"Before I sign, tell me where you stand on the M-debate...?"

What a tremendous turn-out! What tremendous support! What a tremendous experience! The U.S. launch - staged in my adopted home-town of Washington DC (Saturday, November 21) was a day to remember. Not only for me - but for all those folk who not only turned up at the 'elevenses-into-brunch' event and bought a book but actually dared to take their first taste of the mighty-M. It was offered in the most traditional way: on buttered toast. Husband Gary - he of 'Tar-in-a-Jar' fame - was the toast-master. And although he cannot abide the stuff, he valiantly encouraged the Marmite novices to have a go - instructing them to spread it sparingly. At least for the first go around. Mini-bagels were also offered - as well as as: Marmite Hit Egg Salad, and thin-link sausages cooked in a Marmite marinade. The latter were scoffed in record time - and voted 'top-taste', even by those who wanted to spit out the unadulterated Marmite! It cannot be reported that the cake - broken up sponge mixed with equal parts of marmalade and Marmite, and topped with an icing of melted butter and M and grated Cheddar - went down well. But a few brave souls tried it, with several of them voting it 'fantastic'. (I agree with them. The following day I had some heated in the microwave and have to reveal: it was totally 'moreish'. If it was served without the ingredients being identified I think everyone would rave about it!)

The best 'first' tasting story came from a woman who tried it tentativly, then - before diving into it with relish - declared it 'great'. Telling me this, as I prepared to sign her copy, she admitted she had no sense of smell. And wondered if this had helped her get it down. I could hear the 'hate' camp roaring - 'yes'!

Happily, for the extremely timid, two thoughtful friends, Lynn Campbell and Margaret Starkey, produced a delicious salmon mousse and a yummy pumpkin bread. I resisted telling them that they might have both been enhanced by a dollop of M. Only kidding!

Amazingly, the number of books sold exceeded the total sale of all four signings in Britain. The reasons for buying reflected all the marketting targets. Many were bought as gifts for American relatives/friends living 'over the pond'; quite a lot for British colleagues and friends, both here and there; one guy bought for the British golf pro at his club and the Brit who coaches him in 'real tennis'; several bought for themselves as a memory of time spent in Britain, when they acquired a taste for the black-goo; and some because they 'love' me and would have forked out for a copy even if it had been the most boring book in the world. A big thank-you to everyone! Especially to Margaret (she of the pumpkin bread) who collected the cash. And to Lynn (of the salmon mousse) who ran the errand to the bank to get a fistful of fivers, to ensure there was change. It would have been impossible for me to have signed and taken care of the money. At times there were a eight or nine people in line. Eat your heart out Sarah Palin! A sign of the signing mania was that my pen ran out of ink - and I only had one cup of coffee during the two hour session.

The event was on Capitol Hill and  kindly hosted by the American Legion Post 8 - in its wonderful space on 3d and D St, SE.  The good sales meant the Legion ended-up with a decent donation. After all the excitement a few of us celebrated in the Legion bar with Bloody Marys, made with a dollop of M instead of Worcester Sauce. Believe me - after you've perfected the knack of getting it to mix in - it's the Bloody Mary way to go.

But nothing about the event would have been a 'go' without my pal Barbara Rich. She arranged the space, she spread the word, she raced around town getting party supplies - while I...? Well, sat around practicing my signature! And on the day she was the 'foreman': setting up the room, keeping the coffee pot filled, making  tea, greeting people - then organised the packing-up of everything, while I....? Chatted away to Washington Post reporter John Kelly. To see what fun he had with the whole Marmitey affair, see: 'A Post About the Post'.


The launch party - held on the publication date, October 15th - was a memorable event. The food almost overshadowed the book! The buffet was a unique spread. Every dish had Marmite in it. There was soup, pasta, pate, sausage rolls, dainty pinwheel sandwiches, savoury pastries, chicken bites, all incredibly enhanced with a dollop of the mighty-M! Even guests who can't stand the stuff, gave the food the thumbs up.

The food was prepared by Tracy and Mark Witherington, owners of the Grape Vine, a cozy bistro-cafe in Whitby and their chef, Mark Rowell. They had taken many of the menu ideas from Marmite cookery books, dating back to the 1920s. But the big hit of the night they made up themselves: black pudding with a Marmite drizzle. It's going on their permanent breakfast menu.

The other surprsing hit of the night was the dessert that I made. I started out to make the cake that is featured in the book. It's a plain sponge with an 'icing' - or 'frosting' for American readers - of melted butter and Marmite, topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese. Sounds gross but it has a loyal following around the world. But I am no baker and I totally screwed-up the making of the sponge cake. How difficult is that - but I did! Anyway, determined not to have to start all over again, I mashed-up the sunken cake, grabbed a jar of Marm-A-Lite (a mix of marmalade and Marmite, made by that clever cover-designer chap, Rex, which is also in the book) and stirred it in. Then I plonked that 'mess' into a shallow casserole and put the topping on. They were fighting over it! Hard to believe, I know....


