Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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If you ask anyone raised in Europe or the US between the 1960’s to 1980’s to name an iconic and impactful TV programme, I can assure you that for many the under water natural history films of Jacques Cousteau would rank very high on a not very long list.

From the curious French soundtrack of slightly strident strings, to the Gallic, faltering commentary – I can never hear the French pronouciation of the name “Philippe” (one of his four children) without thinking of Capt Cousteau – this was pioneering television at its best. It left such an impact on us, a Jacques-Yves Cousteau sized hole that I suspect David Attenborough fills, but who was Cousteau?

Born 11th June 1910, Cousteau, in 1930 studied at the École Navale in Brittany (West France) after graduation he joined the French Navy. His commission was brief curtailed by a car accident where he sustained breaks to both arms. In 1937 he married Simone, the mother of his first two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe, who both would accompany their father on subsequent adventures.

In the late 1930’s Jacques first used diving goggles and in 1943 he received an award for the first French underwater film, filmed on a pressurized camera, entitled “Par dix-huit mètres de fond“ (“18m Deep”). The same year Cousteau’s team made “Epaves” (“Shipwrecks”) – which resulted in his commission to establish the French Navy’s Underwater Research Group based in Toulon. During filming he using pro-type aqua-lungs incorporating the recently invented demand regulator.

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The resultant freedom of the Aqua-lung allowed his team to explore the depths of the oceans of the World and document them through a myriad of films. His first films from the late 1940’s were celebrated at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951 and his early adventures were captured in his book published in 1953 “The Silent World”.

In 1956, a film of entitled “The Silent World”, made with famed director Louis Malle won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 1957. The Rolex Submariner – Rolex – The Submariner – the first divers’ watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres with a rotatable bezel showing the diver their immersion time, was featured prominently in his film which shows Cousteau wearing a pre-launch Submariner The Silent World – The Film

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Leaving the Navy in 1949 he founded in 1950 the French Oceanographic Campaign (FOC) and leased his trusty ship Calypso from its owner, for a symbolic one franc a year, and wealthy benefactor, Thomas Loel Guinness.

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The documentaries commissioned by US TV stations, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau ran from 1966 to 1976 followed by a second series “The Cousteau Odyssey” from 1977 to 1982. Cousteau had spent time growing up living in the US so his English was excellent but he retained his Gallic accent that added much to the authenticity of his films.

In 1979, Phillipe – Cousteau’s favourite child – was sadly killed when a sea plane he was piloting crashed in Portugal.

Following Simone’s death in 1990, in 1991 Cousteau remarried, Francine, already the mother of his two other children. Cousteau died from a heart attack on 25th June 1997 and Francine continues her husband’s work as President of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. The Museum in Monaco – where Cousteau was a Director from 1957 to 1988 – is well worth a visit.

In the early 1970’s, like many other teenagers I enjoyed snorkeling. The clear influence of Capt. Cousteau stimulated my interest to know more that resulted in my first steps to undertake the British Sub-Aqua Club’s training course that included pool and open water diving. For quite some time, prior to me realizing my future lay not in the sciences, in response to that irritating question from a friend of my parents, “What do you want to do?” my response was always “To be a Marime Biologist” – Merci Capt. Jacques!

A lasting tribute in Cousteau’s own words: “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Join Jacques Cousteau’s on his undersea adventures – by clicking the Amazon link below the image 

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Jacques Cousteau – The Ultimate Collection [DVD] [2007]

May be for those who are not yet ready for Capt. Cousteau’s Ultimate Collection and would – how do you say – like to put a toe in the water….the Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau must the finest starting point – click the Amazon link after the image 

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The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

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Image credit – with grateful thanks – Globalfirstandfacts.com, The Cousteau Foundation, The Cousteau Society, ABC, NBC, Metromedia and Fred Muller II.

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Aestheticons’ January Detox – Part 1

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It is said that detoxing doesn’t work. Possibly? However, after the excesses of the Festive Period during which we hoover up the remains of various roast meats, pork pies, chestnut stuffing, pickled onions, cranberrys and, of course, Toblerone – all washed down with copious glasses of wine – with the arrival of January a more sensible wave of consumption is absolutely needed.

Over the years the mistake has been made of pushing the Festive Period earlier into December meaning that by about 26th December our bodies are waving the white flag. By juicing – keeping the sugary fruits like oranges to a minimum – and eating much more strongly coloured fruit, simple changes can be brought about to help you digest better and shed those holiday kilos.

