Henry Heinz, the genius behind the "57 varieties"
And now for something completely different. I'm never entirely sure about tomato ketchup. Not the classic stuff in bottles, that sauce made by Heinz- but the various recipes you come across telling you a) how to make it and b) how much better it is than the shop version.
It's the same thing with several famous and established classic brands. Is fresh corn-off-the-cob really that much better than Jolly Green Giant niblet sweetcorn in the tin? I remember the Roux brothers admitting on camera that they most certainly used tinned sweetcorn ("it is a good quality product"). Are home-made baked beans really that much better than the Heinz version? Isn't it a case of the Emperors' New Clothes?
The more I think about it, there's a group of food brands and products which are, frankly, sacrosanct. Many of them were dreamt up in the Victorian, Edwardian or early 20th century periods. It's partly do to with childhood nostalgia, it's partly to do with the packaging. It may have something to do with the taste. Like old friends, they've just got that je ne sais quoi, they never let you down. The following, in my opinion, are members of this august club: Heinz Baked Beans, Kit-Kat, Mars Bars, Heinz Tomato Soup, Jolly Green Giant Sweetcorn, Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire Sauce, Schweppes Tonic Water, Hellman's Mayonnaise, Colman's Mustard, Marmite, Coca-Cola, Jaffa Cakes, H.P. Sauce, Tabasco, Angostura Bitters, Cadbury's plain chocolate digestives, Pimm's, J & B Rare blended whisky, Bournville dark chocolate, Camp coffee.
Do you notice how most of these brands have more-or-less never changed the general style of the package design, although there may well have been very subtle changes to the overall packaging over the decades? Tamper with the classics at your peril! I'm not at all happy with what Heinz have done to our very own Lea & Perrins. They've simplified the label, and introduced nasty thick funeral black borders. Mr Lea and Mr Perrin, I think, have disappeared too. Having said that, the last time I was at the supermarket, I saw a shelf newly stacked with bottles of the old design, so it looks possible that the re-branding has failed, and Heinz have been forced to revert to the original packaging.
Another disaster (from my point of view, I have no idea if they have increased sales or not) is what the Kraft corporation have done to the classic Terry's All Gold, first produced in 1932. It's now a completely different product, split into two separate boxes, one for plain and one for milk chocolate. The fondants taste different. And where's the barrel of rum?
Anyway. Back to the Tomato Ketchup. If you feel like running against the grain, here's Lindsey Bareham's recipe for fresh tomato sauce, from her excellent Big Red Book of Tomatoes, published by Grub Street:
Cut 350g tomatoes in half lengthways, then grate the tomatoes with the cut side facing the grater. Discard the skins and season with salt, pepper, a tablespoon of vinegar and a crushed clove of garlic. Beat in four tablespoons of olive oil, and shred basil over the top.