In search of comfort food

Oct 6, 2017 | 14 comments |

“When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” Or in my case, shopping for comfort food.

As the weather cools, and darkness comes earlier, it’s the time of year for comfort food. However, in addition to childhood favorites like chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese and hearty vegetable chili, when life feels uncertain, I also seek out a whole other realm of foodie treats.

As many of you know, I lived in England for many years. During that time, trips back across the Atlantic from Canada to my English home weren’t complete unless various food items were tucked into my suitcase.

If a custom’s official had opened my luggage, they might have suspected me of operating a dry goods import business. From saltine crackers to jars of NoNuts Golden Pea Butter (a peanut butter substitute for those with a nut allergy like me), and Bear Paw cookies to Old Dutch potato chips, I filled my case with cherished tastes of “home.”

Now I’m living in Canada, I have different cravings—this time for the British foods I miss and that are either difficult or impossible to secure here.

But this week, I found my personal nirvana.

Tucked into a typical Canadian strip mall in a busy city suburb, the shop windows gave no clue as to the delights inside. And even when I went in—and was confronted by what appeared to be acres of Scottish tartan, enough Irish Claddagh rings to outfit half the population of my small town, and an array of British souvenirs to rival a central London tourist stall—I still had my doubts.

Yet, there was a whiff of a special something. And after wending my way around shelves heaving with Scottish clan mugs and shamrock-patterned china, I found it.

The overhead fluorescent lights showcased a miniature British food shop in all its glory!

There were the digestive biscuits I’d been craving, right across from packets of Walkers prawn cocktail (shrimp) flavoured crisps (potato chips). One long shelf displayed chocolate bars and other sweet treats and beyond it were my favourite Scottish oat crackers.

I opened a chiller cabinet to inhale the scent of Double Gloucester and creamy Lancashire cheeses, and (discreetly) popped open the lid to sniff a bottle of green Fairy washing up liquid (dish detergent).

For that brief instant, all was right with my world.

When you’ve lived outside your birth country for any length of time, “home” becomes a fluid concept. For me, it means having multiple homes, and grocery items become part of the language of cross-cultural communication.  

As I left the shop with a bulging carrier bag, I took a business card with me. Christmas is coming, and a special shipment of Marks & Spencer Christmas puddings is coming with it!

For now, though, I’m stocked with British goodies for a very Canadian Thanksgiving.

For those celebrating this weekend, and from my family to yours, warm wishes to you and your loved ones.



  1. Linda Zagon

    Everything does look so good!! Enjoy!!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Linda. We’ll indeed enjoy these yummy treats! I appreciate you reading my blog and commenting.

  2. Lynn Folliott

    It’s funny how wherever we have lived for a period of time when we move on there are cravings for the tasty treats left behind. Enjoy your treats Jen and have a very happy Thanksgiving!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Happy Thanksgiving to you in return, Lynn. Thanks, as always, for supporting my blog.

  3. Kate Field

    I’ll think of you when I eat my Lancashire cheese this weekend, Jen! I’m jealous of the Fry’s peppermint cream bar – not easy to find even in England! Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving. x

    • Jen Gilroy

      I must confess that I thought of you, Kate, when I spotted that Lancashire cheese! Before I left England, I noted that Fry’s peppermint cream bars were becoming more difficult to find. Fortunately, I’m the only member of my family who likes peppermint flavoured chocolate! Thanks for your Thanksgiving wishes and reading my blog and commenting.

  4. Lally Brown

    Oh my how your lovely blog resonated with me Jen … luggage full of Marmite jars when we lived in Turks and Caicos, and packs of Black Bean Sauce and Jaffa Cakes (not just for me but for friends) when we were living on St Helena! So pleased you’ve found this British Aladdin’s Cave in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas … ENJOY!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Lally. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. I shall think of you when I’m savouring my imported British treats! Sadly, the shop was sold out of Jaffa cakes–another family favourite.

  5. Anne Kinch

    I can echo your sentiments, Jen. Comfort foods from home are even appreciated when travelling to a “foreign land” for even a short visit. I often tuck a bag of yummy chocolates from the chocolate factory in our town into my suitcase -to bring a taste of home on our trips.. Hope you have a lovely (and tasty) Thanksgiving!!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Anne. I appreciate you reading & commenting. Fun to know that local chocolate travels with you! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Arlene. Great excitement!

  6. Susanna Bavin

    How lovely to think of you enjoying your British treats. You’ve started me thinking what would be the special foodie items I couldn’t live without. I love the thought of you secretly sniffing the Fairy Liquid. It reminded me of a friend who, because of long-term meds, was warned off alcohol and she took to sniffing the gin bottle. And thank you for solving a minor mystery for me. Bear Paws have been mentioned in some American stories I’ve read – and now I know what they are!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for making me chuckle, Susanna. Also happy to contribute to your culinary learning, although I should tell you that there are various kinds of Bear Paw biscuits. Some bakeries even make their own versions. I’m now thinking of you checking your cupboards & pantry and itemizing special foodie treats! xx


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