|Detail from a Rowlandson caricature, 18th century|
(Observe the absence of napkins. Even forks, at this time, were a rarity)
|Dinner that night included soles, cold ribs of lamb, veal cutlets, and fruit pies|
Faujas was one of 12 guests that day; his name is fourth from the top right
|Venison attracted a lot more literary|
attention than the seasonings did
We do know, however, that these various condiments were both well-known and relatively standardized by the turn of the century. In fact, the authenticity of a particular condiment became the subject of a well-publicized lawsuit in 1814, when James Cocks sued a London oilman for replicating his celebrated Reading Sauce and passing it off as his own. Cocks' sauce, invented "twelve years earlier" and named after his small town on the Thames (about 50 miles west of London) was a fish sauce that paired with fish, game and cold meat. At the time of the lawsuit, Cocks' brand was sold by about 100 different retailers from London to Edinburgh, from Oxford to Dublin.
The fact that a lawsuit even happened tells us that as much as metropolitan Londoners wanted curry powder from Bengal and genuine pepper from Cayenne, this didn't put a damper on the demand for authentic regional condiments. By the turn of the 19th century, the average London oilman (a seller of preserved condiments and other goodies) acted as a one-stop shop for all of these things, hawking India soy and Gorgona anchovy paste next to genuine Stilton cheese.
To determine the outcome of the case, the judge assembled a panel of witnesses from Dover, Taunton, Chichester and London. All of them claimed that the London version was far inferior to the 'real' Reading version, the former apparently "being thick, and leaving a sediment" and "bringing great dissatisfaction to the parties who purchased it." (Sadly, no blind tasting occurred.) Regardless, James Cocks ended up winning 100 guineas in damages. This was certainly nothing to sneeze at in those days, but perhaps the most lucrative aspect of his victory was the fact that he could use it as the basis of a future advertising campaign (here's an example to the left).
So the authentic flavor of Reading, England –– a product demarcating a geographical region rather than an individual or an idea –– was not a centuries old artisanal tradition only uprooted in the 18th century, but was consciously invented and marketed as a local product by a savvy retailer. But even so, the considerable interest that this case piqued in the reading public (I've found record of it printed in at least six or seven newspapers) makes plain that Englishmen cared a great deal that they were getting the real thing.