Goodies from the UK

By cjohnson | October 9, 2005 12:28 am

The next step on my personal journey back in time…. I’m living with my mum!

Ok, so she’s visiting for a few weeks. (No, I have not moved back into the parental home, watching TV on the sofa, calling out for food like some scary giant physicist-cuckoo-chick.) Anyway, she brought treasured stuff with her (thanks also to my sister, cmj!), including things that almost all UK people in the USA crave: Ribena, Marmite, proper simple teabags, decent chocolate (sorry but Hershey’s just suckity suckity sucks)….
goodies from the uk

I can get a lot of this in the English shops in Santa Monica, (and the G&B chocs in some regular shops these days) but it’s just not the same as getting it shipped in, inside a suitcase, with that delicious feeling of anticipation while it is unpacked. I actually don’t eat this sort of thing under normal circumstances. I suspect that it is the connection with the old country, its people, my people, and the past that I want to savour for a little while.

Note that this photo was taken within 24 hours of her arriving and the seals are broken on some things already. Now how am I ever going to maintain my girlish figure…?

-cvj

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food and Drink, Personal
  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/09/cft-and-tomato-soup-can.html Plato

    Momma’s boy!:)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    that’s me!

    -cvj

  • Adam

    Marmite is evil. Americans, don’t be fooled by his enthusiasm into thinking that the stuff is even remotely nice. It’s foul*.

    I always ensure that we get a large amount of proper tea (although some places around here do serve some british tea that’s OK, it’s nice to get the real stuff in gigantic quantities). I haven’t been able to find packeted suet anywhere here (butcher’s suet is too much of a drag) but I’m not sure if that would be legal to import.

    *There is an amusing ad campaign in the UK for marmite, some years old now, entirely based on the fact that you either hate it (the correct position) or love it (the deranged position).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Adam: If there is a heaven, in addition to milk and honey…they’re scoffing marmite.

    -cvj

  • erc

    Yorkshire Tea???? Bleugh!

    Where is the Twinings (the “Twinings” tea in the supermarket here is wrong, the blends are different) or the Whittards? And my preference would be for just plain, simple McVities digestive biscuits rather than the jaffa cakes. Nevertheless, I am jealous. Especially of the chocolate. Sigh…

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/09/cft-and-tomato-soup-can.html Plato

    Dreamed of my momma last night. Like a little bird, I had to be pushed from the nest to find my wings.

    I was standing in the garden of my past. I use to turn it every spring. Had a new attitude in the dream, as I looked at her. I told her not to worry, as times had changed. I could rotatill it now.

    I thought it was nice of her to take time out and visit.:)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    erc – It’s Taylor’s of Harrogate’s Yorkshire Tea. They beat Twining’s English breakfast tea any day. I only use Twining’s for herbal teas now. Whittard’s is good, I agree.

    -cvj

  • Quibbler

    TEABAGS?! no no no, my friends. real tea can only be made from LEAVES that are steeped in water that is boilING (*not* boilED). and the milk always goes in first.

    still, i thoroughly approve of the biscuits, polos, etc. even the Marmite.

    not a fig rolls person though. i was the wrong age in the UK to be a fig rolls person. to my hearts core, i truly believe that in heaven, they are scoffing Fig Newtons.

  • erc

    Clifford – I just find that tea too dark and tannic. We shall have to agree to disagree on this I think ;)

    Quibbler – yes, leaf tea is the best, but first thing in the morning bags are easier. And I don’t have a teapot here yet :(

  • janet

    I agree with Quibbler: loose leaves only, except in dire circumstances! I’m much more of a tea-fetishist than any of my English relatives. But I drink it American style (slightly weaker, no milk), and drink a lot of green and oolong tea as well as black.

    About a year ago at a wine-tasting, I confounded my companions by observing that the Syrah was so black-currenty it reminded me of Ribena….

