A starter list of ersatz foods

19.42, Tuesday 14 Apr 2020 Link to this post

There are a bunch of ersatz foods that were invented out of scarcity and necessity, but have somehow stuck around.

Salad cream. Canonical substitute food done good. Basically a bit like tangy mayonaisse but with less expensive mayonaisse and more oil and vinegar.

Orange squash. I’m guessing orange squash was as close as the chemicals industry could get to orange juice without actually going near an orange, but now I’ve started thinking about it, I quite fancy a glass.

Ready Brek. This is easy porridge I guess? I’m not sure if this qualifies as “ersatz” because I think it may be simply branding a generic, which does not count. But I am certainly into the way it is marketed on the Tesco website which includes the immortal line Oat grain fibre contributes to an increase in faecal bulk. Which is… good? I guess?

Margarine, surprisingly interesting butter substitute.:

[Emperor] Napoleon III saw that both his poorer subjects and his navy would benefit from having easy access to a cheap butter substitute, so he offered a prize for anyone who could create an adequate replacement.

Invented by a French chemist in 1869.

Spam. I’ve not been to Hawaii but I’ve heard that spam is part of the cuisine there – though from a distance it’s hard to tell whether the spam love is ironic. Because it is disgusting.


I debated about monosodium glutamate which was invented in 1908 by Kikunau Ikeda as he worked to isolate the meaty flavour of dashi, a fermented base made from boiled seaweed and dried fish. And MSG is now a common ingredient. Is it ersatz dried fish? No, I think, like rosewater, we would call it an essence.


I’m trying to think of more. This is possibly just because I like saying “ersatz.” Possibly.