The more things change…

Sep 11, 2015 | 4 comments |

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my family and I have experienced some big changes recently. From a new country to a new house, from a new brand of washing powder to new shoe and clothing sizes, in the past two months almost every aspect of daily life has changed.

Although many of these changes have been happy ones, there are times when we crave the familiar.

My daughter, English Rose, just celebrated a birthday. With the mixing bowls, measuring spoons and cake pans buried in the depths of a packing box, and the favourite cake recipe missing in action, we had to buy a cake.

In a town with two artisan bakeries, and several groceries with in-store bakeries, finding a birthday cake should have been straightforward. Except, it wasn’t.

From her first birthday onward, English Rose has had a vanilla sponge cake with icing made from her nana’s recipe. Canadian birthday cakes are rich, sugary confections, with creamy iced roses dear to my heart. When presented with such a cake on an early visit to Canada, English Rose pronounced it “too sweet.” The iced roses were “horrid.”

In the intervening years, her opinion hasn’t changed, and so we searched for a cake in vain. Finally, in our local independent grocery, we met someone who understood.

Colleen has never been to England, but she recognized why something familiar was important. With a motherly smile, she suggested a pie.

English Rose shook her head.

What about a fruit crumble?

Another head shake.

Colleen rummaged on a display table and produced a round cake. It was like a sponge cake, but made with apple and cinnamon, and drizzled with caramel frosting. It wasn’t a traditional birthday cake, but nevertheless had a festive air.  

English Rose studied the cake for a long moment. Then she beamed at Colleen and nodded.

Once home, we unpacked a special cake plate, and added candles and the china animals which have graced all of English Rose’s birthday cakes over the years.

While it was new, it was also familiar.

The next day, we discovered a shop which imports British food. There, amidst the Walkers crisps, Yorkshire tea and Heinz beans, we spotted a Victoria sponge cake mix. I’m keeping one on hand, just in case, because it’s the familiar which brings consistency to cope with change.

Besides, everywhere you go, you bring a bit of home with you.  

At times of change, what familiar foods or traditions comfort you?


  1. heidi Vanstone

    For me, my favourite comfort food is soup. No particular flavor or kind, just something warm and nourishing. It feels like a reassuring embrace from the inside out!

    • Jen Gilroy

      ‘A reassuring embrace from the inside out’ is a lovely turn of phrase, Heidi. I like soup too, but usually only seek that particular comfort food in the winter. Thanks, as always, for supporting my blog.

  2. Sue Bavin

    I’m so pleased that English Rose finally got a birthday cake she was happy with. The familiar is so important. What a good thing you have settled so close to a shop stocking British goods! If I were there, I would be buying Marmite and anything with the Cadbury name on it, including hot chocolate.

    Comfort food for troubled times? You can’t beat a jacket potato!

    • Jen Gilroy

      We’re still stocked up with Marmite as English Rose brought a jar with her from England! We are indeed close in heart, Sue, as the jacket potato is also one of my preferred comfort foods! Thanks for reading and commenting.


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