Monica Dyson: Getting even saucier than Fifty Shades...

1975: Harold Wilson attends a diner given by Imperial Foods Limited, celebrating the centeneray of HP Sauce. PIC: PA

1975: Harold Wilson attends a diner given by Imperial Foods Limited, celebrating the centeneray of HP Sauce. PIC: PA

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When I was a child I was an avid reader. However, not at the dining table, much to my disgust.

Therefore, my reading matter then was restricted to reading the side of the HP sauce bottle. I didn’t actually learn much French from the information given, but it whiled away boring meal times.

The company decided that the description in French would add an air of continental refinement to a product that people just plonked on their pies or bacon and egg, but I’ve a feeling that today that is exactly what most people still do.

The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented by a Nottingham grocer called Frederick Gibson Garton who registered the name in 1895. He called it HP after the Houses of Parliament after he had heard that a restaurant there had started serving it. He sold the recipe and brand to Edwin Samson Moore, the founder of the Midlands Vinegar Company who launched HP Sauce in 1903. The rest as they say, is history. For many years the bottles have featured a picture of the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately though, no longer the interesting French reading matter, and I was dismayed to find out on the label that the sauce is actually manufactured in Holland. It doesn’t actually say it in Dutch which is a shame. Sauce lovers could have become quite multilingual over the years.

There was an outcry when the production moved abroad in 2006 as it came only weeks after HP launched a campaign to ‘Save the Proper British Café’, prompting a call to boycott HP products. A British MP brandished a bottle of the sauce at Prime Ministers Question Time in protest. It was to no avail and the factory moved, prompting a ‘wake’ outside by the workers on the day of closure.

The sauce became known as ‘Wilson’s Gravy’ in the 1960s and 1970s after Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister whose wife Mary, gave an interview to The Sunday Times when she said that ‘if Harold has a fault, it is that he drowns everything in HP Sauce’.

Over the years there has been different versions of the original sauce with barbecue, steak and even Guinness sauce. There is no evidence that it is drunk straight from the bottle.

Easily the most popular sauce of all is Heinz Tomato Ketchup. No matter where you might travel, you can always obtain it in a cafe or restaurant. People travel abroad with bottles of it in their luggage just in case they have difficulty in finding some. As if.

We are all familiar with the Heinz 57 slogan but in actual fact the company had manufactured 60 products by the time Henry Heinz introduced the number 57 on to his ketchup bottles, thinking it was a lucky number and it continues to be used today.

People recently enthused about its taste on Yorkshire Pudding Day.

So, forget Fifty Shades of Grey there are much easier ways to get saucy..