By Dale Phillip
What would we do without our favorite sauces? Whether you are a soy sauce fan, a steak sauce addict or a Worcestershire aficionado, we love our condiments and sauces, so come along as we review a few favorites.
Like many condiments, soy sauce originates in ancient China as a way to stretch salt, which was historically expensive. The beginnings of soy sauce are traced back to the Zhou Dynasty around 2000 B.C., using fermented pulverized fish with salt as a condiment. The plentiful soybeans used in the fermentation process helped to stretch the salt content, making it more affordable for the Chinese people. When introduced to the Japanese, they used their uniquely brewed soybeans, and by the middle of the seventeenth century, the process would replace the need for so much salt, which popularized soy sauce throughout Japan as well as neighboring Asian countries.
Dutch traders discovered the tangy sauce and began carrying it back to Holland in barrels, where its popularity spread throughout western Europe. In the 1800’s, thousands of Chinese arrived on the West Coast of the U.S. looking for work, and they brought their distinctive style of cooking and recipes with them. Eventually soy sauce became one of the components of Worcestershire sauce, which was developed in England in the 1800’s.
Worcestershire sauce is named after the city where it was created, Worcester, England. It’s believed that a local British aristocrat, who had been a Governor of Bengal, discovered the sauce while living in India and wanted it reproduced for his fellow Englishmen upon his return home. He visited a chemist shop in Worcester, asking for the recipe he had to be duplicated. The two chemists, Lea and Perrins, created the sauce as best they could, but found they disliked the concoction and stored it in their cellar. Some time later, after it had fermented, they re-tasted the preparation to discover it was delicious. Although today, the ingredients are listed on the label, the exact recipe has never been revealed and still remains a closely guarded secret. As Lea and Perrins sauce became popular, others scrambled to create something similar. Just in the city of Worcester alone, there were originally over 30 varieties of the sauce, but Lea and Perrins has dominated from the beginning. During that time, plain and tough meats were greatly enhanced by sauces, and Lea and Perrins was welcomed on dinner tables, eventually finding its way to the U.S. during the nineteenth century.
Steak sauce was created around 1824 by the chef of King George IV in England. Although some historians claim that the King may have pronounced the sauce “A1” which lead to its name, it is possible that steak sauce was created in 1824 back in Richmond, Virginia by Matt Leader, who had been a chef to King George IV. Labeled “steak sauce” for almost 50 years, in 2014, Kraft Foods declared that A1 Steak Sauce “is no longer just for steak”, and removed that moniker from its label. They proclaimed that A1 Sauce is good “for almost everything.”
Needless to say, there are countless sauces on the grocery shelves to accommodate everyone’s taste, or perhaps you are a minimalist and prefer using just a bit of salt and pepper. Whatever your taste buds dictate, there’s no denying that we love our seasonings and sauces, no matter where we live.
Author Dale Phillip is a self-proclaimed aficionado of sauces and condiments. She enjoys researching their histories, along with trying different variations. You can read more at her blog: http://myfriendlyu.blogspot.com/
Dale resides in Southern California.
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