Nutella has turned 60, but marmalade is hundreds of years old and better on toast - Gaby Soutar

This year, Nutella has a big birthday. To celebrate, among other things, they’re running a #GiveaNutellaSmileCampaign, which asks customers to share selfies.

I know, urgh, how putrid. I am imagining people grinning with chocolate all over their teeth.

As you can guess, I’m not a huge supporter of the nutty spread, even though it’s something of a global phenomenon, with a massive 365,000 tons a year produced. I always think of it as a young pretender, so I’m quite surprised that it’s been around since 1964.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sure, if I’m in a hotel and they give me one of those little sachets, I’ll scoop the gloop out with my pinkie and eat the lot. I’d also be quite happy to turn a blind eye, if you were to offer me a large slice of Nigella’s Nutella cheesecake, or even whack a dollop onto a drop scone.

jar of nutella on wood backgroundjar of nutella on wood background
jar of nutella on wood background

However, it’s Nutella’s presence as a breakfast accoutrement that irks me. A condiment that’s so full of palm oil and sugar is not welcome at that time of day.

I also feel protective of more traditional condiments, like Scottish marmalade.

Nutella may be a sexagenarian, but the orange stuff is five centuries old. That’s almost ancient enough to qualify for a UK pension.

There is an apocryphal tale that Mary, Queen of Scots’ doctor made marmalade for her as a cure for seasickness, and that its name is derived from the words, ‘Marie est malade’. That makes sense to me. I’ll take a jar with me, next time I’m sailing from Ardrossan to Brodick with CalMac on a blowy day. Gaby n’est pas malade.

In reality, the name is most likely derived from the Portuguese word ‘marmelado’, which was a conserve made from quince.

Dundee marmalade also has seafaring links. They say that, in the 18th century, a Spanish ship docked in the Scottish city’s harbour, and local grocer, James Keiller, bought its cargo of Seville oranges. They were too bitter to eat as they were, so his mother made marmalade and later added some of the peel, to aid in digestion. That’s probably the recipe that’s closest to the general one we recognise today.

Anyway, as with anything that’s been around for so long, its origins are spurious and contentious.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While people argue about who created it, consumers aren’t buying it. Though Nutella’s sales have increased exponentially in previous years, and revenue soars for their owner, the Ferrero Group, which also have brands including TicTac and Kinder, our orange spread is becoming less popular.

It’s the video-killed-the-radio-star effect, I suppose.

Apparently, most marmalade sells to over 60s now, while Generation Zs and even the older Millennials aren’t particularly interested.

I know this, as my nephews and nieces would turn their noses up.

All they want is pure sugar, melted Mini Eggs, sparkles, twerking, slushies and rainbows for their breakfasts. And so it goes. I remember when I was a youth, all I ate were Pop-Tarts before noon.

Despite the steady drop, the sales for marmalade did rally a bit, when the late Queen did her Paddington sandwich sketch for the Jubilee celebrations a couple of years ago, but I bet they’ve stalled again. There’s only so much that a motheaten bear can do for sales.

Folk want super sweet, not bitter, on their toast. Still, I’ll continue to do my bit, by spreading it in inch-high layers.

I prefer the thick cut stuff, sometimes with a hit of ginger in it, or any novelty ingredient to keep me interested. We’re always accumulating fancy types from deli shops or farmers’ markets, and usually have about four half empty jars on the go. We always forget to put it in the fridge, and there is probably some extreme petri dish action going on in those containers. Alexander Fleming will be spinning in his grave.

I just had a look in one, for research purposes, and there was a misty fuzz of spores along its surface. Perhaps that’s how I’ve managed to dodge Covid so far. Maybe I’ll live forever.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As far as novelty varieties go, I’ve never tried the Mackays one with Champagne, the Tiptree lime version, or black marmalade, which is made with Seville oranges and whisky. But, once I’ve dispatched the current round, I’d definitely be investing.

I’ll add those to the ‘must try on toast’ pile, along with Norwegian brown cheese.

Anyway, I’m not really into boring old jam, so marmalade is probably my favourite morning condiment.

The real question is how to prepare the canvas. (There’s no way we’re going to have a marmalade sandwich, a la Paddington. They’re rubbish and the only reason he resigned himself to those was probably because he was too short to reach the toaster.)

Do you have your toast cold buttered or hot buttered? Personally, I think it’s nicer to go for the delayed gratification option, and wait for a chunky plank of sourdough cool, before you lash on the salted butter.

The unmelted technique works with another favourite, Marmite, too. That mixture has to marble the toast, like a Psychedelic painting.

The same with peanut butter – smooth, please. I’m not into the crunchy stuff. It sounds wrong, but I also enjoy this nutty creation mixed with a bit of the marmalade. It’s PB and M. My own invention.

I apologise to those who think that’s a travesty, but at least Nutella will never be part of my morning repertoire.

Gaby n’est pas malade.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.