A universal part of the expat experience is longing for those little items, things you took for granted you could always find at the store, that are no longer available. It's different for everyone: pumpkin pie filling, Bounce dryer sheets, Fritos, doughnuts, graham crackers. One person I know gets American cooking chocolate shipped over once a year for making American-style brownies. I meet a lot of expats and they've all got something, and nearly every one of them has found some way to import some keenly missed item on at least a semi-regular basis. Loren and I have made a sort of unspoken vow to resist the urge to do the same. I don't begrudge my fellow expats, don't get me wrong: hey, whatever it takes to get you through the difficulties of living in a foreign culture on the other side of the world from your homeland. It's just a difference in philosophy, really: our strategy for adjusting to living here long term is to go cold turkey on American products as much as we possibly can.
That's not to say I don't get those cravings. Part of it, of course, is borne of homesickness, but some of it is just the allure of the unavailable. I was here months before I realised there's no doughnuts. Back in the States, I probably ate about one doughnut every six to twelve months, but the realisation they were gone made me crave a Duncan Doughnuts' chocolate glazed. Just the other day I had a dream about Pop Tarts. Now, I haven't had a Pop Tart in maybe four years, but still, I woke up thinking about my favourite flavour - brown sugar and cinnamon - and how nice and crunchy they are fresh out of the toaster. Until that dream, I hadn't even noticed the lack of Pop Tarts on the grocery shelves.
Which brings me to today. I'm at the grocery store, getting the usual basket full of tasty New Zealand items, when I spot a shelf of sale items. The sign reads "novelty bars: two for two dollars." What I'm looking at are a stack of Snickers, Twix, and Mars Bars. Now, I'm not a big junk food fan, I'm not really much of a candy eater. But faced with $1 snickers bars - an item I was just last week remarking on the sore lack of - I couldn't resist. Snickers are my favourite, even though the caramel hurts my teeth.
It was silly of me. I don't like junk food, and it seems like most of the American things there are to miss are junk food. On the other hand, the kind foods I really care about are almost universally better here. Just take the other items in my grocery basket:
Milk - SO much better in NZ, once you've had a latte here you'll never want to go back. I've gone off soy milk since we moved here.
Lamb - my favourite meat, fresh and readily available year round.
Carrots, onions, broccili, and mushrooms - All the local fruits and veggies are fantastic, you can mostly find anything you're used to if it's in season, plus some new and exotic stuff you can't get anywhere else.
Moneith's Doppelbock Winter Ale - Local beer here is just so much better. We have become regular beer drinkers!
(Still, I have to admit I'm a little excited about the Snicker's bars.)
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