A bit on the side
From fruity ketchup and sticky Worcestershire sauce to nose-tingling, hot mustard and horseradish, Tom Parker Bowles celebrates the importance of condiments in British culture and food
‘the Mustards, vinegars, jellies and sauces are zip and zing of British food’
blob of pungent English mustard; lamb lusts after the sharp embrace of fresh mint sauce, bacon sandwiches the fruity bite of HP; and sticky sausages insist upon a puddle of Worcestershire sauce.
Condiment comes from the Latin condire, meaning to preserve and pickle. And, in the days before refrigeration, they lasted through long winters, as well as providing essential culinary first aid. Hence their ubiquitous allure. Right up to the start of the 20th century, almost every town had a vinegar brewer, a by-product of beer and cider. And it wasn’t just good old malt, without which fish and chips are bereft.
‘Our great grandmothers not only made their own vinegars from flowers and fruit,’ notes Florence White, that patron saint of Great British food in Good Things in England, ‘but they also flavoured it variously when made.’ With everything from primrose and rhubarb to gooseberry and celery. Raspberry vinegar, especially