HEINZ have perpetrated the greatest publicity stunt of the week. They have threatened to rename “Salad Cream” and call it “Sandwich Cream” because only 14 per cent of purchasers use salad cream on salads; nearly all of them use it on sandwiches.

The publicity stunt has starred in radio phone-ins and newspaper column inches because, whether you knew it or not, everyone has an opinion about salad cream. It’s a bit like Marmite: do you love it, or do you prefer its deadly rival, mayonnaise.

I’m firmly in the mayonnaise camp. Mayonnaise is more mellow than the strident vinegariness of salad cream, but I feel like a traitor for admitting this.

Mayonnaise is said to have been created in 1756 when the French, led by Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, the Duke of Richelieu, captured the port of Mahon on the Mediterranean island of Menorca from the British during the Seven Years War.

The duke was a noted bon vivant, and his chef was cooking up a victory meal which required a sauce made of cream and eggs. But there was no cream to be found so, inspired by a local dish, the chef added olive oil and, voilá, he presented the duke with a new sauce to celebrate his triumph – as he was in Mahon, it was called Mahonnaise.

This may not be entirely true, as emulsified eggs with garlic and olive oil had been blended together for centuries in Mediterranean countries, but today mayonnaise is the world’s favourite condiment.

It is more popular in the US than even ketchup, which started life as a Chinese fermented fish sauce – “ke-tsiap” – which British explorers discovered in the late 17th Century. The British tried making it with fishy things like anchovies, and “ketchup” came to mean a dark, vinegary sauce – Jane Austin, apparently, was mad for mushroom ketchup. A tomato variant is credited to a Philadelphian horticulturalist called James Mease who published a recipe in 1812.

Salad Cream is more of an English favourite. It was the first product developed for the British market by Heinz – the king of ketchup. It was launched in 1914 after eight years of research, and its eggy vinegariness soon caught on, although it really took root in British affections during the Second World War when it was used to jazz up the bland dinners that the ration books caused to be served.

Perhaps it is the passing of those with Second World War tastes that caused sales of Salad Cream to slip by 5.8% last year. By threatening to rename Sandwich Cream, Heinz has got everybody talking about it – it is on everybody’s lips figuratively, if not literally.

THE demise of House of Fraser in Darlington and Middlesbrough is terribly sad for the people who work there, and a potentially devastating blow to the high street, particularly that in Darlington.

It also presents a quandary to those people who like to threaten to make an outlandish gesture in the unlikely event of them proved wrong. In whose window are they now going to bare their bottoms once Binns has gone? B&M doesn’t have the same ring to it and I hope no one would be so vulgar as to threaten to wave their willy in Wilko’s window.