The Official Sauce Of Great Britain

A bottle of HP's brown sauce.
A bottle of HP’s brown sauce.

When I read a book or watch a movie or a TV series, I pay close attention to the dishes that the characters are having.

In “The New Neighbors” episode of “As Time Goes By”—an old britcom that ran from 1992 to 2002—Lionel Hardcastle walks into the kitchen with a bottle, and places it in the cabinet. He says: “I thought I’d have some of those good sausages for breakfast, and brown sauce goes very well with them.”

When his gaze falls on a similar bottle on the table, Jean Pargetter tells him that he needn’t have got brown sauce at all. There was one in the cupboard already.

That’s how I was introduced to brown sauce. Now that I had been, I couldn’t contain my curiosity. Promptly, I set about learning more about this English staple, and came upon a piece in The Guardian.

[It was a Nottinghamshire grocer] who concocted the primordial recipe in the 1870s [combining] ingredients thrown up by empire: tamarind, dates, and molasses. He registered the name HP Sauce in 1895, cannily claiming that the parliament had started serving it, and began decorating his bottles with the now familiar lithograph of the [House of Commons].

Sadly, HP sauce isn’t made in the U.K. anymore. Production moved to Holland, in 2006.

[Still], HP remains wholly British in spirit: “The Official Sauce of Great Britain” as a former strapline had it. The brown stuff will always remain the best complement to one of our greatest offerings to the world: the full English breakfast.



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