The curious case of the Missing Marmite Mastication flavour | Jack Marshall's column

The pop of my toaster surprises me. It really shouldn’t - I put the bagel/bread/crumpet (delete as appropriate) in there. I plunged the handle and turned away to attend to other breakfast matters.

By Jack Marshall, Reporter
Monday, 31st January 2022, 4:55 am
'How it clings!'
'How it clings!'

The spring recoils and the baked goods leap into the air with a tinny crack. I gently soil myself and look around for the assailant. Is it my slack-jawed absent-mindedness or a universal affliction: are toasters causing frights the world over?

Who knows? Frankly, who cares? This column isn’t about toast, it’s about what’s on the toast. More to the point, what that thing on the toast tasted of. And, even further to the point, what that very same thing didn’t taste of thanks to my Covid-addled taste buds.

The American writer Tim Dowling recently documented his first experiments with Marmite, penning the unforgettable line: ‘The shock of it causes me to stand up… a taste of concern: brown and faintly automotive. How it clings! Maybe it gets easier with repeated exposure, like cigarettes. My brain can’t believe I have repeated this experience voluntarily.’

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Which is to say that the thing on my startling piece of toast was indeed Marmite - that most unctuous and pungent of yeasty spreads.

But, reader, I tasted nothing. I was aware of it in my mouth; felt the moisture from the layer of butter, the crackle of the faintly-carbonised bread splintering under my molars. But my tongue lay stupid and numb. It was bizarre. The brain knows the flavour, but it’s absent.

As is the case with the stupefying toaster pop, I really shouldn’t have been surprised. A loss of the sense of taste is quintessentially Covid: ‘rona 101. But, all of a sudden, here I was.

Tasteless, my daft tongue lolling about like a big floppy idiot.

Those who have seen my wardrobe would argue that the concept of tastelessness is not one with which I am necessarily unfamiliar. To those witty few I say ‘don’t be mean; corduroy is back.’

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of my first thoughts was of subsisting solely on kale and brown rice for two weeks in some tongueless attempt to eke a jackpot six-pack from my beige flavourless days. But it doesn’t work like that. I still craved cheese toasties, sadly.

My taste is now beginning to rear its little noggin from its flavour furrow once more. Hot chocolate is impossibly creamy, leeks sharp and tangy, tomatoes sunny-sweet. Dare I say it, Marmite is once more ‘faintly automotive’. Praise be. Rejoice.