British Umami

Quite often our friends at YouTube throw things at ye will-ye-nil-ye; well okay it’s based on some sort of algorithm that cunningly tries to pretend its random. Today a video of a gentlemen trying Patum Peperium appeared in their suggestions of what I might find intriguing – dear god those bastards know me better than my own mother did.

And what in the name of all that is culinary is Patum Peperium, asked my faithful reader? Well as the label on the ceramic pot – now sadly replaced by plastic – that once encased this savoury concoction indicates it is “The Gentleman’s Relish for toast, biscuits, savouries, canapes etc.” Created in 1828 by John Osborn it is a paste of anchovies, butter, herbs, and spices in a secret combination known only to one employee of the Elsenham Quality Foods* in deepest, darkest Essex. Let us hope that one person does not go to that great Gentleman’s Club in the sky before passing it on to another employee. By the way Mr Osborn was residing in Paris when he created the spread and went on to win a citation at a Paris Food Show! Quite an honour for an Englishman one would think. It was labelled as a “Gentleman’s Relish” as it was felt it was too strong for the tender palettes of ladies and too refined for the common man. And as for the Latin appellation, it is almost as nonsensical as Häagen-Dazs but a great marketing tool particularly to undergraduates at prestigious colleges. Over at Google Translate it came back as “usurpation of birth” – an interesting concept that I will not even try to get my head around.

Patum Peperium is meant to be spread sparingly on toast (white bread preferred) at breakfast, mixed in the mince for Shepherd’s Pie, melted in with soft scrambled eggs to give them an added punch or as an ingredient should you be serving Scotch Woodcock as an after-dinner savoury course. It is also suggested that its salty, mildly fishy taste will give added umami to baked potatoes, potato cakes or croquettes.

Now lest I sound like a Patum Peperium aficionado I have only tasted it once in my life almost 40 years ago. Our friend Ruth Monty brought us a ceramic pot back from one of her trips to see family in England. As I recall it was opened, spread on biscuits (possibly too thickly), eaten, faces were made, the lid was put back on and a year later (well passed its “best before” date) it was disposed off.

However the little video that I was presented with this morning piqued my interest. My tastes have changed, I happen to like anchovies, and I would like to give it another try. Sadly it is not readily available here in Canada but I’m tempted to order it from a British site which assures that it delivers to Canada. However when the shipping rates are triple the item cost and the company in question has an added “courier surcharge (Corona Virus Related)”?????? So I’m afraid my curiosity will go unsatisfied until I get to England. Though in these days of kitchen adventure – like that surcharge “Corona Virus Related”) there seem to be a fair number of recipes out there for Mr Osborn’s original.

*And I was surprised to discover that production was moved from England to Poland in 2017 – Brexit indeed.

The word for October 3rd is:
Umami /o͞oˈmämē/: [noun]
One of the five categories of taste in foods (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate.
Directly from the Japanese umami meaning “deliciousness”. It’s defined as being a savoury pleasant taste – brothy or meaty.
It seems to have become a culinary buzz word that is over and often wrongly used.