A Simple Quest

The duration of winter in a place like Canada is measured by the length of time your snow-clearing service runs – mid-November to mid-April, in our case in Toronto. And it was a dreary, early winter’s day with leaden skies and squelching mulch, puddles amongst the remnants of dirty snow, misty rain and gusty chills. A nasty day for quest.

Not long back, my in-laws had moved into a senior living apartment. While it’s a lovely spot, cozy and warm with big chairs in which to sit and enjoy a cup of tea, the latest COVID-19 lockdown had prevented them from getting out to stock up on biscuits. And so, a simple request – could we pick up some HobNobs for them?

If you aren’t familiar with HobNobs, then I can only suggest that you find some and try them – they’re a delicious oatmeal cookie aka biscuit from the UK, and back when we lived there I developed a taste for them too. Since my in-laws are originally from Ireland, these are a taste of home for them to have with tea.

I had been searching for them for several days. Over grocery runs to various stores, we kept coming up empty. I could remember buying these in years past but not where I’d bought them, and this time, perhaps because it was close to the Christmas holidays, they weren’t available in our usual shops.

What about further afield, the deli in our old neighbourhood? – hadn’t we gotten them there in years past? I was sure of it, so one day I walked over to pick up the HobNobs, but again, no luck – the shop had stopped selling the plain variety and only had the chocolate-covered ones, which while delicious, were not what my in-laws wanted.

Ok, this was getting annoying. How can such a delectable treat not be in the shops? Leaving the deli, I walked to different a couple of other shops along the way home. No luck again. Hmm. A couple of hours out for a walk and still no HobNobs.

This was getting personal. The next day was dreary, wet, and cold, but I was determined to find them – a simple request had become a quest of honour. First up, was a grocery store in a few km away in a different part of town where they carried a small section of international foods including those from the British Isles. Branston Pickle, Heinz Salad Cream, Chocolate-covered digestives, yes, but still no HobNobs. The next closest possible source was another few km up Yonge Street, and after waiting in a COVID-19 queue to get in, I realized that this store too had an appauling dearth of HobNobs.

By now, I had worked up a head of steam despite the weather. Turning west, I splashed through puddles for several km across to what was now shop #6 on my quest, this one an independent store that carried many European products. I barged in, bug-eyed above my COVID mask and headed straight to the biscuit isle. A momentary panic, not seeing them, and then looking down – success! The familiar label caught my eye and I promptly scooped up 3 packages. At the cash, the clerk asked if I’d found everything I needed – Hah! everything I needed indeed.

HobNobs now tucked safely into my knapsack, I walked the several km home, stopping along the way to pick up a bottle of Irish whisky – something to fortify and restore myself was in order, I thought. At least they had that in the first place I tried.

And so now I sit, drying out and sipping a toddy, staring out at the rain that’s continued all day. It’s a grey and dismal day, with one little glow from the corner where the golden flash of Hobnobs is like a log on a fire.