Marmite is always feted as the “love it or hate it” ingredient, which I’ve always found to be an inaccuracy. Whilst there are definitely people who won’t touch the stuff, I’m yet to find someone who thinks it’s the bee’s knees, and the category which Marmite marketing claims doesn’t exist – those who have no strong feelings either way – is far larger than any alternative.
There is one thing, on the other hand, that seems to provoke strong feelings in everyone. And for a foodstuff apparently so innocuous, marzipan is bizarrely divisive.
This Christmas, just like the last few, Pa Blonde baked his little heart out. Since semi-retiring, he has Discovered Cooking, the result of which is that almost everyone my parents know is, come mid-December, in receipt of a Christmas cake (this year there was even one spare one that was raffled off, with the proceeds donated to church funds).
As such, The Writer and I have half a very large Christmas cake sitting on our kitchen side. The reason that there’s still half of it when we’re approaching the mid-point of January and I’ve already donated a large slab to The Spectator, is that TW doesn’t like marzipan.
The man eats almost anything – writing this, I’m struggling to think of anything that he refuses to eat, other than tofu. He also has an exceptionally sweet tooth, meaning that cakes, cookies and any sort of sugar-heavy baked good in our house has the life expectancy of a fruit fly with congestive heart failure. And despite the fact that he’ll eat almonds, drink Amaretto, or wolf down several of late Granny Blonde’s Bakewell slices in a single sitting, marzipan is something he won’t touch.
So, given the generous layer that’s applied under the equally generous layer of royal icing on top of Pa Blonde’s so-boozy-you-can-get-drunk-by-sniffing-it Christmas cake (containing rum, brandy, cherry brandy AND port this year), it’s down to me to work my way through it. As I said, it’s going slowly.
But TW’s not the only one that dislikes the stuff. Younger Sister feels so strongly about it that her Christmas cake, somewhat controversially, has butter icing on instead; and at least two thirds of my colleagues recoiled in horror when I said I’m a fan during a discussion about Christmas foods back in December.
Personally, I love marzipan, and the thicker the layer on the Christmas cake – or, as Pa Blonde also made this Christmas, the Fraisier cake – the better. And there is little more delicious as a mid-afternoon treat with a cuppa than one of those marzipan Ritter Sports. Or marzipan fruits. Or BATTENBURG – truly a prince of cakes.
And I’m not alone: there was one girl in my form at school who loved the stuff so much that she’d eat it by taking bites straight from a block. Which isn’t necessarily the level of almond appreciation we’re all after, given, but it goes to show the stuff has its fans.