A/n - This fic is a product of the temporary Danish ban on Marmite, my first experience tasting Marmite, and the fact that I haven't slept in over 30 hours. To top it all off, I absolutely had to write a bunch of characters I've never written before. Hopefully this isn't completely awful. In fact, I'm fairly sure the only reason I'm posting is because I'm too sleep deprived to reconsider.
Disclaimer - I don't own APH. I guess I sort of own the two OCs mentioned in passing?
Note - As an American temporarily living in the UK, my spelling/terminology sometimes alternates between US and UK English, causing a bizarre pastiche of the two. I tried to weed out all the Americanisms, but some of them might have evaded me. Just a head's up.
It was always a rather terrifying experience whenever England hosted a meeting. As much as England liked showing off his country, he never could trust everyone to stay out of the Thames or not to sit in the House of Lords or not to demand knighthoods from the Queen or to avoid oncoming traffic. Really, it wasn't his fault nearly every other nation in the world drove on the right-hand side of the road, and by this point one would think the other nations would be used to England's roads. But no, every year someone managed to get involved in a minor car accident.
There was also the problem of feeding 200-odd nations, give or take a few split nations (like the Italies), loud former nations (like Prussia), and micronations that should know better than to bother proper nations (like Sealand). The catering staff was, of course, up to the task, but England always seemed to have quite a lot of leftovers whenever he hosted the meetings. And there were always a lot of suspicious take-away boxes in the trash cans.
So when it came time to break for lunch, England did his best to prevent the assembled nations from sneaking out to get take-away. He'd paid for the catering — or it was paid for by his government, which was practically the same thing — and the nations were going to enjoy it. Of course, it wasn't easy to keep an eye on 200-ish nations, and he was sure some of the smaller ones had sneaked away in the hubbub. He couldn't see any of the Caribbean. Well, he could trust Trinidad and Tobago to keep an eye on them. Hopefully.
"Don't even think about it," England said, planting his foot on the cardboard box that was creeping across the room. He lifted it and glared at America, who was muttering something about snakes. England decided he didn't even want to know. "You're going to stay here and eat the food my government provided, and you're going to like it."
"Well, I can do two out of three," America replied, standing up from the floor. He was promptly shoved out of the way by none other than Denmark.
England quailed. It was a force of habit, a knee-jerk reaction to the merest hint of a threatening Nordic nation. He hadn't quite managed to break the instinct in the thousand or so years since the last Viking raids, much to England's chagrin. Luckily, none of them seemed particularly keen on taking advantage of his instinctual terror. God knows what would happen if they did.
"What, precisely, is this?" Denmark said, shoving a jar in England's face. England was forced to take a step back. It wasn't because the sudden movement had surprised him. He just wasn't expecting to have a jar suddenly appear an inch in front of his nose. "Norge said I should just eat it if I wanted to know what it was, but Germany said I should probably ask what it was first."
Despite the fact that Denmark was excitedly waving the jar in his face, England could easily tell precisely what the mystery item was. After all, the jar was hardly mistakable.
"It's Marmite," England said. He was met with blank looks from Denmark and America, who was still loitering nearby.
"Is it edible?" America asked, wresting the jar from Denmark's hands.
"Hey, that's mine! Get your own mystery jar!" Denmark snatched the jar back and clutched it possessively.
"Of course it's edible," England said, trying his best to ignore the scuffle. "You spread it on toast." He shot a wary look to the rest of the Nordics, who seemed to be either picking through the buffet table or chatting with other nations. Or, in Iceland's case, slipping food to the puffin he'd somehow smuggled into the building and trying to avoid any questions about the most recent volcanic eruption. England prayed the little argument between America and Denmark wouldn't escalate further, because he knew the rest of the Nordics would come to Denmark's aid and the last thing England wanted at his meeting was a full-blown Viking invasion.
Luckily, America was distracted by the fact that India had apparently sneaked out of the room (how had England manage to miss her leaving?) and returned laden with what appeared to three restaurants worth of Indian take-away. England wasn't sure whether to be annoyed at the new food or relieved that the Marmite situation had been resolved peacefully.
With America gone, Denmark was finally able to properly examine the jar. He opened the top of the jar and sniffed it experimentally. Then he gagged and held the jar as far away from his face as possible.
"Are you sure that's edible?" Denmark asked, giving England a skeptical look. "This smells like something Finland cooked!"
"I heard that," Finland said over the crowd. How he heard them, England would never know. "I'll have you know that I made vispipuuro and I am more than willing to let Sealand have all of it." A slight pause, then, quieter but still audible, he added, "Of course I'll save some for you, Sweden. I was making a point!"
"You better not let Sealand eat it all!" Denmark shouted over the crowd. Finland ignored him, having returned to chatting with Estonia. Sweden resumed standing awkwardly nearby and trying not to loom too much.
