My Blighty life friend Philip is a treasured old soul and the Imelda Marcos of scarves (the wrap-around-the-turtleneck kind, not the bad hair day kind). He never travels by open top car for fear of being strangled like Isadora Duncan. He and I worked together for donkey’s years. I managed him for a while, though I was always left wondering who really worked for whom. His innate intelligence is beautifully blended with creativity, wit and style – and the ability to drink me under the table. He’s one of two guest bloggers that I actually know in person (Karyn is the other). How sad is that.
You can catch more of Philip’s excellent foody tales on his marvelous blog, What’s for Tea Tonight, Dear
Whenever I think of Jack and Liam’s great adventure, and once my envy of their chosen life subsides, I often think of what I’d miss if I were to similarly uproot myself and transplant to pastures new. And being the glutton that I am these thoughts most often turn to food. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and a large slice of that affection belongs to the opportunity to try new foods and even whole cuisines. A trip to Cambodia last year for instance was quite an eye opener – from the fragrant markets all the way to the fried tarantulas! But these are usually just holidays, and knowing that my familiar comforts will all be waiting at home makes it all the easier to go native, culinary wise, with gay abandon. I’d be lying if I said I’d never eaten a “full English” on some hot, hung-over morning somewhere round the Med, but if that’s all you can think of when travelling abroad then stay at home with a tin of baked beans, a packet of sausages and a sun ray lamp, I say. Eating what those around you eat, sharing that most basic daily form of what defines a people or an area (i.e. their food!) is the quickest, most accessible and often most enjoyable way of beginning to understand your local culture, however temporary the arrangement.
But for the long-term emigrey (to borrow Jack’s term), however much you immerse yourself in the cauldron of your local cuisine, there must always be tastes of home for which you hanker. For years now It’s been something of a running joke with the Shopkeeper and I that as soon as we buckle our belts on an outbound flight we’ll turn to each other and say “Ooh, I can’t wait to get home and have a decent cup of tea!”. I’m a bit of a fussy tea drinker at the best of times and, after countless (and why always glass?) cups of lukewarm water in which a helpless bestringed bag of Liptons struggles in vain to radiate even the smallest tentacles of its brown beauty, I have entirely given up on drinking tea whilst abroad.
Cheese on toast is my other immediate must have just as soon as I’ve paid the taxi driver from Gatwick or Heathrow enough to replicate the holiday from which I’ve just returned. Having a cheese shop takes care of one principal ingredient, I’ll usually call ahead to make sure we have supplies of the other. And within a week, whatever exciting recipes, ingredients and ideas have come home with me, I will always be found making a roast dinner with all the trimmings.
So I wonder, for those who have taken the plunge, what foods do you miss the most? And how do you manage to fill the voids? Trips to the mother land with an empty suitcase just for food? Insistence that any visitors bring necessary supplies in exchange for board? Or maybe even local supper clubs where you can huddle over the latest import? I’m dying to hear you stories.