I find an early New Year’s hack is to up my usual intake of Porridge. Alone it has a huge number of health benefits and ranks high on the “comfort food” scale with the addition of the best honey you can find. The iconic packaging of Scott’s Porridge Oats has been part of my family’s table since childhood – my Mother is half Scots – and whilst her counsel to make the porridge with water and salt is, I am certain authentic, it’s just not my taste.

Fill your Detox shopping basket by clicking the following AMAZON link: Scotts Porage Oats 1000g

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In the passed certain members of my family have complained about the consistency of  my porridge. This can be alleviated by the use of a special stirring stick called a “Spurtle”

Add a Spurtle to your kitchen by clicking the following link: Scottish Gift’s – Spurtle – turned Beechwood Porridge Spurtle uk gift’s

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An alternative to bread – which we consume in great quantities as sandwiches including turkey and bacon – I really like rice or corn crackers they are light and make an excellent base for cheeses or dips.

Start experimenting with avocados. Guacamole is simplicity itself and this iconic Mexican dish can be scooped as a nutritious dip with a chip or added to a chicken tortilla wrap with crunchy red peppers to be an excellent low calorie/low fat alternative to mayonnaise. Our simple guacamole recipe – and it doesn’t matter if the fruits are over-ripe – is to take four mid-size avocados peel and stone – you know the trick for getting the stone out I am sure – just don’t cut yourself!

Into a Hamilton Beach blender – the iconic American model as used in many US bars and diners – add the flesh of the avocados, two peeled garlic bulbs, some salt to taste, the juice of one and a half lemons, either two fresh tomatoes or half a tin of tinned tomatoes and blitz in the blender. The lemon will add flavour and ensure that the avocado pulp stays green.

Add a Hamilton Beach blender to your kitchen: Hamilton Beach HBB908-UK Commercial 2-Speed Bar Blender, 1.25 Litre, 400 Watt, Black

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If you’d like your guacamole a little spicy add some Chipotle tabasco – see previous post here – Tabasco Chipotle Sauce

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My Achilles Heel in the colder winter months is booze. Red wine, beer and Whisky – though not all at once! Through some research towards the end of the year I found one low alcohol beer that even with its lack of booze credentials is in fact a great glass of ale – Brewdog’s “Nanny State”. An excellent Ale flavour with compelling and no doubt future classic packaging.

Please see our earlier post about Brewdog here: Aestheticons’ Guide to Iconic European Beers – Part 2

Lighten your alcohol intake with Nanny State by clicking the following link: BrewDog Nanny State (Alcohol Free), 12 x 330 ml

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A Virgin Mary is a great alternative. You may have already seen my favourite Bloody Mary recipe – see it here  Lea & Perrins – the vital ingredient in a Bloody Mary  and Holiday Breakfast. Well, if you can bear to hide the Stoli for another few weeks this is wonderful hit of fresh goodness. A delicious hit of vitamins and flavour great for a weekend brunch.

I am a nibbler, put a plate of Japanese rice crackers or kettle chips in front of me and there’s a severe risk they wont be there upon your return. As an antidote, I have chosen Almonds as my nut of choice. Not only do they contain a unique and God-given constituent that apparently enhances beauty – well I’ll take anything I can get – unroasted they are simply delicious.

Get Wholefood Earth’s Organic Almonds by clicking the following link: Wholefood Earth: Organic Whole Almonds 500g | Raw | GMO Free | Suitable for Vegans & Vegetarians

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Image Credits with thanks: Scott’s Porridge, Hamilton Beach, Tobasco and Brewdog.

VéloSolex moped

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Increasingly dependent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible I have noticed a rise in commuters using electrically operated bicycles and small motorized scooters. They seem to offer limited comfort and even less protection for the rider who, for an inexplicable reason, think they have the power of a large Harley, BMW or Honda at their fingertips and get themselves into precarious positions on the road causing much frustration to others.

In a far gentler era the predecessor of these street demons was VéloSoleX or more frequently referred to as a Solex which was moped – or motorised bicycle – originally produced by Solex who were based in Paris (France) and founded by engineering friends, Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson.

Designed by Mennesson during World War II, the Solex was produced between 1946 and 1988 in a variety of versions largely utilising the same technology of a motor with roller resting on and driving the front wheel of the bicycle.

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Being very competitively priced and hugely economical to run, the Soles was a massive success. In total it sold in excess of 7m units. In 1947 even BP created “Solexine”, a pre-mixed  oil and petrol mix for the Solex’s two stroke engine and sold in a 2L can. By the late 1940’s Solex was selling 100 units a day rising to 1500 a day by the mid-1960’s – when it was blessed with a new maximum – though limited – speed of 30 km.

The company now makes a range of electrically powered bicycles. An early version, designed by Pininfarina, was launched in 2005 as the E-Solex.

