Tom Doorley: Saucy
I don't know if it's a particularly Irish thing to define yourself, or the group to which you belong, by what you don't do, rather than what you do do. Growing up, I was vaguely aware that you imbibe social attititudes by a kind of osmosis, and that what seems perfectly natural and rational to me and mine might be utterly bizarre to others.
Much was said about your family by the newspaper that they ‘took’ – and in those days, if People Like Us bought the Evening Press or the Evening Herald, it was seen as a bit of a betrayal of the middle classes. Mind you, my family's late adoption of television (it arrived when I was well into primary school) was probably based on the idea that the new medium was aimed at ‘the masses’.
Food was involved too. People Like Us didn't buy Shipham's Meat Paste (much to my disappointment, when I first came across it in a friend's house). Nor did we have much truck with sliced pan. And the strange thing is that while pickles were kosher, if I may borrow a phrase, brown sauce was absolutely beyond the pale.
This meant that we never, ever had YR or HP Sauce in the house. And it also means that I had never tasted the stuff until very recently. I had a deprived childhood.
YR Sauce, when I was little, came in an angular bottle with, as far as I can remember, a design on the label that looked a bit like the willow pattern you get on china. It was, and still is, made by Goodall's, not far from where I lived as a child. It was proudly Irish, even if the YR stood for ‘Yorkshire Relish’.
Now, Yorkshire Relish was a thin brown sauce, not unlike Worcestershire sauce in appearance, and it too was, and is, made by Goodall's. The original of the species was made by a company called Goodall Backhouse. They appear to have been the first to produce a commercial version of the relish, in Leeds in the 1870s.
Nowadays, the Yorkshire Relish baton, so to speak, has passed to Henderson's of Sheffield, whose orange livery makes their bottles look – to me at any rate – rather like Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce.
Anyway, the YR Sauce that was never put on our table was, as far as I can gather, a kind of thick version of Yorkshire Relish. It tastes similar, even if it's distinctly sweeter.
Its great rival was HP Sauce from England, the initials standing for the Houses of Parliament. The picture of the Palace of Westminster made it look terribly respectable. At least that's what I thought. Even though HP never featured at home, I had a feeling that it might have been a superior kind of product. I didn't know, at the time, that the then British prime minister, Harold Wilson, was much given to drowning his dinner in the stuff.
HP is superficially similar to YR, but there's a bit more substance to it, a little more fruitiness and spiciness in the flavour, and it's a little less sweet. But to be honest, I wouldn't thank you for either. And of course, both the YR and HP brands have been diversified, so you get all sorts of variations on the theme, if you are so inclined.
They have their fans, of course, and YR is something of a cult product amongst the competitive barbecuers of the United States. I'm not at all sure that this is a recommendation.
Another brown substance was regarded – although this was never said out loud – as being rather infra dig. This was Branston Pickle – which I later learned to enjoy with cheese and crackers. Maybe it was a colour thing. There was no problem with pearly white pickled onions or bright yellow piccalilli, and I assaulted my young palate regularly with both. But brown sauce? Quite beyond the pale!
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A bit of saucy nostalgia.