A bit of background: many years ago, I took a year abroad in London.
This was back in the Thatcher years. And while London was a very interesting place in many ways, it was not yet a great place for a poor college student to eat. Cheap, student-level restaurants were mostly British and -- there's no nice way to say this -- nasty. I lost 20 lbs. that year. I pretty much survived on two things:
1) Indian food, especially those little cheap sambosas you could take home in a bag. They'd stay good for up to a day. I must have eaten a thousand of those things.
2) McVities Milk Chocolate Digestive Biscuits, the most perfect food ever created by man.
God, I loved those biscuits. Slightly chalky biscuit body, like a graham cracker but a little denser and not as sweet. Coating, one side, high-quality milk chocolate. Simplicity, elegance, power. They are wonderful chilled with a glass of milk, or warm with tea.
McVities are a British brand, and they've never done well in the US; you can occasionally find them in specialty stores, but rarely, and at a painful markup.
In East Africa... well, you can get them in Nairobi. Last time I was there, I bought a dozen or so packages. (I was overnighting on the way from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, DRC. Went out to a supermarket at 10 at night because I was bored and hungry.) I ate about half of them in my hotel room in Kinshasa and the other half over the next couple of weeks at home, savoring them, drawing it out as long as possible.
But in the rest of East Africa -- like, Dar es Salaam, Arusha, or Kampala -- you cannot. Instead there's this fake brand, Manji.
Manji biscuits are an obvious ripoff of McVities: they come in the same package, with the same coloring and same design. Their name is even in the same font. You have to look twice to realize they're not actually McVities. Which, let's be clear, they're not. They're a fake, a cheap knockoff. They don't taste horrible -- they're somewhere between "meh, edible" and "okay". But there's no comparison to the transcendent experience that is found inside a roll of McVities.
So why am I going on like this? Because twice in the last three days, I've walked into a supermarket -- yes, Uganda has supermarkets -- headed for the "cookies and crackers" aisle, and had my heart jump for half a second! only to see, on second glance, that it's just those stupid Manji biscuits. Seriously, I'm starting to hate those things.
(This last supermarket twisted the knife by having several other McVities products. Just, not the milk chocolate digestive biscuits. So annoying.)
I was going to spin off from this into a more general discussion of supermarkets and advertising and stuff but now I'm just thinking about the McVities. Sorry! Maybe tomorrow.