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By 2014 the Solexity Infinity was launched, again from the pen of Pininfarina – with capacity to travel up to 80 km on one charge – at the costs of around €2,000 – keeping the brand alive!

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As French as the Beret, Brie and Baguette, the Solex, a classic French icon of the mid-20th century, has a very special place in my psyche as I explored the opportunity in the 1980’s of importing them into the UK. It was perhaps my first brush with the ever increasing dominance of the words “Health & Safety” in our national idiom.

I was required to deliver details to the Ministry of Transport who after some consideration and lots of teeth sucking, decided that the fuel tank, which was then made of a reasonable durable plastic was too feeble to withstand any front-end impact and the risks of fire were too great.

Solex also commissioned various evocative advertising posters, which in their own right are increasingly collectable.

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For our French speaking friend’s – we know who you are – the equivalent of a an Owner’s Manual for a Vélosolex is a must – Le Guide du Vélosolex click the Amazon link below the image to get yours!

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Le guide du Vélosolex

Why not pick up a classic French VeloSolex enamel sign that will look at home in your Gite in La Gironde, on the wall of your Flat in Fulham or your Man-cave in Manchester! Click the AMAZON link below the image

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX LE VRAI BICYCLESD2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX REFERENDUM 2

I love VeloSolex – and all this little motor cycle represents – you can too with this iconic T Shirt! Please click the Amazon link below the image 

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Velosolex Moped T-Shirt. Gents Ladies Kids Sizes. Bike Cycling France Motorcycle:X Large – 48″

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks – Solex SA

Citroen DS

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In the mid-1970’s South West France was my family’s holiday destination of choice. My Father believed that an ability to speak foreign languages broke down barriers and what better place to explore our newly acquired school French.

Myth and legend has it that my Father’s family, apparently Huguenot and named De Winton, hailed from La Rochelle and left during an early era of persecution to settle in the South West UK. So returning to our ancestral roots felt very natural to our DNA.

My sister had the bright idea to contact certain Cognac makers asking if we could visit their production facilities. She received several embossed replies, and we visited several but the most engaging and somewhat surreal visit was to the House of Hine. We were flattered to be greeted by Jacques Hine at his empire’s front door; forty years ago it was unusual for a factory to receive non-trade visitors.

M. Hine made us very welcome and showed us around the wonderfully archaic catacombs of his business explaining in poetic detail the process of making their fine Cognac – which to this day holds the Queen’s Royal Warrant.

You can enjoy a bottle of Hine’s fine VSOP Cognac by clicking the link under the following image 

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Hine Rare Vsop, 70 cl

M. Hine apologised but explained that he has to attend a funeral but had asked his works Director, Gilles, to continue our tour to the company’s new facility outside town. He insisted that we should use his car. The image of this charming, and I suspect wealthy French distiller, in his black suit disappearing into Jarnac on his aged Solex scooter – see our post here – Solex moped – was comical.

Meanwhile Gilles beckoned us to the courtyard where M. Hines’ gleaming black Citroën DS sat waiting to for us. The clunk of the heavy doors, the smell of the black leather and the oh so Bentley-comfortable gliding ride was truly magical. The Citroën DS had always been my Father’s favourite car. This was truely a French icon of progress and technology and always ahead of its time.

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The Citroën DS – if pronounced carefully sounds like the French word for “Goddess”-  was manufactured by Citroën from 1955 to 1975 – selling over 1.4m cars and was a true symbol of French ingenuity. The classic French icon was designed by the genius, Flaminio Bertoni, engineered by André Lefèbvre and the ingenious pneumatic self-levelling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. It was the first production car to have front disc brakes, it also had power steering, semi-automatic transmission and directional head lights.

Our featured image shows the DS Pallas 23 from the mid-1970’s.

Our visit to the then new facility was fascinating and upon our return to the main office we were ushered into the Hine tasting room. M Hine, having returned from the funeral, proceeded to present us some souvenirs of our visit including a silk scarf for my Mother and a bottle of Hine’s finest, for my Father. He then explained that we all needed refreshment and produced a ice-chilled bottle of champagne which he served into the finest Baccarat crystal glasses Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight

Dreaming of beautiful and fine Baccarat Champagne Flutes? You can order them individually by clicking the link below the image

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Baccarat Mille Nuits Champagner Flute

If like me you love the car why not get the T shirt – in appropriate Burgundy – by clicking the link below the image

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Men’s Citroen DS T-Shirt Burgundy, XL

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Images courtesy of Citroen, Hine and Baccarat Christal with grateful thanks

 

 

 

 

Melton Mowbray pork pies

My next sentence is likely to cause a furore. In my view there are not more than ten regional dishes – even if you count “cheese” as one dish – coming from the UK that are worthy of export and promotion on an international scale. Somewhere high in the ranking of my top 10 you’ll find the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.

