Expats pining for a decent Kiwi pie
The Kiwis at my work (myself included) spend an inordinate amount of time talking about pies.
Between us, Mr P, Ms H and I often spend lunchtimes staring, hangdog expressions, at the cafeteria food in front of us: limp pasta, salmonella special cold cuts, or the woeful excuse for a hamburger. Mr P is a self-confessed steak and cheese man, while Ms H speaks longingly of her returns home and the BP handily en route from the airport.
I, meanwhile, feel positively lost on Sunday mornings when a faithful mince-and-cheese Jimmy's cannot be summoned to aid my dries.
In those hungover moments, without them, my world is a grey, grey place.
The pastry, in particular, attracts a fair degree of reverence: golden, flaky, perfect.
We're such a cultured people.
An early visit to Jumbucks in Shepherd's Bush, supposedly the bastion of Down Under pies in London Town, left a quite literal bitter taste in my mouth when we touched down in the UK. Even the so-called "Kiwi pie" failed to live up to its promising name.
I thought it would be months before I'd satisfy my pie needs - Mark and I established some time ago that customs wouldn't, in fact, let our families bring a crate of New Zealand pies with them when they (hopefully) visit us.
Then the London gods provided.
A Scottish woman in our department brought in a leaflet: PiePai, which bills itself as being inspired by goodies like your mum's bacon and egg, was bringing its wares into the central city for one afternoon only.
This was very exciting news.
For a week, we pondered the hard stuff: butter chicken, or a classic steak and cheese? Heather even created an online clock, counting down the hours, minutes and seconds, until we were free to leave work early that Friday.
East End-born Ms V clearly didn't know what she was missing out on when she decided not to join us; one of the department heads thought Mr P was joking when we grabbed our coats and said we had urgent pie business to attend to.
We scurried through Bank and wound up at Old St, where we dodged Shoreditch trendies and London's finest summer puddles roadside to end up at a Kiwi-run cafe.
A slight panic ensued - "is there only kumara and feta left?!" - and there was an audible sigh of relief when we sank back into the booth, waiting for our Kiwi sav and pepper steaks to arrive.
"Is it too early for a pie?" Mr P asked.
He paused for a moment.
"That was a trick question. It's never too early for a pie."
It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to start the weekend - even pipping the impressive, most-enormous-I've- ever-seen cocktails from the bar across the street later in the evening.
(Way to know a bar is going to be good, #78: carpeted walls.)
It's funny what you miss when you're overseas.
Everybody knows that TV ad - "it was four years ago Michael, let it go" - but these days it's possible to get a loaf from the local Waitrose, and further experimentation with reduced cream and powdered onion soup mix proved passable.
Food aside (Britons have never heard of seasoning - it's dire), I'm trying to stop myself from drawing the inevitable comparisons: back home, I yarned to my neighbours; back home, Aunty Julia was a 10-minute drive away; back home, I wouldn't think twice about stepping in when I saw a father wallop his toddler for literally no reason on the bus.
I'm reaching that point in my relationship with London where I've seen it pick at its toenails too many times.
That's not to say I don't still love it, of course; it's just that after exactly 31 weeks and one day travelling overseas, the honeymoon is drawing to a close.
Ugh, homesickness: you can rack off now.