This Autumn has been unseasonably mild, too warm to pull out the woolly pulleys or to contemplate buying a device which controls my heating through my iPhone. Despite the lack of chill, I just don’t think you can fight certain primeval urges we are hard wired to do as the seasons change. Or at least that was how I rationalised it when asking my colleague what on earth that scrumptious smell was wafting out of the microwave at 9 am, all buttery, caramel, heaven sent lusciousness– “Golden syrup porridge,” she purred, as if Nigella was speaking through her, my jaw dropped.
The thing is, I work in fashion, everyone in my office has embraced the clean living trend with vigour, the fridge is bursting with almond milk, avocados and cauliflower rice. Had I been brain washed, or just forgotten the amber nectar that is Golden syrup? I twitched all day like an addict, plotting my breakfast, I’d better it tomorrow, no pre mixed sachets, proper rolled oats cooked with the glass bottled milk delivered by the milkman and swirls of Lyle’s good stuff - maybe a token sprinkling of health (flaked almonds). My god it was delicious, it should be illegal, why do I not eat this more often? I must never ever tell my dentist I thought as I sat there, eating the breakfast of fairy tales.
Then my eyes drifted to the iconic tin, that classic familiar design, unchanged since 1883. My favourite Victorian green, laced with an intricate tile like white pattern. Embellished with just enough gold to twinkle and catch the light. A font to die for; elegant white letters, outlined with a heavy black stroke, and a golden arch under which rests a lion. But what did the lion mean? Or the tiny quote I’d never noticed before; “out of the strong came forth sweetness.” A quick look at Wikipedia stripped the gold right out of my locks, the mechanised production of golden syrup isn’t quite so ambrosial sounding, but we’ll gloss over that.
Abram Lyle was devoutly religious and the lion is a Biblical reference to the story of Samson, he of supernatural strength from the Old Testament. On his way to the land of Philistines to find a wife, Samson slays a lion and returning past the same spot he finds bees have made a honeycomb in the lion’s carcass. He later created the riddle; “ Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” And so the official Lyle slogan was born; “ Out of the strong came forth sweetness, where bees produce honey inside the lion’s carcass, rich syrup pours from the well loved tin. Perhaps Lyle was referring to the strength of his business, or the tin itself? Either way, golden syrup proved a hit with famous fans such as George V, thereby gaining the tin royal warrant status in 1911, a mark it still bears today. Golden syrup tins even accompanied Captain Scott on his doomed expedition to the Antarctic in 1910. The tin was recovered in 1956, with contents and packaging in good condition.
It was only a lack of metal during World War I that temporarily changed the design of the tin to cardboard, reassuringly printed with an explanation to say the contents were still the same.
In a world with a constant appetite for newness, I find the Golden syrup tin design a comfort, knowing it’s going to look as beautiful on the shelf and taste exactly as it always has done. In 2006, the Guinness World Records confirmed Lyle’s Golden syrup to be the oldest unchanged brand packaging in the world. Brand agencies are paid fortunes to update packaging to appeal to consumers, but they’ll never change you Golden Syrup – you are perfect just the way you are. Not forgetting you Treacle, in your glorious red jacket.