When I traveled abroad as a child, my favorite part was picking out a souvenir. Thankfully, I seemed to steer clear of the mass-produced knickknacks, and ended up with quite a few timeless keepsakes from around the world. Maybe my 12-year-old self was cooler than I remember. (But probably not.)
The souvenirs I pick up these days don't last as long. I love roaming the aisles of foreign supermarkets, selecting consumables to bring home like jams, cookies, and hot sauces. This is the same strategy I employ whenever I visit Britain, where I lived for 10 years.
I met my British husband online when we were teenagers. During our seven-year long-distance relationship, we swapped letters, mix tapes, and packages from our respective countries. So, by the time we got married and I emigrated to England, I already knew I liked their chocolate and candy selections.
I didn't realize how much I loved British food until we moved back to the U.S. for my husband's job two years ago. We're lucky to have houseguests who bring goodies, friends who surprise us with care packages, and British coworkers who moonlight as tea couriers. But we really stock up when we cross the pond ourselves.
10 Food Souvenirs I Always Bring Back from Britain
I share this shopping list whenever I am asked for tips on visiting Britain. Avoid the tourist traps and find your souvenirs in a local supermarket. There is nothing better than reminiscing about a vacation — or in my case, a former life — through your taste buds.
These malt balls made their stateside debut earlier this year, but the recipe is slightly different. And let me stop you before you assume they're like Whoppers. Maltesers are lighter and airier, and the chocolate coating doesn't have the waxiness that all too often accompanies American chocolate.
2. Cadbury Chocolate
You haven't lived until you've made a s'more with the original Cadbury Dairy Milk, and sadly Hershey doesn't do the complete range of Cadbury products, leaving out some of the best bars like Crunchie and Curlywurly.
If I learned anything during my time in Britain, it was that a cup of tea can solve most of life's problems. My tea drinking hasn't stopped in the U.S., thanks to a steady supply of my favorite, Yorkshire Gold. It's all in the brew, of course, but done properly, there is no substitute for quality British tea.
If we're talking tea, we also need to talk biscuits, the British word for cookies. Don't be put off by the name of these — back in the 1800s, the "sweet-meal" biscuit was created by two doctors to aid digestion. Now you can find digestives covered in milk or dark chocolate, and with caramel. The most popular brand is McVitie's and the plain digestive still ranks high as one of the best biscuits to dunk in tea.
The U.S. may be known for its snack food, but the U.K.'s potato chip (or crisp, as they call them) selection rivals the American market with strange and wonderful flavors, running the gamut from meaty varieties like roast chicken and prawn cocktail, to boozy concoctions such as gin and tonic and Prosecco. Always a crowd-pleaser, if only just for the facial expressions of those you share with.
6. Maldon Sea Salt
These salt flakes can be found in America, but they'll cost you at least double what you'd pay across the pond. The boxes of salt are a pantry staple — great on scrambled eggs or sprinkled on chocolate chip cookies. They also make excellent gifts for your foodie friends.
7. Percy Pigs
If you like Haribo, try Percy Pigs. Trust me. The British department store Marks & Spencer has been selling their gummy pigs since 1992 and these fruity treats are rationed in my house. They are that good.
8. Wine Gums
Often described as the consistency of gum drops, these firm gummies are chewy but not stretchy, and sweet but not overly sugary. Although they are named after varietals of wine, they don't actually contain any alcohol, so they are kid-friendly too.
If you're a fan of raisin bread, I recommend you try the original Soreen malt loaf. It's sticky, sweet, and squishy, so it's best to get the pre-sliced loaf. But as they say, "the secret is in the squidge." I like it toasted and topped with salted butter or cream cheese.
10. Pimm's No. 1 Cup
This refreshing summertime drink can be found in American cocktail bars, but rarely do bartenders make the traditional English recipe: Pimm's mixed with sparkling lemonade; sliced orange, cucumber, and strawberries; mint; and ice. It always tastes better at home anyway. Sunshine optional.