I believe that many of us in Sibu were brought up with Bovril.
Mum believed in the power of Bovril the great beef goodness which could give all of us good protein: we had it with our porridge;we ate it with our hardboiled eggs;and when we were sick we had a broth made from Bovril.
As an easy snack we made a simple sandwich with just some Bovril spread nicely on bread which we took to school.
We all loved it.
And when I had my own children I gave them Bovril too when I was too busy to prepare other types of baby food. It was so convenient to give them porridge with Bovril when they were toothless toddlers. It was really wholesome. And even today whenever we have a porridge meal I try my best to have a bottle of Bovril on the table . Sometimes though it is not easy to buy Bovril.
I believe that all Foochow homes had a bottle of Bovril in their food safe at one time or another. I remember we were never short of Bovril when we were children. It was like a staple for all of us.
My daughters have found out that a little spoonful of Bovril in a ramen makes a healthy beef meal. They use a lot of coriander and spring onion.
A huge bottle of Bovril is still a good Foochow gift when you go to the hosptial to visit your relative who is beef tolerant and low in cholesterol.
At one time because of the mad cow disease many people stayed away from Bovril. But this scare is now safely put aside. If you read the following article you might be convinced to buy Bovril again.
If you ask me I do have a bottle in my fridge today as something to fall on.
Some extra notes on Bovril:
Made in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire and distributed by Unilever UK.
The first part of the product's name comes from Latin bos (genitive bovis) meaning "ox" or "cow". Johnston took the -vril suffix from Bulwer-Lytton's then-popular 1870 "lost race" novel The Coming Race, whose plot revolves around a powerful energy fluid named "Vril".
Poster for Bovril, about 1900 V&A Museum no. E.163-1973
The Two Infallible Powers - The Pope & BovrilIn the year of 1870, in the war against the Prussians, Napoleon III found that his armies could not 'march on empty stomachs'. He therefore ordered one million cans of beef to feed his starving troops. The task of providing all this beef went to a Scotsman named John Lawson Johnston. Unfortunately, Britain did not have a large enough quantity of beef to meet the French people's and Napoleon III's demand, so Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef' -- later called Bovril.
By the year 1888, in excess of 3000 British pubs, grocers and chemists were beginning to sell Bovril. In 1889, the Bovril Company was formed. 1966 saw the beginnings of Bovril's instant beef stock, followed by the 'King Beef' range of instant flavours for stews, casseroles and gravy in 1971.
Bovril continued to function as a "war food" in World War I, and was frequently mentioned in the 1930 account "Not So Quiet... Stepdaughters of War" by Helen Zenna Smith (Evadne Price). As a drink mixing the beef-flavouring with hot water, it helped sustain ambulance drivers.
A thermos of "beef tea" was the favoured way to fend off the chill of winter matches for generations of Scottish and English football enthusiasts; to this day Bovril dissolved in hot water is sold in stadiums all over the United Kingdom.
Bovril was based in Argentina, and at the height of the Bovril empire, the company owned ranches in Argentina that were equivalent in size to half of England and sustaining over 1.5 million livestock.
When John Lawson Johnston died, George Lawson Johnston inherited the Bovril business. In 1929, George Lawson Johnston was recognised by the British Government and monarchy and was ennobled as Lord Luke, of Pavenham in the county of Bedford. This hereditary title passed to Ian St John Lawson Johnston in 1943 and to Arthur Charles St John Lawson Johnston in 1996. The current Lord Luke is one of the ninety hereditary peers elected to remain in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom after its 1999 reform.
Bovril holds the unusual position of having been advertised with a Pope. An advertising campaign of the early 20th Century in Britain depicted the Pope seated on his throne, bearing a mug of Bovril. The campaign slogan ran: "The Two Infallible Powers - The Pope & Bovril".
In November 2004, the manufacturers, Unilever, announced that the composition of Bovril was being changed from beef extract to a yeast extract, claiming it was to make the product suitable for vegetarians and vegans, although at the time fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have been a factor. According to Unilever, "in blind taste tests, 10% didn't notice any difference in taste, 40% preferred the original and 50% preferred the new product."
The manufacturer also hoped to increase exports (Unilever UK Export) to Asian countries such as Malaysia, a primarily Muslim country where the government was becoming restrictive regarding non-halal meat. By changing Bovril to a non-meat base, Unilever hoped to increase sales in the country, where people enjoy Bovril stirred into porridge.
The removal of beef from the recipe in 2004 was not without criticism, with many complaining that the new variant did not taste the same and had a different mouth feel. Beef extract was eventually re-introduced as a key Bovril ingredient in 2006, after the European Commission lifted its ban on the export of Britain's beef products - it was only at this point that the manufacturer stated explicitly that this had been the main reason for beef's removal.