As we approach Christmas I am on the hunt for a large Melton Mowbray pork pie that we have along with other cold meats, turkey ham and beef on Boxing Day with salads and heaps of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Maille Dijon Mustard (see our previous posts on these two iconic dressings)

Melton Mowbray sounds like a mythical town from an Enid Blyton novel but its a charming town in Leicestershire where in 1998 a local association of pork pie manufactures was set up to help to protect the town’s eponymous pork pie recipe. With an application to the European Union in 1999 under the Protected Geographical Indication rules protection was sought to ensure that products only from the immediate area could benefit from carrying this iconic brand.

After some legal wrangling with a competitor who sought to muddy the waters PGI status was granted and came into effect in July 2009 with the Melton Mowbray name now only being available for pork pies made within 10.8 square miles of the town. With the PGI denomination, Melton Mowbray pork pies join the ranks of other great European foods including Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Feta, Camembert, Herefordshire Cider, Cognac, Champagne and the Mustards of Burgundy (that includes Dijon mustard).

Why did Melton Mowbray become home to world’s the best pork pies? As a bi-product of the Stilton cheese making business that had dominated the Melton Mowbray economy for several centuries “whey” was great pig fodder ensuring that pork was a regular meat for the local consumers. Developed over many years from its original of a pastry topped clay pot, the wrapped pastry case was originally merely intended as packaging and was not eaten.

Spending some time in a local hardware store – an Aladdin’s cave of fantastically antiquated but all still newly available kitchen utensils – I came across a sort of door stopper device with a turned handle on top and a solid cylindrical body about 12 cms high and with a girth of  8 cms – it was called “a dolly” and in researching this review I have now discovered that it was designed to take the now familiar hot water crust pastry that is used as the case of the Melton Mowbray pork pie.

The dolly is covered by pastry that is hand worked until it covers most of the body of the dolly. Once the dolly is removed the deep pie casing is ready for filling with the pork-pie mixture. The completed and baked pie warm and fresh from the oven – with its distinctive bowed sides – is topped up with bone-stock jelly to fill the air gaps in the pies and increase the preservative quality of the pastry.

How do you know the pie you are eating is truly a Melton Mowbray pork pie? The pie must consist of at least 30% fresh pork, shortening (usually lard), pork gelatine or stock, wheat flour, water, salt and spices (primarily pepper). The use of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives is prohibited.

Image by http://www.MMPA.co.uk

Heinz Tomato Ketchup – v – HP Sauce

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Our house is probably no different to most, particularly in the UK, where aside from salt and pepper, breakfast table condiments can cause clear division. I am talking about the Clash of the Titans of iconic breakfast sauces. Heinz Tomato Ketchup -v- HP Sauce!

If you wonder down London’s Fulham Road upon ordering a takeaway sausage or bacon sandwich at recently refurbished “The Cherry on the Top Cafe” – or any similar “greasy spoon” – you’ll be asked simply “Red or Brown sauce?”. “The Red” referred to is, usually, Heinz Tomato Ketchup – my son’s favourite and “The Brown” is almost always HP Sauce – my favourite.

The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented and developed in 1899 by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham. It is understood that he used “HP” – standing for Houses of Parliament – a building which appears on the HP bottle’s logo to this day. It’s rumoured that the sauce was used at the turn of the 20th century in a restaurant at the Houses of Parliament.

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HP Sauce’s uniquely distinctive taste come from the combination of a malt vinegar base, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract and spices. Garton sold the recipe to Edwin Samson Moore for £150 in settlement of a debt. Moore, was the founder of the Midlands Vinegar Company (the forerunner of HP Foods) and launched his HP Sauce in 1903.

Until 2007 production was at the HP factory in Aston, Birmingham. One of the giant logos from the top of the tower – a local landmark – is now in the collection of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.

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Quintessentially a British product – at heart if not now of manufacture – its place in the national psyche is fixed – and annual sales in excess of 28 million bottles attests to this icon’s popularity. Even John Betjeman wrote of the product in his poem “Lake District” – “I pledge her in non-alcoholic wine / And give the HP Sauce another shake.”

The HP brand was transferred from the Midlands Vinegar Company to Smedley HP Foods Limited, and then sold to the French Groupe Danone SA in 1988 for £199m. In June 2005, Heinz purchased HP Foods from Danone and in October 2005 the UK Office of Fair Trading referred the takeover to the Competition Commission which approved the £440m acquisition in April 2006.

