Tag Archives: Branston Pickle

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.

Two pieces of bread and a whole load of turkey

I’m proud to say that I come from the home of the sandwich. You can’t beat a simple sandwich, freshly made with great bread and quality ingredients, and preferably accompanied by a bag of crisps. Admittedly the Earl of Sandwich probably didn’t go for cheese and Branston Pickle butties with an accompanying pile of cheese’n’onion flavour potato-based snacks, but I’m pretty sure that he would approve. If he hadn’t been dead for 200 years, that is.

Here in the States, the sandwich is equally revered, but over-complicated. It’s like comparing a 70s prog rock double headed guitar solo with the beautiful simplicity of an acoustic guitar track. By law, every US sandwich must have 73 ingredients, of which 18 are legally required to be cheese. Lettuce and salad can be included if absolutely necessary, but this can sometimes result in only a two inch thickness of turkey being added rather than the statutory four. The Subway chain gets around this by making sure every sandwich filling is actually made of turkey. Including the tomatoes. The only exception is the lettuce, which has to be cut at least six days before being used to ensure that it develops their patented Brown & Unappealing™ look.

Americans make a big play of the fact that they don’t put butter on sandwiches, while neglecting to mention that they smear so much mayonnaise on everything that Brooklyn alone ensures that senior Hellman executives have earned their annual bonus every year since 1934. The inhabitants of some small villages in the Cotswolds have a lower collective calorific intake than the consumers of certain New York sandwiches.

Most egregious of all, as I have indicated before, is the American obsession with putting peanut butter on sandwiches. Peanut butter is neither big nor clever. It is the devil’s food, and its combination with jelly (or ‘poor man’s jam’ as I like to call it) is simply wrong.

In fact, the only good thing about peanut butter is that it ensures that I never drink too much on a weeknight. The Young Ones love peanut butter on the sandwiches they take to school, and even the thought of making them while nursing a large hangover is enough to make me nauseous.

29 days to go

So, the countdown has begun. After 33 years, I’m leaving the UK in just over four weeks, to start a new adventure in the United States. At least, I should be leaving, if I ever pack up all my belongings, book a flight and generally get my arse in gear. Leaving behind bourbon biscuits, Match Of The Day, HP sauce, Sky+ and The Guardian in my wake. Not to mention friends, family and Manchester United. All to head to a place where herbs have no ‘h’, fish and chips have no mushy peas, and presidents have no guilt at pardoning the crimes of their closest confidantes.

Still, there are some consolations, not least of which is the woman sitting by her door, eagerly waiting for me to get through the lengthy immigration queue line so that we can start a new life together. However far it is from Sir Matt Busby Way, New York is the land of opportunity – and in a few short days, opportunity will be knocking for me.

In the meantime, I’m off to stock up on Branston Pickle…