Denmark's attention returned to the Marmite. England was watching with slight interest. He was more concerned with how delicious India's curry smelled. Maybe next time he hosted meetings, he would just get 200 orders of Indian take-away.
"Well, maybe it won't taste as bad as it looks," Denmark said with a small shrug. He stuck his finger into the jar, scooped up a dollop of Marmite, and stuck it in his mouth.
There was a pause.
Denmark more or less threw the jar at the nearest available wall, barely missing England's head, and dashed for the drinks table. He unceremoniously bowled over Latvia — prompting at least one cry of "Latvia!" — and did a rather impressive flying leap over Monaco and Liechtenstein in his haste to get to the drinks; upon reaching them, he immediately knocked back two glasses of water.
"Are you alright, Denmark?" Finland asked hesitantly. A decent portion of the assembled nations had witnessed the scene, and those that hadn't whispering amongst themselves, trying to figure out what had happened.
"That was the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted," Denmark said, pulling a rather horrified face, "and I've had hákarl."
"It isn't that bad," England said. Denmark stuck his tongue and went cross-eyed, trying to get a look at it.
"I can still taste it in my mouth," Denmark moaned, though it was mostly intelligible due to his attempts to look at his tongue. Finland pulled out a box of salmiakki from somewhere and offered it to Denmark. For once, Denmark actually accepted the sweets; at this point, he'd eat anything to get that taste out of his mouth.
"I suppose you love it or hate it," England said with a sigh. He was actually quite a fan of Marmite. And he was likely the only fan, judging by the way the other nations were keeping a safe distance from the now-shattered jar, which had created quite a stain across the wall and floor of the conference room. England did not look forward to cleaning that up.
"The licorice isn't helping, my mouth still tastes like that awful thing!" Denmark complained with a disgusted look. "It's like beef jerky turned evil and is attacking my taste buds!"
"It's just a spread," Norway said with an exasperated roll of his eyes. "Stop being such a drama queen."
"You're not the one that tasted it," Denmark retorted. "It's worse than surströmming. In fact, surströmming might get the taste out of my mouth! Did you bring any, Sve?" Sweden shook his head and England mentally sighed in relief. Surströmming had been banned from all national meetings after an opened can caused the entire meeting hall to smell like fermented fish for days.
"Try another glass of water?" Finland suggested, handing a new cup to Denmark. He drank it quickly and grimaced, the taste still lingering in his mouth.
"I'm never letting any of that into my house," Denmark pointed dramatically at the Marmite stain on the wall. "If it crosses my borders, I'll declare war on it."
There was a long silence.
"What," England said, echoing the general sentiment of the room.
"I need beer. Beer will help," Denmark decided, and he strode purposefully from the room.
"Idiot," Norway said, shaking his head.
"Um, did he really just threaten war against a sandwich spread?" America asked tentatively, unknowingly echoing the general sentiment of the room.
"It's just Marmite," England said, shaking his head. "I'm sure it'll all blow over soon."
Two days later, England received official word from Denmark's boss, stating Marmite had been banned from the country and that Denmark's mouth still hadn't recovered from the taste.
"If that's how he's going to play it," England growled at the missive, "I'll ban one of his foods. See how he likes it."
He quickly ran through a checklist of the major foodstuffs he imported from Denmark. Beer? Danish bacon? Pastries? None of them was a suitable counterpart to Marmite.
"Dammit, Denmark, why is all your food so delicious?" England growled.
Marmite is a spread made from yeast extract not dissimilar to Australia's Vegemite. The marketing slogan is "Love it or hate it," which pretty much sums up how people feel about it.
Vispipuuro is a rather delicious-looking Finnish dessert porridge, usually made with lingonberries.
Hákarl is an Icelandic dish consisting of a poisonous shark that has been fermented and set out to dry for five or six months, thereby removing the poison. It is considered the worst food in the world.
Surströmming is a Swedish dish of fermented herring, considered to be the worst-smelling food in the world. Though I think hákarl could give it a run for its money.
The Danish ban on Marmite is, in reality, based on the fact that it has added vitamins and minerals. Denmark has rather strict laws about that sort of thing, and any food fortified in such a manner needs to be approved by the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration. Since the company that manufactures Marmite never applied for a license to sell it in Denmark, a ban has been placed on the spread until an application is submitted and the product analysed. Of course, this doesn't mean Marmite will be approved. If it contains more than the approved amount of vitamins and minerals, the ban could become permanent.
For the record, my reaction to Marmite was similar to Denmark's.
My mouth still tasted like the stuff a day later, after eating several other things and brushing my teeth.
The last scene is based on the real-life British reaction to Denmark's Marmite ban.
I need to go to bed now.