I discovered by chance yesterday that Lidl were having an English week so I went haring off to buy Cheddar before it all disappeared. On the way back with my loaded bags , it occurred to me that “Cheddar” seems to invoke an almost Pavlovian response in British ex-pats, even if we didn’t eat a lot of it back in England, now we can’t get it easily we can’t pass it without buying it.
It’s the same with Pork Pies. Admittedly I grew up near Melton Mowbray so I do know what a proper pork pie tastes like but from being a teenager onwards I practically never let a piece of pork pie pass my lips because I was always dieting. Now, and not just because I’ve got to the sort of age where you aren’t supposed to worry about mundane things like your figure, I come back loaded with pork pies every time I come back from England.
I’ve discovered though that the longer I stay in France the list of grocery essentials to bring back if I’m driving gets shorter by the year. Stuff for making the Christmas cake, dried fruit is so expensive here and some quite hard to find, mincemeat because I’m too lazy to make my own, English sausages – I like French ones too but it’s nice to ring the changes, various herbs and spices like ground allspice and chilli flakes which are hard to find, Ginger Beer, Golden Syrup and, if the timing is right, hot cross buns. I can make them but they are better suited as defensive weapons than comestibles.
That’s about it really. It wouldn’t bother me if I never had another baked bean in my life, I’ve never been a great biscuit eater and anyway you can get a really good substitute for Digestives, good tea is easily available contrary to what a lot of people think (and rather easier to find around here than coffee beans), I now prefer the thin poitrine you get here to English bacon, my husband says the marmalade we find is the supermarket is excellent and most of the other “exotic” aka “foreign, not French” stuff I want can be found in the health food supermarket.
And then we come to Marmite. In this household it practically ranks as one of your 5 a day, there are always at least three large pots in waiting in the larder guarding against the unthinkable – a Marmite shortage. My middle daughter even has a “Cooking With Marmite” book though it hasn’t had an awful lot of use; her idea of haute cuisine is to add a handful of grated cheese to a tin of baked beans. One recipe it doesn’t have in it though, and which I discovered in Nigella’s latest book Kitchen is Spaghetti with Marmite.
As Nigella said, why couldn’t I have discovered this when the children were small? Actually even though it didn’t sound that promising it went down very well with three not-that-fussy adults and didn’t taste too Marmity. You could even serve it up to a normally Marmite-hating Frenchman so it’s definitely worth remembering for those occasions when my daughter rings up at midday and says, ‘Did I remember to tell you I’m bringing Xavier/Stefan/Julien back to lunch…’