Most people when they go to the supermarket simply buy things and go home again. Not so my dad, who is the sort of person to whom Things Happen.
(While I go to the Spar in St Chinian most weeks to buy cat food and milk, Dad goes to the Spar in St Chinian once and ends up in court as a witness to an episode of Britons Drunkenly Failing To Integrate.)
Dad's trip to Intermarché in Bédarieux the other day was no exception. A casual mention to the checkout girl that it would be nice if they stocked tins of Ambrosia Creamed Rice led to his being whisked upstairs for a meeting with The Buyer, an enthusiastic individual with commendable aspirations to retail excellence.
The Buyer was excited to have captured a real live Brit, and pressed my dad into spilling the culinary secrets of his homeland. Did the British really want to buy Mars drinks, blueberry muffin mix and cans of Dr Pepper, as his supplier would have him believe? The amount of sugary muck that the store was having to throw away had led him to suspect otherwise.
Eventually, my dad agreed to take away the supplier's catalogue and return with a list of grade A, sure-fire exemplars of British cuisine that could not possibly fail to fly off the shelves.
Which is how Nibus, the lovely L, my dad, the stunning J and I found ourselves last night hunched over the supplier catalogue engaged in heated debate about the relative merits and saleability of a cavalcade of tinned and processed goods.
No category of foodstuff emerged as being more contentious than that of the chocolate biscuit. The room was divided over whether the milk chocolate Digestive or the milk chocolate Hobnob was the surer path to expat retail nirvana. Eloquent, passionate, statistical and probabilistic arguments were presented for each. At one point I attempted to clear the impasse by texting Britain's foremost snack food expert for a second opinion, but no reply was forthcoming.
With The Biscuit Question still unresolved, we eventually produced a list of five products so loaded with nostalgia, Sehnsucht, primordial cultural resonances and E numbers that no expatriate Briton could possibly resist their allure.
A commemorative case of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup ('Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came forth sweetness') to anyone who can guess all five correctly.