My sister went to Paris and brought me a gorgeous silk scarf: red, printed with mille fleurs from the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry in the Cluny Museum. I love it. But what I went berserk over was what she brought me from the London leg of her trip: two boxes of Mr. Kipling Bramley Pies.
Okay, I’m a food philistine. I know it. I embrace it. In France, I’d eat a baguette, some cheese and a raspberry tart at every meal, if I could. In the Netherlands, I crave the stroupewaffels you buy on the street: two thin, hot waffles with to-die-for caramel syrup in between. In Italy: gelato. Preferably pink grapefruit from the stand just up the hill from the Hotel Giotto in Assisi.
In England, it’s Mr. Kipling Bramley Apple Pies. I’m extremely fond of Mr. Kipling Apple and Blackcurrant Pies, as well. But, according to my sister, none were available in the London stores—or in Woking, where my cousins Kim, Tim, Max & Zoe live. Tim made a special trip to grocery stores in Woking, where he lives, in search of them.
Anyway. They are absolute heaven: tart apples, crust that melts in your mouth. Plus, they’re so cute, like doll pies, each in its own little foil pie pan. But what I love best about Mr. Kipling Bramley Pies is the way that, for a delicious moment, eating one takes me right back to England.
I’ve eaten Mr. Kipling pies on numerous memorable outings with my cousins over the years—in the garden of Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, on the Roman wall at Silchester, on a hill overlooking Pilgrim’s Way near Compton, and in the strange silence of Maiden Castle, which is not a castle at all, but an enormous hill fort of stone and earth, like Stonehenge, built of England’s mysterious prehistoric inhabitants.
With my intrepid traveling companion, Pat, I consumed Mr. Kipling pies while exploring Roman archaeological sites, wandering through churchyards, marveling at the green, green countryside in the Lake District, tracking down the (sometime pretty obscure) literary haunts of Dickens, Hardy, the Brontes, Wordsworth and other authors we love. Not to mention, mesmerized and a little spooked while visiting Avebury at dusk.
Later, visiting my friend Margaret-Love, when she was directing the University of New Hampshire summer program at Cambridge, I snacked on Mr. Kipling pies in her cozy room overlooking the green courtyard at Gonville & Caius College, hiking the River Cam to Grantchester, and tagging along on field trips to Stratford-on-Avon, Dover, Canterbury and other places.
I no doubt had a box of them in my backpack the day I took the train from London to Newmarket, where my parents met at a dance at the Golden Lion Pub during the War—he, an American G.I.; she with the Women’s Royal Air Force. Mr. Kipling pies weren’t invented then, but I like to imagine them sharing a box of them, nonetheless.
My sister and I ate an apple pie for dessert after having lunch together on Friday. I am embarrassed to say that I ate two more on the way home in the car, leaving the steering wheel so sticky that I was busted when Steve drove it and I had to give one to him.
I ate the all others myself, though—all the while thinking of England.
They were gone by Sunday morning.