    Over several decades of traveling back and forth between California and England, we’ve found that many of the things that used to be ungettable either here or there are now fairly easy to get if you know where to look. I find this sad — I like the idea of there being actual regional differences in our globalized world. Some of the only US products that my cousins say they absolutely can’t get in England are Meyer lemons and chipotle chilis, and even that may have changed recently. One of my cousins and his eldest son have become addicted to Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, so we lay in a supply whenever we visit. (It hadn’t occurred to me that peanut butter is still, relatively speaking, an American thing; I know it was invented by George Washington Carver, but I figured it had diffused by now. Apparently not.)

    Of course Hershey’s doesn’t cut it (though they are now making a 60% cocoa-solids bar), but it’s quite easy to find either higher-quality American chocolate or boutique European brands, if you know where to look. I mean, they carry Lindt at our local Walgreens, and Valrohna at Trader Joes!

  • http://web.mit.edu/guarrera/www/blog.htm Dave

    Where are the McViddys? Marmite tastes like vomit.

  • damtp dweller

    All wonderful choices of good British snacks (or comfort food as our American cousins call them). However, I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out that Jacob’s Fig Rolls are originally Irish biscuits, not English. I’ve spent much time trawling around Sainsbury’s and Tesco here in Cambridge and I’ve still to see them on sale. A wonderful prize awaits anyone who can tell me where to source some fig rolls west of the Mill Road.

    And on a different note the finest tea in the world is Barrys Tea, something I’ve been able to find only in Ireland and, bizarrely, Rehoboth in Delaware.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    What, a haul of British goodies and no Duchy Originals biscuits!?!?

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/09/cft-and-tomato-soup-can.html Plato

    “Tannic” influence makes leather intestines:) Not good.

  • Quibbler

    G&B Maya Gold rules!

  • Athena

    Clifford, I can relate to your acknowledging that you don’t normally eat those foods, but miss them anyway. When I lived in Germany, I was surprised by the some of the popular, but not necessarily requisite, items that I missed from the US. Guess I missed the comfort of the familiar more than the actual taste of the foods themselves, although I was really enjoying the local products.

    Janet, (I very much mean to be kindly informative in saying that) George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter, though that is a popular misattribution. Interestingly enough, it was Dr. Kellogg and his brother who patented the process. Nevertheless, this does not diminish Dr. Carver’s many accomplishments in agricultural research, which I find, as a food scientist, were far more useful and impactful.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Carver

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Yesterday on NPR, Scott Simon was interviewing the producer of Stinky Bishop cheese (apparently to be featured in the new Wallace and Gromit film). The poor guy, you could tell, was quite unprepared for the international attention being focused on his tiny operation. At one point he said “It’s a little quirky, as we say here in English.” To which Simon could help but reply, “Yes, we say that here in English, as well.” The cheesemaker offered an apology, not wishing to offend anyone.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    To the loose leaf crowd. You’re missing an important point. I use loose-leaf tea too. But we’re talking about something different here. The concept of a good British teabag -for dark tea (erc)- is separate from the issue of fine teas, another subject close to my heart. Sort of like loving a nice chilled KitKat (see pic) while at the same time loving hand-made Belgian chcolates. The two can exist in the same universe and both give great amounts of pleasure.

    JoAnne, erc: Yeah, those (Duchy originals, Digestives, and Rich Teas) would have been in there somewhere, but this was not a haul composed by specific request, but as a surprise, so I’m happy with what I got.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • janet

    Oops, I stand corrected about the peanut butter. But he certainly had a big hand in promoting peanuts as a food crop in the US.

    I’m surprised that Carver isn’t more of an icon in the contemporary sustainable agriculture, grow-local-buy-local movement. His ideas about crop diversity and rural economic self-sufficiency seem at least as compelling today as they probably did in his time.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    janet – sadly, I’m not surprised. -cvj

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    damtp dweller: Thanks. These ones are made in the bakery in Liverpool, however. So my post’s title is fine. -cvj

  • Athena

    Yes! I’m glad you mentioned that, Janet. Absolutely, I agree that Dr. Carver should be more of an icon, considering his ideas about sustainability and outreach were on target and forward-thinking. He was such a visionary, and that is why I usually speak up when the invention of peanut butter is talked about; product development, though necessary, generally isn’t as compelling as the underlying research and goals, IMHO.

