Thursday, 7 January 2010

Camping it up

When I blogged about the living hell that is tea rations (2oz per person per week is simply inhuman) my friend Dave (the world's best graphic designer, btw) mentioned that a wartime staple was the (unrationed) chicory essence liquid with the heroically non-21st Century name "Camp".

This stuff, now marketed as a cooking ingredient rather than a coffee substitute, is a Victorian relic, as suggested by the (now fortunately politically-corrected) label. It had brief spells of popularity in the first war, in the second and, during an artificial shortage created by the coffee companies, in the late 1970s.

In that time, the purpose of the tar-like liquid has changed, as has, I'd think, the ingredients. Certainly the preparation instructions have altered from the early requirement of adding a teaspoon to boiling water and chucking in cream and sugar.

Indeed, adding sugar is the last thing you'd do now, since the ingredients, in order of greatest first, are sugar, water, chicory (24%) and coffee (4%). So 70% of this is sugar and water, and 51% at least of that is sugar alone. No wonder the bottle now says that it's ideal for making milkshakes, baking cakes and flavouring cream. The current jar doesn't mention how to make a beverage out of it at all, other than to suggest adding an unspecified amount to warm milk.

I tried two teaspoons in boiling water with a standard amount of milk. This was undrinkable. So I tried two more and yet more milk. This produced something that looked a bit like coffee and tasted a bit like coffee... is as much as it also tasted a bit like toffee and a bit like caramel and a bit like cheap chocolate but not really like any of those things.

So it isn't going to replace my morning coffee and it isn't going to stand in for my rationed tea. But as a bedtime drink, it's no worse than Horlicks or Ovaltine and better, in some ways, than some of the modern powders and potions available for the purpose. So I'll finish the bottle; I just might not buy any more.


Bods said...

Yeah, you're not really selling it to me...

Kecske said...

Oh dear, having read that I'm feeling really guilty!

From your description, it sounds like it tastes pretty much the same as it did in the late 70s. Only, as a seven year old, being extremely sweet was a bonus.

RJ Graham said...

I'm continuing to experiment with this, er, liquid; this morning, I'm having some instant coffee with a spoonful of the stuff the bulk it out and save some sugar ration.

Tanya Jones said...

I have two teaspoonsful in a glass of cold milk, which I adore.