In this country we like a bit of good gravy with our meals and some like a lot. On the many TV cookery offerings we do not see a lot of emphasis on it, and personally I have never been able to make a bit of good gravy and I am happy to mix up a few spoonfuls of those gravy granules from the jar and ‘Bob’s Your Uncle!’
No doubt you will remember ‘Bisto Kids’ and nobody ever did more for gravy than those two mischievous faced urchins. Before they came along gravy was often far from a pleasure on the palate and it was often a hotchpotch mix of water, flour, seasoning and meat juices which at times ended up as a rather thin topping and did nothing to enhance the food on the plate. In the early years of the 20th Century those in the business did what they could to produce salts, brownings and thickeners to achieve a better gravy and eventually the North Country firm of Cerebos got on to a winner.
This firm had a famous slogan so do you remember ‘Browns, Seasons, Thickens- in -One’ and you will notice that it is a simple arrangement of the initial letters of the word ‘Bisto’ and that renowned pair came on the scene. Their name really did stick and it was synonymous with good gravy for decades. But actually Bisto was on the market from 1910 and it was not until 1919 before that world famous pair made their appearance.
The Bisto kids were the invention of Will Owen (perhaps better known for illustrating children’s books) when he designed that wonderful poster showing a hungry looking lad and lass sniffing the appetizing aroma which assailed their nostrils from a steaming hot pie - and making as they did so that historic exclamation ‘Ah Bisto’. Those beaming kids captivated the nation and took their place in the kitchens of the world. Advertising agencies, artists and cartoonists all exploited the potential of this very successful savoury duo and they appeared in many guises.
The Cerebos factory itself kept a stock of Bisto Kid outfits which were well utilised by fancy dress enthusiasts, and I am pretty sure that many of those early square gravy tins will have become collector’s items.
Perhaps the huge success of that wonderful advertisement was simply because it appealed to the basic human instinct of appetite.
Is their not a yearning in everyone of us for the sweet smell of success and without a doubt that striking poster of the Bisto Kids made for a long lasting development in the British food chain. Enjoy your gravy!
Next week in Part 40 - Keeping Up Appearances