Thursday, February 09, 2012

On food

I think you'll find that when it comes to American women cooking in their overseas homes, their frequency of use of imported ingredients from their home country can best be classified as falling somewhere along a spectrum. At one end, you have people like (forgive my characterizations if they are imperfect, ladies) Amira and Sarah, who seem to be skilled at - and dedicated to - eating as "natively" as possible. Even when some essential ingredient isn't available, they find a great local substitution, or cope simply by not making that food anymore.

On the other end of the spectrum is my friend Ashley, whose skill at planning, buying, shipping, and unpacking a few years' worth of American consumables for use in Azerbaijan amazes me. She has everything she needs to cook her favorites, and it's thanks to her superior organizational habits, not the whims of the local grocery stores.

I've been at the native end of the spectrum before, mostly in Syria because western food was almost entirely unavailable there, and at the cushy embassy end, too, thanks to our access to the commissary in Moscow. Here in the UAE, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I shop at Carrefour, which does have a wide variety of products available from all over the world right alongside the local stuff, but the selection is not skewed toward American tastes.

If I wanted to be completely true to my American cooking habits, I'd have to shop exclusively at Spinney's, specifically at the one in Mirdif, because it is the Mecca of imported-food grocery stores, at least the ones I've seen here.

But you can't get Tillamook cheese here, not even at the Mirdif Spinney's, and all of this is to say that when I ate my first slice of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar (brought to the UAE by my mom a few weeks ago), actual tears came to my eyes. It reminded me so much of my formative years, of my favorite foods, of the country I grew up in. I knew I loved the stuff; I didn't know I would cry at the taste of it.

I guess my cooking habits will always remain a little bit foreign, a little bit American. As much as I'd like to go completely native, there are certain foods I love too much to give up.


Amira said...

When you mentioned sharp Tillamook cheddar a few weeks ago, I started to drool even though I do like to go native with our food as much as possible. I'd love to see any cheddar at all here, but I can't seem to find it right now.

Ashley's consumables posts are amazing. I can't even imagine. I miss whole wheat.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Kerry Gold is a good sub for Tillamook, but it ain't cheap. I like your mix of native and American cooking.

Kathy Haynie said...

Ahhh...Tillamook. It sure rains a lot here. We sure do have good cheese. :)

Sherwood family said...

I agree with you Bridget. I can never give up Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Ever.

Shari said...

Oh, it's so, so true! We can't find any cheddar cheese near us and we really miss it. In December my brother came to visit, and we had him bring 2 bags of natural powdered cheddar so that we could occasionally make some mac and cheese. We immediately opened one and put the other in our food storage on the porch. We've never had any problems with rodents, but one greedy mouse must have smelled that cheddar and climbed ALL the way up to our porch (a big climb) to have a snack. It was such a loss! We had several foods that he'd sampled, but that was the one item that we really mourned.

We try to eat as many native foods as we can, but we still find ways to make familiar foods. I remember living at Winston Court and always smelling the exotic foods cooking around us, and now I wonder what our neighbors think when they smell our food cooking. Is it gross or good?

By the way, yes, it was the same T---- family that you knew. That's so fun!

Finding My Way Softly said...

This post was the inspiration for a poem I posted on my blog. You can see it here

I love hearing about your adventures. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how capable you seem in all sorts of situations. It is nice to know that you miss things just like the rest of us. :-)


Katie Lewis said...

If it makes you feel any better (though I don't know why it would) we have a hard time getting Tillamook cheese even just out here in Ohio.

But, then, by "a hard time" I mean that we either have to drive a half hour to Costco (and have a Costco membership, which I don't think we'll bother with after it expires at the end of the month) or buy it in annoyingly-small blocks at Kroger.

Okay so obviously you win at the Tillamook-cheese-is-hard-to-come-by game, but the point is, it is worth whining about. When you grow up on Tillamook, other stuff just isn't the same.

Also, this is completely unrelated, but do you know anything about publishing? (Like, publishing a book?) Because I feel like you would.

Bridget said...

I don't know anything about publishing, sorry. Thanks for commiserating with me about Tillamook. Sigh.


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