The 'signings' - well, the ones in Britain - are over.  And what a blast they've been. Have been to quite a few in my time. But never thought I'd ever do one. Have to admit, loved every minute - of all four of them. 

The first one was Sunday afternoon, November 1st. I was at the Red Brick in Batley, Yorkshire. The Redbrick is a wonderful retail space, in a beautifully converted woollen mill. A Bond Street of the North!  The signing was in the library coffee shop, Barca Caffe. Owner George Alexander was not only taken with the book but the fact that I started work (not counting how many years ago) down the road at the Dewsbury Reporter. Book-buyers (even non-buyers) not only enjoyed a mighty-M snack, but met my great niece, 10-year-old Ellie - who was happy to tell everyone that she did not agree with the you either love it or hate mantra.  "I can take it or leave it," she pronounced. The afternoon also reunited me with one of my friends from school. I was knocked-out when Jean Overend (or, Bolton, as I knew her) turned up - with our 1954 form photo! The terrific boost for us both was that I reconised her right away, she did me - and Ellie picked us both out on the photo!

The next signing was in Newcastle, at the Blackwell Bookshop, the legendary bookshop chain, in the city centre. It was from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on November 6th. Marmite and I were up against stiff competition. The Queen was in town! At the newly-vamped museum, just down the road - which was blocked off for a while. Even so did quite well. And had some interesting exchanges with people. One young woman bought it and gave to her boy-friend over lunch. He is not a fan but she wants him to be because she can't live without it. Later she came rushing back into the store to tell me that his initial reaction to the book was that he loved it. Got a kick out of it. And said he would try to take the message I'd written to heart. It said: 'Try harder to like it!'  Another buyer was an elderly gentleman, a retired French professor - who taught at Newcastle University and has lectured at Yale. He had a quick flick through the book and declared: 'I've  got to have this. I'm not a particular Marmite fan but this is fascinating information.' And the message I got repeatedly was: 'That's one Christmas present solved.' 

The next stop was the Saltaire Book Shop, between Bradford and Bingley, on the evening of Thursday, November 12th. The shop, an independent run by Yvonne Woodhead and David Ford, has a wonderful atmosphere - with its easy chairs, sofas and coffee-tables laid out with best-sellers next to off-the-wall offerings, like Mish-Mash! It was a terrific, fun event - thanks to the people who turned out in the most awful, wet and windy, weather. A highlight was the 'What Do You Know About Marmite?' quiz. After I'd finished chatting, we had an  informative and entertaining (just like the book) Q & A session. I was extremely chuffed when one woman said: "I had no idea there was so much to Marmite." Then they were put to the test. We had a quiz. The prize was a book (of course) - but the winner was not decided until after a three-way tie-break question.

Then last, but of course by no mean least,  it was the turn of the Whitby Book Shop - on the evening of Saturday, November 14th. The three of us were there - moi, illustrator Dave and cover artist Rex. It was a lively success. Obviously I was delighted - but also for manager Sue Keates, who has been remarkably supportive - both during the writing of the book and now it's a reality. Marmite fans were lured into the 'signing' by a spread of mighty-M infused goodies, similar to the ones that prompted such enthused reactions at the launch party. Maybe the wine helped too!  A couple of days later I crossed 'the pond' - to do it all again. In America!


Mish-Mash is reaping good media coverage. Stories have appeared in several British national newspapers, ie the Independent ( http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/marmite-its-spreading-all-over-1823086.html), the Sun and the Times; been mentioned on BBC Five Live (radio) and attracted pithy comment from the Have I Got News for You team on BBC 2 (TV). Live interviews have been aired on BBC Radio Tees, BBC West Yorkshire, BBCNewcastle, Yorkshire Coast Radio and Talk Radio Europe.The Burton Mail - the Marmite factory is in the Staffordshire town it serves - ran a page feature, as have several other regional papers, including the Sunday Sun (www.sundaysun.co.uk/news/north-east-news/2009/11/08/w). The Hill Rag, of Washington DC, ran a good article(http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/CCN_Website09/publicationhtml/papers/HR/1109/LiteraryHill1109.html More coverage, print and broadcast, is in the pipe-line.


The THE MISH-MASH DICTIONARY OF MARMITE is going great guns! People are really cottoning on to the fact that it's an every occasion gift. It's available from online booksellers on both sides of 'the pond', around Europe and everywhere else around the world, including Australia, India and Japan. But, of course, the best thing to do is buy it from your local independent bookshop.

The Reviews Roll In!

From Amazon

***** Tasty from A to Z
By BRICH "Bar"
Maggie Hall's Mish Mash Dictionary of Marmite is full of fascinating and fun facts. It's a surprising blend of product info, history, recipes, cartoons and reasons for brand loyalty or loathing. What a grand tour of the British psyche and sense of humor, as well as its breakfast table.