British Classic #4: The OXO Cube

The most striking thing about the whole notion of our national relationship with OXO…is that we really don’t need it at all. Yet 2 MILLION of these salty brown cubes of beef extract and flavouring are bought every day by a public who, it seems, have something to hide meat-wise; I’m guessing that  they are only used to mask what would otherwise be low grade, poorly produced proteins. But as anyone with a little knowledge of cooking will already be aware, a wonderful meal can be attained with a little skill and patience using only a few carrots and a bit of scrag-end. The tragedy in ignoring the crucial component of a piece of roasting meat – namely the slowly dripping juices, the heart and soul of the joint – and smothering it in a glutinous synthetic gravy cannot be understated. So what makes us reach for the little fellas so readily? Well, I’ve thought about it, and once again I believe it is our desire to preserve links to earlier times. OXO enjoyed its greatest popularity after WWII, providing an over-abundence of rich gravy to wallow in, after years of thrift and rationing. Therefore it became a symbol of a happy nation, home once more and sitting around the dinner table. This was adopted into the hugely successful advertising campaign featuring the OXO Family (Youtube it) which went on for many years, fnishing only relatively recently, and even then with some public outcry. Do not underestimate the tactile and visual appeal, too. I am sure it was no accident that the two colours of OXO’s packaging are red and white, the colours of the St. George Cross.  And then there is the cube itself. We Brits, as I have stated previously, like a household item with an element of fun to it. Toilet Duck, Shake n’ Vac, Kit Kat wrappers (well, not now) are all examples of an unnecessary preponderence toward fun to capture the mischievous British imagination. There is a certain undefined delight to be had in carefully peeling away the silver foil neatly binding the cube, then crumbling this cow-flavoured compost into your chosen dish. I must admit to using them in a Bolognese at home, with good results, but gravy? Can’t bring myself to do it. 

One little footnote. I had a friend at primary school who used to eat OXO cubes like sweets. I wonder what state his blood pressure is in now?


Thanks for visiting the site, and please feel free to leave a comment, positive or negative. By which I mean always positive…

See you next time for #5: Jacob’s Cream Crackers



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4 Comments on “British Classic #4: The OXO Cube”

  1. Marius Says:

    Well, at least this one doesn’t sound gross. 😉 Might a humble yank request pictures of these culinary delights in future? 😀

  2. croosh Says:


  3. Dan Says:

    “cow-flavoured compost”. Love it.

  4. Cartbozman Says:

    Jakob will be impressed, a post dedicated to him 😉

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