Bovril

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Bovril is the trademarked name of a thick, salty meat extract, developed in the 1870s by John Lawson Johnston and sold in a distinctive, bulbous jar. It is made in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, owned and distributed by Unilever UK.

Bovril can be made into a drink by diluting with hot water, or less commonly with milk.[1] It can also be used as a flavouring for soups, stews or porridge, or spread on bread, especially toast, rather like Marmite.

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".[2][3]

Contents

History

In 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. Large quantities of beef were available across the British Dominions and South America, but its transport and storage was problematic. Therefore Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef', later called Bovril, to meet the needs of the French people and Napoleon III.[4] By 1888 over 3,000 British public houses, grocers and chemists were selling Bovril. In 1889 the Bovril Company was formed.

Bovril continued to function as a "war food" in World War I,[5] 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 and men in trenches.

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