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Brits bearing gifts


Alan Zoff

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I would welcome suggestions on English food that goes down well with French people.

A generous French friend owns the local shop and bar and is forever treating me to local delicacies. He has never ventured outside France so it is difficult to establish foreign stuff that he likes. But if I buy in France, he already has a shop filled with food and wine so it's "coals to Newcastle". He drinks only one brand of whisky which he seems to have "on tap".

So I wondered if any forum members have experience of British produce which is generally appreciated by French people when they visit the UK.
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This may sound weird, I confess, it even seemed weird to me..but we have become traffickers of Waitrose pink grapefruit squash. It seems to be very popular because squash doesn't exist outside the UK..and its a source of amusement because the average French person thinks, if you offer it, that you've just asked them mid-morning if they would like a "scotch".

Given the current craze in the UK for it, artisan gin could be an option. Again, we converted a few neighbours to G&T. There's a certain scepticism around Pimm's although people will drink it politely.

Some of my French friends have spent enough time in the UK to have acquired a taste for such delicacies as Piccallilli and Branston Pickle, but I doubt they're for everyone.
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Taking the cue from 'coals to Newcastle' I find that French friends are agreeably surprised by a real farm Cheddar or Stilton, but they need to be quality ones..
For those with a sweet tooth Carrot cake and lemon cheesecake go down well, but of course they are best home-made..

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We used to have a sale in the village Hall where everyone brought their home made things - not just food, artistic diy stuff too.
My home-made bread - different types- used to sell well, but I think it was partly curiosity.

But my spice loaf was nothing like their pain d'epice.

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I might take some piccalilli just to see the reaction :) I had thought about some cheddar, not least because we have recently discovered, at Aldi of all places, an Irish extra mature cheddar that, to our taste, is as good as any we have bought from the specialist cheese shop in Cheltenham.
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Our elderly neighbour adores shortbread.

Her favourites are some of the many tins/packets from M&S, particularly the Christmas tree tin that turns around and the red bus/ phonebox tin (can’t remember which it is at this time of night, but it’s red!), and small packets with scottie dog-shaped bscuits.

As you can tell, the tins are at least as big a draw as the biscuits, but she loves the biscuits themselves.

Other French friends, who have various varieties of scotch for aperos, have loved Caol Ila - my personal favourite.
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I could always buy piccalilli in France and knew french people who bought it.

I have given all sorts of 'english' stuff over the years, shortbread, chocolate bars of various sorts and a real favourite was Thornton's original toffee, everyone liked it.
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Apple Crumble, well the french did like it when I started serving it so many years ago, that I cannot remember, but it became popular and I would see it in the shops in little tubs, if not big servings, so no, that is one thing I would take off my list.

And as soon as I saw of it's availability, I took it off my menu.

Marmite, love it or hate it, how could one tell, especially if looking at the jar, they might be forgiven for believing that it is a 'nutella' type substance??? Imagine the shock, I say this because I know of this happening.

Good english tea bags, with instructions on how to brew properly, so it would be proper tea, would be another suggestion, even the tissanes one buys in the UK don't just have the smell, but flavour too. How the french get away with the tissanes they sell is beyond me.

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We found some excellent Cheddar in Super U at St Pons-de-Thomières, sold under their own brand.

We even went back there on another recreational drive a couple of weeks later, as it is an excellent small supermarket, and we have not visited the area to the North of here for some years.

Now that our nearest Super U, at Trèbes, has reopened following the floods, we intend to go by there next week and check it out.

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We've taken those fancy tins of tea bags that one can buy on the ferry. Tins of shortbread and biscuits as well.

Sometimes we've taken wine from the vineyard which is close to our UK home.

There are now several gin distilleries close to us but the gin which comes in beautiful bottles is very pricey.
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I have combined suggestions to put together a UK package. The Irish cheddar I like, Scottish shortbread, Welsh bara brith and my wife's lemon drizzle cake (don't know if that's strictly English but she is - and I will happily eat it, if my French friends don't)

Ooops. Don't tell my Irish son-in-law that I have moved his country to the UK.
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He seems to eat very well, drinks like a fish (but not much water) and still manages to stay as thin as I would like to be. But then again, apart from the occasional siesta, he is on his feet from 6am till chucking out time, 7 days a week. He used to close on Mondays but stays open 7/7 now. I don't know how he does it.
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