French for HP Sauce

The bottle of brown sauce was on the table for most of my childhood meals. There still is HP Sauce, and it is still Britain's most popular brown sauce, but it no longer has the distinctive feature that brought a little magic with it. In addition to the black and white picture of the Houses of Parliament, the HP of the name, it had a description that sang its praises on one side of the label, and the same thing in French on the other side. This was presumably because French food was far superior at the time, and to bring a little of its class to a basic brown sauce. It had, and probably still has, a tomato and vinegar base with tamarind, dates and molasses to spice it up.

The label proclaimed "This high quality sauce is a choice blend of oriental fruits and spices and malt vinegar..." with the same in French on the other side. We would brush up our school French at mealtimes by translating the two sides of the label into the other language. As British cuisine has improved beyond measure from the rather primitive foods of those days, the use of brown sauce seems to have declined, with more exotic sauces now dominating both the domestic and restaurant scenes. The US equivalent is probably A1 steak sauce, but it lacks the prestige appeal of Parliament or a label that advertises its merits in French.

It so dominated mealtimes that I can still recite the entire message of its label in both English and French. Modern children who use brown sauce do not participate in the magic it came with, however, because the French part of the label was axed in 1984, to howls of grief from outraged users whose lives it had been part of.