Sauces in England: Gravies and Condiments

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

According to an 18th-century bon mot attributed to Domenico Caracciolli, with implicit contrast to France: “England has sixty religions and one sauce”—that one sauce being melted butter! And the sharp-toothed Alberto Denti di Pirajno begins the chapter on sauces in his Educated Gastronome (Venice, 1950) with these pointed sentences:

Doctor Johnson defined a sauce as something which is eaten with food in order to improve its flavor. It would be difficult to believe that a man of the intelligence and culture of Dr. Johnson . . . had expressed himself in these terms, if we did not know that Dr. Johnson was English. Even today his compatriots, incapable of giving any flavor to their food, call on sauces to furnish their dishes that which their dishes do not have. This explains the sauces, the jellies and prepared extracts, the bottled sauces, the chutneys, the ketchups which populate the tables of this unfortunate people.