I have been asked this question a lot: what do I miss from Britukland?
Instead of writing a moving fugue of observational claptrap about the societal differences between the UK and here, I thought I’d just mention actual things. Stuff you can hold in your hand – you know, like Christmas presents that blokes count as Christmas presents?
If you’re into Swiss cheese, chocolate or saucisson then there is a bewildering amount of choice here. When I hit the cheese aisle at the supermarket, my head spins around like the girl in The Exorcist and I start speaking in tongues: there really is that many different types of Gruyere. Like: three. Maybe four.
You can, obviously, obtain just about anything you want but you have to pay a heavy premium. So, the question is: when I hop on a plane back to my new home, what do I stash in my suitcase from my old one?
- Sausages Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Toulouse sausage and the Swiss do this kind of white, veal (saucisse de veau) that is yummy (I know it’s wrong, but the cows would do the same to us given half a chance) – but you can’t go wrong with a proper Banger. There’s more variety, they’re cheaper and they simply taste better – simple as that. Some friends gave me some sausages from Gloucestershire (the motherland of sausages) and I ate them with my kids in a kind of stunned silence. They were that good. However, the thing that I noticed was the breadcrumb content.
- Tea You can buy tea here. This is what is available. It is quite simply, shit. It is not so much that it tastes bad (which it does) but that it has zero strength. It is like driving to a tea factory with a mug of hot water and opening the window of your car…then driving home again. Real tea is: Yorkshire Tea tea so strong that if you dropped a bag in a swimming pool it’s only the taste of chlorine that would ruin it. A good close 2nd is PG Tips. I would also like to include Barry’s Tea as it is the tea equivalent of concentrated bleach (i.e. awesome). You can buy these teas here, of course, but they cost as much as a ski holiday.
- Cheddar I like Gruyere cheese. A lot. I like Appenzeller cheese. Vacherin feels like you might as well book your heart transplant on the spot…but it does taste good. Emmental is to cheese what Coldplay is to music. It’s not that cheesy but it’s rather bland. But a really good, crumbly, strong cheddar with Branston Pickle and a pint of Bishop’s Finger? Now you’re talking. My local supermarché now sells two (count ’em) types of cheddar. One is crap and the other is crapper.
- Marmalade You can buy confiture in just about any flavour and the continentals are mad keen on chocolate spread but they just don’t get marmalade. I am talking Wilkins Tawny or just about any homemade marmalade you can buy at a church fete made by a rosey cheeked, floral print wearing W.I. member – chunky, strong with that exact bittersweet mixture (the marmalade, not the W.I. woman…I think) You can’t even buy Seville oranges so even DIY efforts are fruitless endeavours (boom!).
- Marmite The Swiss make yummy bread – it’s proper good. They make cracking butter as well. Toast the aforementioned bread and spread it with aforementioned butter and then lob some Marmite on it. Oh. Yes. There is a Swiss version of Marmite called Cervois that comes in tube (puh-lease) – it is not too shabby…but it ain’t Marmite. Don’t give me any of this Vegemite rubbish either.
- Biscuits Cross the channel and dunkable biscuits are rarer than a double decker bus. There are endless butter biscuits and wafers. But Hobnobs! Digestives! Custard Creams! Fig Rolls! Gara-bloomin’-baldis. I’d give my right arm for a biscuit selection box that actually has a selection.