Are you old enough to remember the days before Hellmann’s? It was a time when fathers drove Ford Anglia’s, there was nothing on daytime TV but the creepy girl on the test card, boys wore shorts even in mid-winter and when called in from playing with catapults outside they ate proper food, not microwaved rubbish.
Lunch then was a ham salad, and that salad wasn’t made of fancy imported foreign leaves, it was a gritty lettuce from your own garden, dressed with chopped tomato and with a piece of bottled beetroot oozing sanguinely into its centre. And over it all, gloriously, went the Heinz Salad Cream.
What was it? No one knew, but you couldn’t contemplate going to the seaside without a jar in the hamper and no picnic could take place without it. The iconic glass bottle was never far from the table or our hearts. Then suddenly it disappeared.
What happened? I think that in the white heat of Britain’s culinary awakening – ties patterned like pianos and unfeasibly big shoulder pads etc; we lost sight of our heritage. We liked Hellmann’s Mayonnaise instead.
Now I’m not knocking Hellmann’s, far from it. Many’s the time I’ve been caught, bathed in the light from the fridge, scooping out fingerfulls of the stuff at 2 a.m. I too had forgotten about the plucky British Salad Cream and moved on to what I felt were more sophisticated foods.
So when a jar of Heinz Salad Cream, now in a squeezy dispenser, turned up on my table a small tear came to my eye. I put a blob on my finger to taste and suddenly in a Proustian moment all my childhood summers came back to me, I could almost smell the freshly cut grass and the TCP dabbed onto the grazes on my knees. Later that day I made an ironic ham salad with salad cream and ate it up in the sort of reverie I normally get in Michelin starred restaurants.
It’s that peculiar vinegary tang that does it for me, the sharpness of the flavour and the way it’s the halfway point between vinaigrette and a mayonnaise. Best of all it is ours! As British as Marmite and losing resignedly at sport.
The Heinz website even has some rather intriguing recipes using Salad Cream such as a Chopped Chicken Sandwich, Cous Cous with wok fried vegetables, Indian spiced chicken salad and many more.
Oh and don’t forget the Prawn Cocktail. The only way to make it of course is with Heinz Salad Cream coloured with Heinz Tomato Ketchup and a dab of Worcestershire Sauce. Now that’s a gourmet feast Gordon.
I’m delighted to have rediscovered Heinz Salad Cream now in a low fat version too; like a long lost friend I can’t understand why we ever stopped hanging out together. Well now it’s back in my life for good and let’s hope that Heinz are never so silly as to take it off the nation’s shelves again.