In May 2006, Heinz (now KraftHeinz) announced – to great controversy – its plans to switch production of HP Sauce from Aston to its European sauces facility in Elst, Netherlands. The factory at Aston ceased production on 16 March 2007.

Although its available in many different varieties the glass HP bottle is still readily available – and iconic. Above all it’s well worth the wait, however frustrating, for the viscous and delicious blown sauce to descend from the neck of the upturned open bottle. You can always opt for the soft and squeeze bottle!

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And in the Red corner…

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Introduced in 1876, Heinz Tomato Ketchup is produced by H.J. Heinz Company and is one of the world’s  best selling ketchup brands and heinz has for many years used the slogan “America’s Favorite Ketchup”.

In 1907, Heinz started producing 12 million bottles of ketchup per year, exporting all over the world. The packaging of Heinz Ketchup is perhaps as iconic as the contents and the wide variety of bottles used over the years mirrors the very similar brand development of Coca-Cola.

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Now I get this condiment’s tomato/vinegar/spice combination works well on many foods it’s particularly good with chips and hot dogs – with added mustard – see here our previous post on the wonderful Maille Dijon Mustard – Maille Dijon mustard.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup is clearly very popular. As of 2012, there are more than 650 million bottles of Heinz Tomato Ketchup being sold every year throughout the world.

Heinz introduced its iconic octagonal glass bottle in 1889 and the bottle was patented in 1890. The octagonal glass bottle is still in use today. Like HP Sauce, the ketchup has high viscosity so dispensing from glass bottles can be difficult. Tapping the glass bottle seems to aid pouring. On its website, Heinz suggests that the best place to tap the bottle is on the “57” mark.

Many other varieties of packaging of Heinz Tomato Ketchup are available including the “upside-down”squeezable bottle. Like HP Sauce, Heinz has tested an sold many different variation of the basic ketchup including organic and lower salt versions.

Where does the name “Ketchup” come from? The origins date from 17th century where a Chinese pickled fish and spice concoction was called “kôe-chiap”. By the early 18th century in the Malaysia/Singapore the word for the sauce had become kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”) and became corrupted to “Ketchup” by keen English colonials who eventually took the product to the Americas.

In March 2015 KraftHeinz cause a slight ripple of frenzy on social media was asked to vote in the Red vs. Brown after the votes were counted it was reported that first place had been taken by Heinz Tomato Ketchup securing 51% of the vote. So Red sells more and won by 1%. Still not good enough to change my alliegiance!

I guess the only real winner in this contest is KraftHeinz as they own both brands along with many other family favourite sauces. For guests with diverse tastes perhaps the only way is to serve both!

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Why not fill your larder with these essential supplies – Please click the link below the image to oreder on AMAZON

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Heinz HP The Original Brown Sauce 285 g (Pack of 8)

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Heinz Tomato Squeezy Ketchup 342 g (Pack of 10)

Pick your colours!

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Founding Member Brown Sauce Appreciation Society T-Shirt Men’s Cotton Daddies HP

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I Put Ketchup on my Ketchup Red T-Shirt – Mens Red, Medium

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Photo from KraftHeinz and The Birmingham Post

Maille Dijon mustard

Maille was founded in Marseille in 1723. In 1747 Antoine-Claude Maille opened “La Maison Maille” on rue Saint-André des Arts in Paris becoming an official supplier to the court of Louis XV. In 1760 he added the courts of Austria and Hungary to his illustrious client base.

In 1769, Louis XVI granted M. Maille the license to describe his company as an “ordinary distiller-vinegar-maker”.

In 1930 Maille was purchased by Baron Philippe de Rothschild. In 1937, Dijon was granted the right to an Appellation Control, similar to that of high quality regional wines. “Dijon” mustard now needs to be made by a prescribed method to be able to use that title.

The company launched its trademark Fleur de Lys jar in 1989.

In 1996, Maille celebrated its 250th anniversary by opening a shop on the Place de la Madeleine in Paris.

Maille was sold to Paribas Affaires Industrielles in 1997 and was purchased by Unilever in 2000.

In 2013 Maillie opened a shop on Piccadilly and year later another on the Upper West Side in New York City.

I challenge anyone to find a better Dijon mustard. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the best steak or adding a tea-spoon full to a ground meat mix makes the best burgers.

An eponymous honey-mustard salad dressing is made to perfection with a healthy scoop of Maille mustard. My recipe: 3:1 extra virgin olive oil to white wine vinegar  – salt, pepper, a large tea-spoon scoop of runny honey and a similar size of Maille Dijon mustard – then shake…..and keep the old Maille pots to mix your dressing in!

 

Photo from Maille