  • citrine

    Do they still make “Smarties”? (Now THAT’s chocolate for you, Clifford. :) ) When I was little, relatives who visited the UK always used to bring back those adorable tubes of Smarties for kids.

    Why waste precious transcontinental cargo space on MARMITE? Just mix some shoe polish into boiling water or spread it on your toast. This substance is foul to the nth power, n > 2.

    I was weaned on Ribena! Love the taste.

  • Bingomaster

    Jaffa cakes! Oh, how I pine for you. And Ribena too. And yes, Smarties. Drat, I’m missing Britain again.

    But living in Chicago has it’s advantages. I might not be able to get some of the items I grew up with in the UK, but I can get my childhood Polish products: brine-pickled cucumbers, Wedel chocolate, good ham, sausages. In the UK, only ever available at Selfridges Food Court in London priced at the totally reasonable (!) 40 GBP per kilo.

  • http://www.woodka.com Donna

    Ditto on the Smarties. I fell in love with those and the Barry’s tea while in Ireland. I also really liked the English crisps. Much better than our potato chips.

  • http://catdynamics.blogspot.com Steinn Sigurdsson

    I won’t ask how the Marmite got back the biohazard sensors (well, I confess we have a jar too), but I have to concur, McVities are the priority! Plain chocolate, the milk is too sweet, the non-chocolate are nice, but why not have the chocolate?
    Mint Aeros are another essential, and it never ceases to surprise me how much more variation is available in “candy” in the UK than in the US, something to do with the homogeneity of the US market and threshold cost for introducing new nationally marketed products, while local exotics are squeezed out by the mass produced stuff.

    Anyway, most of the good stuff can be obtained from Canada, for those near the border. There’s a convenience store near the Ontario border which must still be pondering what happened to their shelves last time I ventured north.

  • citrine

    When I first came to the USA (in the late 80′s) I was fascinated by junk food and – gasp – junk mail. I had never encountered either in my life. I spent a long time reading and sorting through all my junk mail and tasted every type of vending machine candy. (The >3 hours/day of walking around campus expended the calories.)When my dad came to visit me a few months into my first semester I sent some junk food home with him. I also sent some canned cat food for my cat. Apparently she walked away in disdain after one sniff but our dogs (who are less picky gourmands) gobbled it up.

  • Peter Hornby

    Last time I went to my local (Orange County) Indian grocer to pick up some Taylor’s Yorkshire Gold, my heart did a little savoury somersault to discover that they also stocked Twiglets. Oh joy!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Twiglets! wow! For those who don’t know, those are weird twig-shaped things that resemble twigs (and may well taste like them when plain) but they are covered in Marmite-y-like goodness! I hate the very thought of them in the abstract, but then can’t stop eating them if they are around!

    -cvj

  • Pingback: Visitors as Pleasant Distractions | Cosmic Variance

  • http://atdotde.blogspot.com Robert

    I have recently bought a Ryanair flight to Stansted because after a year on the continent I feel the strong need to stock up certain products at Tesco’s and M&S (not to mention the book shops and visiting friends and DAMTP at Cambridge). But my shopping list’s intersection with your picture is empty I must say! I will buy some tea but not the plain black one (really no need to buy that in the UK!) plus I will export real ale (unfortunately not a cask) and all kinds of biskuits and curries.

  • Adam

    Twiglets are also, clearly, evil. If there’s a hell, it’ll involve eating twiglets dipped in extra marmite.

    Marmite tastes like it looks*.

    Incidentally, should any limeys ever find themselves in Princeton, the Alchemist and Barrister stocks genuine hand-pulled Fuller’s ESB served at cellar temperature. I miss it (although I can get it in bottles where I am now, so all is not lost).

    *And it looks like you should be able to process it to extract gasoline. Either that or spread it over your fields to ensure good plant nutrition.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Adam,

    Never judge something by its looks alone:

    Marmite looks exactly like molasses. I also find that delicious! Do you find that disagreeable too?

    -cvj

  • Adam

    I wouldn’t eat molasses as is (nor, indeed, spread it on toast).

