Since we moved to Italy we have been surprised by how rarely we have felt homesick. There are a number of reasons for this, not least the fact that we usually have to return to London for a couple of days every eights weeks or so. This is a chance for me to get my hair done and stock up on essentials that I can’t get here like Liz Earle cleanser! I know, I am so shallow!
Another contributing factor to this lack of overwhelming yearning for home is that the UK is a pretty cosmopolitan place. We are used to different cultures and grew up trying food from all over the world. Growing up, Auntie Swebie across the road from us used to regularly invite us over for a Jamaican feast of rice and peas, chicken, ackee and salt fish and hard dough bread. One of the last goodbye parties we had before we moved to Italy was with some very good friends from Ghana where the traditional fufu and peanut soup was served. Not long before we moved to Italy, my brother and his wife relocated to New York. I asked him if there was anything he missed from home and the only thing he missed was Halloumi cheese (apparently it is hard to source there) – hardly what you would call a British staple! For me, the food I miss the most is hummus but that is just because you can’t buy it already prepared. Once I have bought a blender I will be able to make my own!
By comparison, Italy is a deeply conservative country when it comes to food. This comes from a deeply held belief that their food is the very best in the world. Ever. No exceptions! And, when I see the locally produced vegetables and the fact that is is so easy to eat well at a very low cost, it is hard to argue!
But sometimes, just sometimes, we want something familiar and uncomplicated! It is so nice to be able to get tea bags and pasteurised milk so we can have a cup of tea that tastes almost like it does back home. We were so chuffed when we were able to buy chocolate digestives. The funny thing is, we hardly ever ate them back home!
This weekend, when we were both feeling unwell we just had to make Shepherds Pie! Just occasionally, it has to be done. Oh my, we enjoyed it!
A friend of ours who moved from Poland to England several years ago told me that one of the things she still struggled with was knowing what to serve her English friends when they came to her house. I have to admit to experiencing a similar crisis of confidence now we live in Udine. But I have realised what I need to do. Rather than trying to do exactly what the locals do – which is setting myself up for failure anyway – I will make a virtue of a being a foreigner! It is time to share some of these British classics with some of our Italian friends!
Tea with milk, anyone?!