Sheffielders are known across the world for their friendliness, writes Molly Lynch.
However, there are certain things that even this city of affable souls simply will not tolerate – as London MP Jim Dowd learned this week when he committed the cardinal sin of insulting a Sheffield institution.
The Labour politician, who represents Lewisham West and Penge, came in for fierce criticism after suggesting Yorkshire’s favourite spicy sauce, Henderson’s Relish, had copied off Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our special video report and taste test.
Hollywood actor Sean Bean, Arctic Monkeys and celebrity chef Marco Pierre-White are all partial to a dab of the spicy stuff – but it seems it was not good enough for Mr Dowd.
He complained in the House of Commons after being given a bottle of Hendo’s at a pub lunch in South-East London.
Mr Dowd said: “The chap who was serving us went away and came back with a bottle, and it was shaped like Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and their marvellous concoction – same shape, same size, the label was amazingly enough, orange with black lettering.
“But it was something from Sheffield, from somewhere called Henderson’s – whoever they were.
“I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Sheffield sauce until then.
“I thought this is an ideal example of just how easy these things are to copy.”
The comments left a bad taste in the mouths of ‘saddened’ manufacturers who have been bottling the good stuff in Sheffield for more than 100 years.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg as the fiercely loyal Hendo’s set took to The Star’s website, social networking sites and wrote to our Letters page to stick up for the sauce.
Vicky Taylor, from Southampton, said: “I have lived in the south for over 20 years, but I still call Sheffield home. I always have Henderson’s in the cupboard.
“I have now created a new generation of Henderson’s lovers and the word is spreading!
Mr Dowd’s words even prompted calls for an apology from political heavyweights.
Deputy Prime Minister – and Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam – has spoken out in defence of his favourite condiment.
He said: “Henderson’s Relish has been made in Sheffield for more than 100 years and is a much-loved local institution. Its aroma and flavour are unique. It is used by thousands of Sheffielders and, as Henderson’s appeal grows, many more throughout the country and indeed around the globe.
“Apart from being a great product, Henderson’s is also a prime example of a local business that gives back to its community.
“We are confident it would win any blind taste test, in London or anywhere else.
Fellow Sheffield parliamentarian – and Mr Dowd’s Labour colleague – Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central MP, has promised to bring a bottle to the Houses of Parliament to show Mr Dowd what he is missing out on.
In an open letter to Mr Dowd, he said: “Henderson’s Relish is a great Sheffield institution, with fans around the world.
“It was made in my constituency for more than 100 years and now Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts has that honour. A lot of Sheffielders, including me, were shocked by your comments, although pleased to know that it’s available in your local pub in London.
“To avoid confusion in the future, you should know that there is simply no comparison between Henderson’s Relish and the other sauce you mention.
“It tastes different, has different ingredients, and, well, to be frank, it’s better.”
Taking Mr Clegg’s advice, The Star took to the Moor Market to test shoppers’ tastebuds to see how easy it is to spot the difference between humble Hendo’s and Lea & Perrins.
The overwhelming response was there is ‘no comparison’ between the two.
Simon Freeman, Henderson’s Relish managing director, said: “We thought at first this might be something that would go away fairly quickly, but the response has been massive.
“It’s very nice to see how loyal so many people are to our brand.”
* Lea & Perrins is a sub-division of Heinz. Lea & Perrins was previously part of HP Foods, a company that was bought by Heinz from previous owner Danone in 2005.
* The Lea & Perrins brand of Worcestershire sauce was first sold in 1838 by British businessmen John Lea and William Perrins in Broad Street, Worcester. It is currently produced from the Midland Road factory in Worcester that Lea & Perrins built.
* The recipe remains a secret, but the main ingredients are vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions and garlic.
* Henderson’s Relish was first made by Henry Henderson, who set out to make his own special sauce in the late 1800s. Originally manufactured at 35 Broad Lane, Sheffield city centre, Henderson’s Relish is still being made and has been in uninterrupted production within half a mile of the site from which the first bottle was filled. The factory was situated in Leavygreave Road in the city centre for several decades before it recently moved to Parkway Industrial Estate.
* Ingredients are listed on the Henderson’s bottle, but the way the spicy recipe is blended remains a closely-guarded secret
Video sound effect courtesy of freesfx.co.uk