Untitled drawingI’m always happy in a kitchen.

I like cooking, and eating too. And happily, by some fortunate combination of genetics and discipline I’ve managed to avoid a large girth despite these epicurean tendencies.

So, I’m currently sat in my sunny kitchen, polishing off the last of my breakfast cup of coffee. I’m enjoying this moment of pre-work serenity, just relaxing and reading the local magazine.

While reading, I chanced upon an article about a local speciality known as Henderson’s Relish. It’s a dark brown liquid used to spice up dishes and has attained a cult status in the city which I currently call home. Bearded hipsters can be seen  around town wearing t-shirts fronted with images of the product. Indeed Hendo’s (as folk round here call it) has been freely endorsed by local celebrities: musicians, DJs, artists and the like.

Henderson’s Relish was first produced at the end of the nineteenth century and is still apparently made to the same recipe. It’s also really tasty. Hence its elevation to ‘regional treasure’ status.

So outsiders be warned – whatever you do around South Yorkshire, it’s a fairly major no-no to mention Worcestershire Sauce (which some say that Hendo’s is similar to) within earshot of a local.

I made that mistake when I first moved here from the capital. I had been a regular user of the Worcestershire condiment in my chilli-con (or more often than not –sin-) carne. One evening, my then main squeeze and I (she was not a local, but had been here long enough to recognise a regional faux pas when she saw one) decided to cook a chilli.

While wandering around the supermarket buying the ingredients, I announced that we would need some Worcestershire Sauce and strode purposefully to the relevant aisle. She looked at me with a combination of horror and fear.

“Worcestershire Sauce?” She said. “You can’t use Worcestershire Sauce”

“What’s wrong with it?” I replied perplexed. “It’s an essential ingredient. I’ve been using it for years”

“In this city there’s a lot wrong with it” She intoned darkly. I wondered what strange local rituals I was about to learn of. I’d seen The Wicker Man. Perhaps I there was some unfortunate end awaiting me. I decided to pay careful attention.

She pointed to another part of the aisle. “In Sheffield we use Henderson’s Relish. It’s made here and it’s much better than Worcester Sauce.” I suddenly noticed that where, in London supermarkets, there would be row upon row of the Worcestershire variant, here there were only a few bottles displayed. Instead the shelves I looked upon were groaning with this other strange concoction – Henderson’s Relish.

Being a sometime stick-in-the-mud, I wanted to argue my case, to say that I’d always used Worcestershire Sauce and I wasn’t going to change for the sake of it, but something about her look made me decide that humble compliance was the best option. I can’t remember if it was thoughts of The Wicker Man again, or whether it was because I was on a promise, and didn’t want to miss out on a night of sauciness because of the wrong choice of sauce.

The bottle of Hendo’s made a satisfying clunking sound as it dropped into my basket. And the flaming torch-bearers (if indeed there were any) were not required that night. As for the promise, well it all went swimmingly, and since that day, I’ve never so much as looked at a bottle of the other stuff again.

I don’t think I’ll go as far as the hipster t-shirt, but I guess I’m proper South Yorkshire now – there’s always a bottle of Hendos in my kitchen.


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