up, the damn label will be upside down! And I really don't think we Marmite fans should be required to stand on our heads just to feel like we've got ourselves a traditional jar of Marmite.

This has simply gone too far.

(*I think a Marmite jar is meant to end its life as "nearly empty", as the only way to make it truly empty is by sending it through a long cycle on an industrial dishwasher. As a master of impromptu cookery, Andrew often swishes one of these "nearly empty" jars with hot water to produce a bit of Marmite broth with which to flavour one of his creations.)
From JC's blog Expat in the Land of Marmite
Date: May 31, 2008

The other day I was talking to a workmate about how years ago, after discovering the gooey black magic of Marmite during a holiday in the UK, I was excited to find I could buy Marmite back in America. Perhaps not at the average corner grocery, but at my gourmet liquor deli in California and at an Italian deli in Seattle. (Of course Marmite isn't Italian; but this deli stocked a wide range of European goodies.)

As Marmite is such a unique substance, with their advertising motto saying it all -- you either love it or hate it -- it has become one of those comfort foods from home that Brits sometimes pack when they travel to other countries, along with HP Sauce, Henderson's Relish, and good old fashioned English tea bags. I generally find this habit a bit offensive. I mean, if you're going to visit another culture you should do as they do and not foist your own culture upon them. But in the case of relocating to another country and living there for awhile, I can see how one might be tempted to bring along a treat from home.

Which brings me to the original topic of our conversation: just how far abroad has Marmite actually spread? Further than the edges of an American slice of toast? Do Canadians eat Marmite? Does Vegemite have a monopoly on Australia?

I decided to do a little investigation on the Internet to find out which nationalities speak Marmite. Obviously the French do, as the French marmite is a rounded earthenware cooking pot which inspired the yeasty spread's name. To this day there is still a picture of a marmite on the label. What I learned was that one can purchase Marmite at several shops in Paris, although according to one blogger the French describe Marmite as d�guelasse which means "gross". But this comment could relate to the 50% of the French population who would statistically hate Marmite whether they've tried it or not. And the other 50% might love it. This is of course assuming the Marmite love/hate thing has travelled across the Channel.

What impresses me is the fact that Marmite can be purchased all over the world. It can be found at many shops all over the USA, Australia (where it's called OurMate), and South Africa, and at any grocery store in Canada. There are three German cities where one can purchase the black goo; one source in Rome; one shop in Gothenberg, Sweden; two places in Norway; and one shop in Auckland, New Zealand. It can also be purchased in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Malta, Greece, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Israel (where the more liberal Jews consider it kosher enough), Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and all over Singapore. And although it's not strictly sold in the Czech Republic a similar product made by Tesco is available.

Whether you can buy Marmite in Greenland or Antarctica is debatable. And I wouldn't expect to find it in Madagascar or Bolivia or Togo. But who knows? I suppose wherever the Brits travel is fair game. I seriously doubt one can find Marmite on the moon -- unless, of course, one of the astronauts happened to leave a jar up there along with all those Hasselblad cameras.

I wonder if there have been any Marmite-loving astronauts. Imagine if one had accidentally let a jar of Marmite escape into the cosmos, perhaps when she or he was conducting an experiment with Marmite while taking a space walk. Among all the thousands of satellites, objects, tools, gloves, and other debris orbiting the Earth, there might be a jar of Marmite -- a theory I expect you can either love or hate.
To: JC (UK)
From: Mistah Rick (Oakland, CA, US)
Date: June 7, 2008

Marmite in the cosmos sounds like the stuff of sci-fi. The first Star Trek movie would have been much more interesting, if � instead of a Voyager space probe � a lone jar of Marmite was found wandering in the far reaches of the universe by an alien intelligence, which imbued it with unimaginable extraterrestrial powers and propelled it back to meet its maker.

Or what if the jar of Marmite broke and dispersed into the space between galaxies, perhaps even replicating itself in the absence of absence of gravity and oxygen to fill the void. Maybe Marmite is the "dark matter" that would explain the difference between the mass of the measured universe and what is predicted by Big Bang theory.
And the gravitational forces of that black jar of Marmite continues to suck Life As We Know It into its grasp...

Stay tuned...
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