Very British Hunting and Gathering

Last week my husband arrived home bearing gifts.  While in search of a crop of pretzels to bring home, he had happened upon a store that had a shelf devoted to foods imported from Britain.  When he opened the shopping bag to reveal its contents, the children swarmed around him singing his praises, worshipping at the feet of the father who had hunted and gathered and brought home things they had not tasted in over a year.


For those who are not familiar with it, Salad Cream is like a hybrid of mayonnaise and toxic waste.  As you may gather, I think it is vile.  Mr Pict and our two youngest children, however, are addicted to it.  Properly addicted.  This is unfortunate since, although it is manufactured by Heinz among others, it is not available in the US.  Luckily for them, however, guests from the UK can bring it with them.  That is the price of a visit to us.  They were relieved to discover, however, that they could now buy bottles of salad cream at this store in order to survive the gaps between salad cream bearing visitors.

The beans, it transpired, were not all that dissimilar from the vegetarian baked beans we have been eating since we emigrated.  Indeed, my children declared that they prefer the American version, probably because they contain a bit more sugar.

Custard powder is something I have been missing because, quite frankly, I suck at making custard from scratch.  Sweet scrambled eggs.  Custard powder saves me the aggravation of making it myself.  I do believe that a trifle is on the cards.

Jammy Dodgers are biscuits (as in cookies, not savoury scones) whereby a layer of super sticky jam is sandwiched between two layers of biscuit, the upper of which has a hole in it.  They are not remotely a special biscuit in Britain but it was a little taste of nostalgia.  The kids devoured them.

British chocolate is very different from American chocolate.  I cannot say that it is any worse or any better but my tastebuds have been bred to prefer the creamy smoothness of British chocolate.  I confess I do not especially like American chocolate as a result.  To prove this is not merely some sort of food patriotism, I will state that Belgian chocolate is by far and away my favourite.  We have all been missing British chocolate so those poor Bounty and Crunchie bars had a very limited lifespan.

Probably the item we were most excited to see, however, was the Irn Bru.  Whisky is the official national drink of Scotland but Irn Bru nips at its heels.  It is a bright orange soft drink promoted as being “made in Scotland from girders”.  It is vaguely fruity but tastes like nothing natural.  It is, however, entirely delicious and very addictive.  Nobody who has tasted it has ever disliked Irn Bru  – well nobody I know at least.  Although we never consumed soft drinks on a regular basis, my kids were dismayed to learn that Irn Bru was not at available in America.  They would look for it on restaurant menus and then remember that Irn Bru would never be an option.  Of all the treats Mr Pict brought back with him from his foraging expedition, the Irn Bru was the one they had missed the most and which they were most glad to see.  It is, however, almost as expensive as liquid amber so they had to do with sharing a small bottle between two and deal with the fact it would be a very occasional treat.  Indeed, we saved the Irn Bru for Burns’ Night – we think Robbie would have approved.

Now if only we could find a source of Bradan Rost salmon on these shores.

29 thoughts on “Very British Hunting and Gathering

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    • That’s about right. It’s grotesque. My husband is trying to wean himself off it a bit by using ranch and blue cheese dressings but the kids are not even trying to ration it out. Funny the things we all miss.

  2. Ahhhh…..hmmm…should I admit this? The one and only Scottish thing I have not been able to wholeheartedly embrace is IrnBru. I love Scottish and British food in general. Family sized giant packs of shortbread, Cadbury Eclair hard candies, Toffee Crisps, Orkney cheese, meat pies, haggis….love it all. But IrnBru….I’ve tried it a few times, and it still tastes like a combination of bubblegum flavor and children’s aspirin to me! Does this mean I’d never truly make it as a Scot?

    • I would love to know what you would miss. Pop back and share when something comes to mind. Honestly I don’t pine for any foods except for Bradan Rost, a hot smoked salmon from Loch Fyne where we lived before. It’s a treat to taste those other things again though.

  3. Yeah–a lot of my homesickness gets translated into food. I’ve learned to make pretty damn good bagels as a result. And challah. I agree with you about salad cream–I tried it once, thought I must’ve made a mistake because this couldn’t be meant for my salad (or anyone else’s), and haven’t tasted it since. But have you tried–ooh, I think it’s called Miracle Whip? Whatever it is, it’s sold near the mayonnaise, it tastes awful, and the miracle is that it sells at all, never mind well. It might just make the homesick-for-salad-cream crew happy.

    • Ha! I tried miracle whip once years and years ago on a vacation in the US thinking it was something else entirely. Definitely tastes like chemical waste. Eugh. Every country and culture has its great food and its abysmal food.

      What other US foods do you miss? When we lived in the UK, my husband missed decent root beer and Old Bay seasoning.

      My trio of salad cream aficionados get the larder restocked when my in-laws visit. They pack several bottles in their suitcases each time. Their ought to be a law against it but apparently there isn’t – which tells you how much “food” it actually is. For my part, I’m coping quite well without pining for food. I’m still staggered by the expense of some ingredients here (spices are cheaper in the UK, for instance) but I’m managing fairly well. We used to live on the shores of Loch Fyne so the one food I am really missing is the Bradan Rost, hot smoked salmon from Loch Fyne Oysters – and that’s something I can’t import sadly.

      • I miss corn on the cob–the real stuff, not the stuff that sell here that looks like corn but tastes like starch. And tomatoes. Minnesota, in spite of (or for all I know because of) its cold winters has hot summers with hot nights–perfect weather for tomatoes. We grew so many that we ended up running up and down the alley looking for people to give the extras to. (I always underestimated how many I was planting. They look so small in the spring.) The ones in the UK almost never have the sweetness. I tried bringing (okay, smuggling) seeds in, but they didn’t do well. Must be the climate.

      • It is possible to find some lovely sweet corn on the cob in the UK but I agree it is hard to track down. I completely agree with you about tomatoes. I had friends who grew their own so I had access to delicious tomatoes but finding shop bought ones that tasted of anything other than water was often a challenge.

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  6. Find out if there is a Polish or some sort of Central European market near you. They may have Bounty bars there. All the Bounty bars in Europe are made in the same factory in the Netherlands. They are just labeled differently. We also get Polish Ribena and Jaffa cakes and Slovakian Smarties.

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