Sunday, 22 June 2008

Anything to declare?

Gadjo Dilo has raised some interesting questions about ethnically specific foodstuffs re marmite (memorably described by Bill Bryson as 'an edible lubricant'). This set me thinking about some of those weird and wonderful edibles/smokables/unguents that only appeal to people of certain ethnicities or long residence in a particular country.

For example, my return trips to Blighty from the Malay Archipelago always involve packing large quantities of the following: cartons of clove-flavoured kretek cigarettes; kacang mete, which are garlic-roast cashews fit for deities; kopi luwak, which is coffee that has been passed through a civet (seriously); and ting-ting jahe, which are fiercely hot and very chewy ginger sweets. I now have regular 'customers' for all these. Tiger balm used to be a must but is now widely available in the UK.

Marmite, of course, is a major component of British diplomatic bags; and I have known Americans in Asia dedicate much time and effort to tracking down 'peanut butter and jelly'. Though quite why, I have no idea.

What's de rigeur for other countries?


Mrs Pouncer said...

My dear old mother, although British, was raised in Australia and, as a result, we were known to keep an exotic kitchen, with both Marmite and Vegemite on offer. Kind relatives kept her stocked up with the groceries of her childhood, including her favourite chocolate bar, Cherry Ripe. My dear niece is visiting from Melbourne and we have just unwrapped another consignment!

My dear old father had to travel to America quite frequently in the early 1960s on the back of his famous work on free radical polymerizations of acrylonitrile, methacrylonitrile and styrene in N,N-dimethyl-formamide in the presence of ferric chloride. We always begged him to bring back aerosol cheese (Snack Mate was the brandname), Oreo biscuits and Archie comics. Cordially as ever, Mrs Pouncer

No Good Boyo said...

Gentleman's Relish is something I always requested on my foreign travels, along with decent pipe tobacco and cleaners (in my smoking days).

Those ginger sweets of yours are excellent. My current requests from abroad feature the monkey juice distilled from triffids by Batko Voskoboynykiv, a colleague's Ukrainian father-in-law. It makes child-rearing tolerable.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Oh, Gentleman's Relish, I'd almost forgotten that.

I'd like to see a video of you eating aerosol cheese, Mrs Pouncer... direct from the aerosol. Any chance?

Mrs Pouncer said...

Dear Mr Dilo, Of course video recorders were not invented in those far-off days! There is some footage of me winning the egg-and-spoon at the Children's Regatta, Shiplake 1961, but it is not in the public domain.
My dear brother, the celebrity obstetrician, was very adept with the aerosol cheese. If you protruded your tongue and kept very still he could trace the outline of a pig for your relish. He says that this sort of precision work with a nozzle has made him what he is today, Cordially etc