August 28, 2022: Worcester, England. Growing up, I had never heard the word “Worcestershire” without it being followed by “sauce.” There is so much more to know!
“And do Englishmen so soon forget the ground where liberty was fought for? Tell your neighbors and your children that this is holy ground; much holier than that on which your churches stand. All England should come in pilgrimage to this hill once a year.”
― John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
Growing up in the Midwest, when steak was on the grill, Worcestershire Sauce was on the table. I remember struggling to pronounce it – “wore-sest-er-shy-ur”. Evidently, I never did get it right – the locals say “woostuh-shuh”. Huh.
A Happy Accident
In 1835, a British nobleman asked chemist partners Mr Lea and Mr Perrins to recreate a sauce he’d had in India. Their creation was terrible, so they set it aside in the basement and forgot about it. Eighteen months later, they were about to throw it out, but gave a taste. “Say, this is jolly good!” And thus, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce was created.
We usually had Heinz’s knockoff version at our house. They actually own Lea & Perrins these days.
The Adolescence of British Democracy
Worcester should be more famous for another reason. In 1651, Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces defeated the Royalist forces of King Charles II in the Battle of Worcester, cementing a continually more democratic rule in Britain that had begun with the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215.
Speaking of King John
Nearby Worcester Cathedral is the final resting place of King John, scourge of Robin Hood and nefarious brother to noble King Richard the Lionheart. While Robin Hood is probably a myth, King John was real, and was not well liked.
And Speaking of the Magna Carta
King John’s barons, in revolt, forced him to sign the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”), the beginnings of the UK constitution and basis of much of our common law. We saw the best preserved original copy of the Magna Carta (there were thought to be 13 of them) in 2021 at Salisbury Cathedral.
Without these two singular events – the signing of the Magna Carta and the Battle of Worcester – the USA would probably not exist. Thus John Adams and Thomas Jefferson made a pilgrimage in 1786. When the locals wondered why the visit, Adams gave the impassioned speech above, about 10 years before he became our second US president.
Some things to chew on when you next have Worcestershire Sauce – however you pronounce it!