The British took a lot from India but that they took a sauce recipe from us is indeed a tale worth knowing about.
Sometime in 1830s, a British company called Lea & Perrins began manufacturing what is commonly known as Worcestershire sauce, named so because the company was located there. The name stuck and the sauce gradually became a popular condiment among food lovers.
But the British were gentlemen folk, you see! They took from us but did admit that they took from us. So on the label of the sauce, Lea & Perrins wrote that the recipe is Indian. The ingredients include garlic and anchovies with soy sauce, vinegar and some other traditional Indian stuff.
That the recipe is Indian was established but there emerged three versions of the story.
- The label says that one “Lord Marcus Sandys, ex-Governor of Bengal” was the one who discovered it 1830s Bengal. This was later disputed because there was never any Governor of Bengal of the name.
- The second theory suggests that Sandys could have been Arthur Moyses William Sandys, a Lieutenant-General who might have chanced upon the recipe during his India stay. But that too is disputed.
- The third angle points at one lady from the Sandys family, Mary Sandys Hill, who lived during the time of the legend.
What is certain is that whosoever may have introduced Britain to the sauce discovered it in India.
Now comes the more interesting trivia, which proves that merely the knowledge of a recipe does not make the product better.
When the British tried to create the sauce at home, they failed miserably. It tasted horrible. So they discarded the bottle. It was only months later that someone chanced upon the bottle of sauce and tasted it. They found it delicious!
The British then realized that the sauce was to be left for a certain duration for it to ferment and become palatable.
With time, many companies other than Lea & Perrins started making it, including Heinz, helping the bottled sauce reached the shores of many countries.
An old advertisement of Worcestershire Sauce. HomeCooking
So that’s it. That’s how a sauce from India reached Britain and became internationally popular. What about India, you ask. The homemade sauce was replaced by the manufactured ones – those you find in bottles belonging to companies that the foreign. What was once made in every home, is now made by others and sold to us. Congratulations!