No Tea and No Sympathy

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.

12 thoughts on “No Tea and No Sympathy

  1. To be honest your taste buds change over time and you miss less. I used to land at Gatwick, stop at M&S on the way through the terminal to bulk buy sausage rolls and scotch eggs and then sit in my hotel room and happily scoff the lot. I used to miss Chinese Takeaways and rubbish white sliced bread and pate but now I make what I can’t get and only really miss a good ham at Christmas so I go to Greece and get one.

    You don’t turn Turkish, I personally don’t have a spare couple of decades to learn to make yufka to the exacting standards of a Turkish Mother, but you do turn on to Turkish ingredients and that’s the fun bit and discovering ingredients makes up for what you can’t get.

    That said I did unearth a rather nice piece of Wensleydale from the back of the freezer last night (sacrilige!).



  2. I have plenty of food yearnings and always ask for cheese, tasty cheddar or good blue cheeses, I love the Turkish cheeses but can’t help hankering after foreign cheeses. Of course all pork products spicy and otherwise are a delight to see coming out of anybodies suitcase. On the sweet side treacle the golden type and good chocolate dark and enticing will always be welcomed. An occasional English breakfast goes down a treat but once a year is enough for me a strange yearning for bland water crackers, what that’s about I have no idea but it happens. I have to say though after all the little surprises have been consumed and I am back to eating normally I have a strange feeling of being healthy again food is so tied up in the area where you are and suits the climate and life style an occasional out of culture experience is great but that’s as far as it goes for me. Eating what the locals eat serves to keep everything going as it should and I have to say I do feel so much healthier for living and eating in a Mediterranean way. Oh but please don’t stop the bringing over the marmite, chunky marmalade the list is endless how come all those simple little taste bites bring tingle sensations to my mind it must go way back to my childhood.


  3. With each year you spend away from Asda/Safeway/Tesco the list of things you miss diminishes…..I’ve got so used to eating only fresh in season foods that the occassional processed treat brought over by kindly friends usually results in a reaction to the chemical concoction! These days we plan trips to the “Pork Butcher” in Kos for pork chops and bacon and friends bring us Cheddar and Stilton….although Kipa(Tesco) do a very good Rockfort. English breakfast is provided “in season” by any restaurant locally, although I fail to see how anyone can eat one in 40 degrees! I’ve got used to Turkish tea in a glass or Liptons with milk. The only must have from the UK? Marmite! I love it!


    1. I can wholeheartedly vouch for this …. I know I will never be as welcome on a visit to my sister Carole as when my suitcase is bulging with all manner of Marmite products – although as I can’t stand the stuff myself, I’m not entirely sure that we area actually blood relations …


  4. Twenty one years out of the mother land, and the increasingly infrequent visits include hunting down pork ribs, Mexican food, sushi, and a real, Caesar salad (the kind where the wooden bowl has been rubbed down with garlic and anchovies, and the romaine is shredded, not cut.)

    We innovate frequently with ingredients smuggled over from Greece, including sausages, bacon, Hellman’s mayo, blue cheese and sharp cheddar. Bodrum now has great Chinese and even a decent hamburger so we’re not exactly starving, and all that we miss becomes even tastier when we finally have it.

    (Jack – we’ll be more than happy to help you with your suitcases from the airport..).


  5. It’s taken some time but we’ve finally been able to find American bacon. We may not eat it often, but when we do, there’s no substitute. It took trial and error (and 2+ years) to find a loaf of bread that Husband and I both really like for breakfast toast and sandwiches (a beautiful light multigrain that is flavorful and not at all dry). When he travels back to the US or visitors come, they are required to bring buttermilk ranch salad dressing. Okay, it’s all rather plebian, but sometimes it’s the little things. As for tea, I have 2 Brit friends who insist on carrying their own favorite tea bags everywhere. Vive la difference!


  6. Like Karyn, I think our palates (and waistlines) have altered since we moved to Turkey. However, I have been gorging on bacon, sausage rolls and Walkers cheese and onion crisps during my time in Blighty. Last night my London landlady cooked me sausage and mash with onion gravy. Delicious!


  7. Shepherd Neame’s Master Brew bitter; ripe Stilton and local-made sausages from my former village – that’s it really. Oh! and then there’s . . . and . . . and


  8. I notice sausages feature heavily in our comments… Sausage and mash with onion gravy?? Simply heaven!! And I’d forgotten Walker’s cheese and onion crisps. Since I moved to Jamaica my waistline has grown – I probably eat much more healthy than I did in England, more fruit and veg…but my sweet tooth never deserts me and Jamaican food IS sweet (and often delicious…) Sigh.


  9. I love the story which these combined comments tell. The adoption of new tastes and habits to the extent that I now wonder what would be the Turkish / local things people would miss were they to return to their former homes? And who knew there was such a thriving pork goods trade route to Kos? I’m tempted to invest in a butcher’s boat and weigh anchor in Bodrum harbour every other Thursday! And yet still there are those things we crave from a former home or from our childhood, the latter being something which you can experience just by staying put and having the world change around you. Brits of a certain age who remember Smash instant mash might care to peruse this piece

    Thanks to all who read and commented. I’ll see you again if Jack invites me back…!


  10. The longer I live here, the less I miss familiar foods from England. But I will always long for Birds custard and Cadbury’s chocolate.


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