Tastes from England

Taste is a powerful reminder of place and time. When I make macaroni and cheese, I remember Sunday movie nights with my family. When I taste beer, I am 16 and back at a Sleep Inn in London, having my first ale with my mom. Austin cheese crackers with peanut butter are my summer camp, full of blacktop games and coloring sheets. Crawfish monica is the meal I always ask for when I am visiting home, it’s late-night conversations with my mom mixed with pinot grigio, laughter, and humidity. When I think of the places I have lived and am nostalgic for them, I start thinking about their tastes, their memories.

Recently, I saw some McVitie’s Digestive biscuits at a grocery store here in New York. I felt as giddy as when I first arrived in England for my semester abroad. I picked up a few obsessions in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. One of those was having tea with milk at around 2:00pm and dipping digestive biscuits into it to munch on. I had never heard of digestives before living in England, but I made a point of trying everything in grocery stores that looked unfamiliar but seemed well-stocked (and commonly loved).

The first time I tried them, I was in love with the texture pre-tea dip and post-tea dip. I went through so many packs of them, I’d be too embarrassed to estimate it now. Digestives powered me through many a late-night assignment scramble and early-morning presentation-fatigue. They made long explorations by bus across the Northumberland countryside a lot more palatable too. I always had a pack in my purse because you just never know what the day will bring.

Newcastle also gave me my love of tea. There was a tea house there that had elephant teapots and a menu ten-pages-long, full of various teas of seemingly every name and color with rich, descriptive notes on their taste. That tea room was the first place I tasted lapsang souchong, the strong smoke tea that is often described as an acquired taste. The scent of smoke tea is among my favorites, as it’s rather like having a campfire right on your desk.

Over Christmas, my mom gave me a sampler pack of First Edition Tea Company’s Literary Tea Collection. Their Sherlock Holmes flavor is appropriately a Smoked English Breakfast black tea. Loose leaf tea can be a bit of a hassle to deal with, but it’s a really pleasing experience if you have the time. Plus, at the bottom of your cup, you have a chance to read your tea…shavings? Is that a martini glass in my future?

I like the idea of breaking up the day with little treats. It makes work go a lot faster when tea and biscuits are somewhere in the future. I’m always grateful to this little ritual for reminding me of my adventures big and small in England.

What are your habits and tastes you’ve picked up from traveling?

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