    But my point wasn’t merely that it looks, as one might say, like crap, nor was I claiming that things that look like crap do, in general, taste like it, but rather that marmite looks like crap and tastes like it looks.

    And don’t give me any of this subjectivity stuff. Marmite is objectively evil, as are celery and pepsi. New arrivals in Hell will in fact be greeted with a limited smorgasbord of marmite dip with celery crudites to be washed down with pepsi. For snacks between meals, twiglets, their steady crunch, crunch, crunch providing a rhythmic accompaniment to a medley of the banner performances of the James Last Orchestra.

    Heaven will, of course, be a matter of how much murgh makhni, gulab jamun and coca cola one can consume in front of looped tapes of England’s recent Ashes cricket victory over Australia before A Prairie Home Companion starts.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Adam,

    You were doing well there until the last five words. So Garrison Keillor’s singing will be in Heaven will it? I don’t think so!

    -cvj

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    I have to side with Clifford on this last point (but not about Marmite). I was with you all the way until APHC.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Me three. Josh Andrews does his best to parse Garrison.

  • Adam

    It’s not his singing, oh no.

    The news from Lake Woebegone, however, is a different matter.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Yeah, I like the News too, but despite being quite an admirer of the guy, I wish he’d just stop the singing. Please!

    -cvj

  • Adam

    I figure he’s just like the aunt who got told 40 years ago that they could sing well and hasn’t re-evaluated since, terrorising every christmas gathering since with her tremulous version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’.

  • janet

    Clifford, I think the degree to which the text of the Potter books has been changed for the American market has been exaggerated, mainly by people who were (rightly, I think) aggravated by the change of the first book’s title. Something like 35 words were changed in the first book, and in later books most if not all of the British idioms remain — there is a great deal of snogging in the most recent one, and they wear trainers and jumpers and so forth, the Quidditch pitch is a pitch, not a field. My husband, purist that he is, always insists on getting the British editions. I haven’t gone through any of them with a fine-toothed comb to compare them to the American editions, but as far as I can tell the main difference is that the spelling and punctuation have been changed to the American style, something that is done with virtually all British books published in the US (and the same is done in reverse).

    The differences in covers and that first book’s title are the kinds of decisions that are made by marketing in the publishing industry. It’s very amusing to analyze the differences in the cover art — my favorite covers for the books are the German ones, because they are just so German! See:

    http://www.carlsen-harrypotter.de/basic1/buecher/content.html

    Re Garrison Keillor: When I hear him singing on the radio, I change the channel almost as fast as I do when I hear George W. Bush’s voice. As for the rest of the show, there’s only so much understated, self-deprecating humor I can take….

  • Adam

    I’d rather listen to an hour of Keillor singing than that third Kate Bush song, however.

    My tolerance for understated, self-deprecating humour, on the other hand, is high.

  • janet

    Arrgh, I did it again. I got confused about two threads. The whole bit about Harry Potter was supposed to go in the “Visitors as Pleasant Distractions” thread. Maybe I should just go back to bed….

  • Adam

    With regard to my earlier post, it seems that the Alchemist and Barrister in Princeton has now stopped serving Fuller’s ESB. The swine.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Noooo! That’s bad. Hey Adam… long time since I’ve heard from you!

    -cvj

  • Adam

    Ah yes, been writing computer programs. And moving house, and the like. I had never even thought about curtains before, really. It turns out that they can be quite expensive.

    On the plus side, the local supermarket has added Ribena to the ‘British foods’ selection and I can still buy ESB in bottles up here (not sure if I could get them in Princeton, but the bottles do taste pretty good).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Yes, curtains are expensive. Consider making your own. It’s trivial, fun, and waaaaay cheaper.

    -cvj

  • Adam

    Even better, I am shipping my mother out, curtainmaker extraordinaire, for the rest of the house. Just wanted some quick curtains for a couple of rooms (guestroom and master bedroom). There are plenty more to be done, though.

  • Pingback: The Tea Tastes Great, So I Must Be In… | Cosmic Variance

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