The true cost of avoiding homesickness

The Special One is more British than she cares to let on. Sure, she might externally appear to be an ‘h’ dropping, zucchini munching, country invading, milkshake swilling gas guzzler, but cut just under the surface and she bleeds HP Sauce.

Now, part of that is that My Esteemed Mother-in-Law’s mother was English, and resolutely maintained her British citizenship through years of living in the deep south. But really The Special One’s Britishness comes from her love of condiments. Whether it’s Branston Pickle, Maldon Sea Salt or mint sauce, she can’t get enough of the things that the British add to their food in a desperate attempt to make it taste of something edible.

Slowly though, I’m introducing her to more and more British products. PG Tips – as mentioned recently – was an easy one, and Ribena wasn’t exactly tough. I expected mushy peas to be more of a struggle than they actually proved to be, while Cornish pasties were the unexpected hit of the winter of 2006. Black pudding is still a bridge too far though, and the less said about tripe the better. Cold cow’s stomach in vinegar doesn’t appear to do the trick for The Special One, for some reason.

One thing that she’s particularly partial to is English sausage. Quieten down at the back, and stop sniggering. Proper meaty British bangers are a world apart from the fat laden patties that she occasionally had with gravy and ‘biscuits’ (or ‘tasteless sugar free scones’, as I generally call them) in her youth. And having been a vegan for some considerable time, there’s now nothing she likes more than minced pig sinew in a crispy shell.

Close to my office is Myers of Keswick, a British ‘corner shop’ serving the rather large expat community (and Anglophiles) in New York City. I can’t actually let The Special One go there anymore. Partly because she insists on pronouncing it “Myers of Kezwick,” but mostly because she would come back with a lifetime’s supply of Mr Kipling’s Bakewell Tarts if given half a chance.

So today I ventured there alone to stock up with essential items. ‘Essential’ if your idea of essential is Curly Wurly’s and three pounds of Cumberland sausages, obviously. And a bumper box of PG Tips, some HP and Branston, a chicken and mushroom pie and a bag of Twiglets. What more could a man ask for? Apart from maybe a spicy curry Pot Noodle and a bag of pork scratchings.

I reckon if I’d bought that shopping in the UK, it’d probably have cost me about 15 quid or so, depending on the quality of the sausages. Head 3458 miles west, and the price suddenly escalates to 64 dollars. Clearly the dollar is worth next-to-nothing, but that’s one hell of a price to pay for some creature comforts. As a great philosopher once wrote, “Man cannot live on Branston alone.” But after that shopping trip, we’ll probably have to give it a go.

17 thoughts on “The true cost of avoiding homesickness

  1. Mike

    Convenience has a price. What a great shop. I wish we had somehting like Meyers of “Kez-ick” in Boston. Next time I am in the Village, I am heading straight there.

  2. Melanie

    It’s all good, I paid over $8 here for Soy Vay at Whole Foods Kensington, which I usually purchased for $3.50 at Trader Joe’s back home.

    It was totally worth it too.

  3. LB

    I have yet to visit that place and spend under $30, even when I just nip in for the odd packet of hula hoops… Somehow, you see those tins of Heinz baked bins, $2.50 a pop, and it seems odd to just buy one…It’s a killer. I’m kind of glad I don’t pass by too often.

  4. Trixie

    The bottom shelf of my fridge is just pickles, relishes and jams. Two of the door compartments are dedicated to sauces, mustards and pickled veg (capers, cornichons, jalapenos, pearl onions . .) Ya see if you came home to live, you & TSO could come over as often as you wanted and gorge yourself on vinegary/sugary jar products until you suffered from self-induced gastric ulcers.
    Quick, book a flight and start packing!

  5. Mom/Mum

    I want one of those shops too. Though the Mother just sent us a nice package of Curly Wurlies which amazingly didn’t get eaten by some choc-nut at Customs.
    Seconds it took us, in a fit of salivating-for-a-taste-of-home, to consume them? 0.4 methinks…
    Pass the Hula Hoops.

  6. Dylan

    jAMiE – The Special One and I talked about that last night…the profit margins must be amazing!

    Melanie – to be fair, Whole Foods Kensington makes the Whole Foods over here look like Costco in terms of the proces they charge. Never make the mistake of getting their weighed salads…you’ll not be able to afford to eat again for the rest of the month.

    LB – 30 dollars IS only a packet of Hula Hoops, isn’t it?!

    Trixie – glad to see the one woman campaign to get The Special One and I back to the UK continues apace! Can you make me a batch of pickled red cabbage maybe…by the time it gets here, it’s always soft and bleeeee.

    Mom/Mum – 0.4 seconds? I presume that was the time it took to eat TWO Curly Wurlies, right? Otherwise, you need to practice more…

  7. Expat Mum

    Aw, now I’m craving proper sausages. The Ball & Chain is off the England and Scotland for 10 days (yes, 10 days) so I will definitely be giving him a list, but sausages won’t make it through. Next time he’s in NYC though…..

  8. Julia

    Pickled walnuts anyone? You love ’em or you hate ’em! I love them – of course. We used to have them at Christmas with proper home cooked ham or strong cheddar.

  9. Catherine

    Got the same problem here in Switzerland I’m afraid. A quick pop into “Jim’s Mini Market” over the border in France usually results in one coming out with a bag load of Bassett’s liquorice Allsorts, Rowntrees jellies (good for making cheesecakes)mince meat if it’s near Christmas time, a couple of packets of Hob Nobs and then you realise you’ve just spent 80 euros. The price of expat life.

  10. Jan

    Oh, now I’m longing for some Cumberland Sausage. I love Ringtons tea, and have it shipped over from the UK, though I can make do with PG at a pinch.

  11. Siobhan

    Looks like I should have read this post first before commenting two down…

    I’ve never tasted tripe, nor do I care to. I don’t like twiglets either. I miss Irish sausages. And can I just yell this? AND D E C E N T cheese!! It’s true though, they charge an arm and a leg, something about “making a profit and hefty export taxes…”

    The place I used to go to told me they couldn’t import Pot Noodles anymore for some international law or some blah-de-blah. You know what though? I was over in Scotland in March/April and bought myself some Pot Noodles. It was pathetic! They’ve taken all the good stuff out of them, no preservatives or additives. They tasted mingin! I was well disappointed. Same with some chocolate, no more nasty stuff that tastes great in it. Meh.

  12. Janice

    Hell’s teeth Cousin Dylan! Just let me know if you want a food parcel sending – might take a little longer but it’d be a darn sight cheaper..

  13. Alasdair

    Salad Cream …

    Frosted Shreddies …

    Haggis …

    And, yes, Black Pudding …

    Getting close to time to head back and stock up !

  14. Esther

    Great blog! The British shops here in LA aren’t nearly as good as yours sounds. Your entry means my mum needs a bigger suitcase when she comes to visit next week! You reminded me of so many good British staples I miss!

  15. Lisa

    We SO need a British grocery in Omaha. Are you able to get mushy peas there?

    I got some good (authentic) real british cheese at a specialty market for maybe a dollar or two more than we’d pay for “whatever that stuff is WE eat” (cheese, is it?)


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