This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
FO O D


Bovril jars


Bovril Cordial bottle


Bovril jars Amber-brown glass Bovril Ltd., c.1930s RRa0293 / L0075841 Wellcome Images


Bovril beef extract was developed by Scottish butcher-turned-entrepreneur John Lawston Johnston (1839–1900) after he won a contract to supply beef to the French army in the 1870s. Johnston believed his ‘fluid beef’ was superior to similar products thanks to the addition of finely ground lean meat. In one advertisement in 1889, he offered a thousand guin- eas to anyone who could disprove the statement that one ounce of Bovril contained ‘more real and direct nourishment’ than 50 ounces of the market leader at the time, Liebig’s Extract. The name Johnston gave to what was essentially


an industrially concentrated beef tea (see p. 34) is a portmanteau of the words ‘bovine’ and ‘vril’, a life-giving substance mentioned in an early science- fiction novel. Bovril was so successful that within ten years of the first jar coming off the production line, Johnston had sold the company for £2 million.


These subterranean philosophers assert that by one operation of


vril, which Faraday would perhaps call ‘atmospheric magnetism’, they can infl uence...the weather; that by operations akin to those ascribed to


mesmerism, electrobiology, odic force, &c., but applied scientifi cally through vril conductors, they can exercise infl uence over minds, and bodies animal and vegetable…


From Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril: The power of the coming race, 1871


Bovril Cordial bottle Amber-brown glass Bovril (Canada) Ltd., 1940–50 RRa0292 / L0075840 Wellcome Images


Described as ‘nutritious, invigorating & delicious’, a teaspoonful of Bovril cordial dissolved in a cup of boiling water was recommended for ‘refreshing sleep’. The label on this bottle pictures Hercules killing the Nemean lion. This emphasis on power and strength, a recurring theme in Bovril advertising, was unusual for the time and set the company’s products apart from other foods.


Fighting off legions


A belief in the energy-giving power of magic potions is encouraged by numerous children’s stor- ies, notably René Goscinny (1926–77) and Albert Uderzo’s (b.1927) Asterix the Gaul series. Set around 50 BCE, the French comic books tell the tales of the idiosyncratic inhabitants of a small village resisting the onslaught of Julius Caesar and his army. When the eponymous hero takes a swig of a secret potion, he has – for a limited time – so much energy and strength he can fight off legions of Romans. As might be expected from its French provenance,


food also plays a key role in the books; on the final page of every adventure Asterix and his fellow villagers relax over a sumptuous feast.


— 24 —


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148  |  Page 149  |  Page 150  |  Page 151  |  Page 152  |  Page 153  |  Page 154  |  Page 155  |  Page 156  |  Page 157  |  Page 158  |  Page 159  |  Page 160  |  Page 161  |  Page 162  |  Page 163  |  Page 164  |  Page 165  |  Page 166  |  Page 167  |  Page 168  |  Page 169  |  Page 170  |  Page 171  |  Page 172  |  Page 173  |  Page 174  |  Page 175  |  Page 176  |  Page 177  |  Page 178  |  Page 179  |  Page 180  |  Page 181  |  Page 182  |  Page 183  |  Page 184  |  Page 185  |  Page 186  |  Page 187  |  Page 188  |  Page 189  |  Page 190  |  Page 191  |  Page 192  |  Page 193  |  Page 194  |  Page 195  |  Page 196  |  Page 197  |  Page 198  |  Page 199  |  Page 200  |  Page 201  |  Page 202  |  Page 203  |  Page 204  |  Page 205  |  Page 206  |  Page 207  |  Page 208  |  Page 209  |  Page 210  |  Page 211  |  Page 212  |  Page 213  |  Page 214  |  Page 215  |  Page 216  |  Page 217  |  Page 218  |  Page 219  |  Page 220  |  Page 221  |  Page 222  |  Page 223  |  Page 224  |  Page 225  |  Page 226  |  Page 227  |  Page 228  |  Page 229  |  Page 230  |  Page 231  |  Page 232  |  Page 233  |  Page 234  |  Page 235  |  Page 236