Carrying on with our series of articles on British traditions, these two odd balls don’t exactly blend well together, but they can be considered as being particularly British. Marmalade, that strange bitter stuff we spread on our breakfast toast and Ovaltine, a relaxing night-time beverage.
Marmalade doesn’t taste right on anything but toast and to take it with butter is a relatively recent addition. Marmalade is a Scottish invention when a Dundee housewife called Janet Keiller boiled some Seville oranges with orange jam (not the same) and it became so popular that her husband launched the firm which still bears the same name. Shortly, two other Scottish houses followed suit; Baxter’s and Robertson’s. In England, Sarah Cooper, the wife of an English grocer, made the course, thick, dark marmalade which became popular with Victorian breakfasters and which Scott took to flavour his not so warm toast to the Antarctic on his ill-fated journey. Queen Victoria also ordered 24 jars for her breakfast table.
Today, marmalade still conveys a faint sense of privilege at an affordable price for anyone who likes its special bitter-sweet taste and Spanish oranges continue to be chosen by its manufacturers – the ones you can still pick from Andalusian orange groves.
Who didn’t drink Ovaltine as a night-time soothing beverage? It was always a serious competitor for hot cocoa in our childhood and many children seemed to prefer its comforting, special flavour just before going to bed.
It was originally marketed by a Swiss doctor called George Wander and was known as Ovomaltine before the name was shortened to Ovaltine when it was introduced in Britain in 1910. It even had its own club, the Ovaltiney Club, founded in 1935 and became a secret society for children with its own badges, rule books and codes. By 1939, it had over five million members. Though it was considered a children’s drink, it was given to the armed forces in both world wars, has been an official Olympic drink since 1932 and went up Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1954.
It contains barley and malt extract of course, but also skimmed milk, sugar, whey powder, fat reduced cocoa, caseinates, egg powder, emulsifiers, stabilisers, flavouring and vitamins. The young lady on the label still smiles at you and wills young children to go to bed with a warm stomach. It continues to sell millions of jars every year.
Happy English learning!!