Sunday, August 19, 2012

America in a shopping cart

Yesterday, Jeremy and I went to WinCo (a grocery store) to begin the task of choosing some food items to bring home to Sharjah. It's a daunting task, as anyone who has ever organized a consumables shipment could tell you. Since we don't have an official shipment - just the spare room/weight in our 8 allotted suitcases - we're not being too systematic. There are a few things like powdered buttermilk and vanilla flavoring that I need to be sure to stock up on, but I think there is plenty of room in our luggage for novelties, things that we can pull out from a corner of the pantry on a dark (well, sunny) day in the UAE and eat and think, AMERICA. By the end of our shopping trip, we had $80 worth of edible Americana in our shopping cart. Withhold judgment for just a moment after looking at this representative sample of our purchases, would you mind?
Do I like Pop-Tarts? Not really. I never ate them as a kid (my mom never bought them) but I did enjoy them sometimes...a lot of a college student. Do they remind me of America? Absolutely. I didn't buy a crate full of them, just a couple to enjoy of an evening at home. I also bought a sampling of bizarre Goldfish flavors. I picked up a box of those Peanut Butter Cheerios I kept hearing about. You can't get baking chocolate in the UAE so I got a few bars of that as well. As for different varieties of baking chips - well, I can't even believe there ARE different varieties of baking chips in America. In Dubai, it's chocolate chips and THAT'S IT, you American weirdo wishing for white chocolate and butterscotch and peanut butter.

A few of these items are instructive, for the benefit of our children. Some day soon in Sharjah we will take out the pink and white frosted animal crackers - possibly on a road trip, as in my childhood - and talk to our kids about how we ate those same treats when we were young. The candy corn is to make our Halloween a little more culturally rich.

I will brook no disdain from you re: Gushers. I have an irrational love for those things and I will not apologize for it. I think it's because I pined after them for great swaths of my childhood but never once had the chance to eat them. So now, as an adult, I'm making up for lost time.

The boring stuff like Bean with Bacon soup and ranch dressing seasoning packets and onion soup mix are for recipes, not casual eating.

OK, now you may judge. Just know that there's more where this comes from! We haven't even stocked up at Costco yet. Uncooked tortillas and Tillamook cheese bricks are up next.


Kathy Haynie said...

I tried baking chocolate chip cookies for my host family in Costa Rica years ago. I brought chocolate chips with me, but I was amazed by some of the ingredients that were unavailable when I tried to bake. Brown sugar is the one I remember most clearly. The "brown" sugar there is a completely different consistency. Plus the family didn't have an oven! That had never dawned on me before I went. But the family behind them had an oven, so we baked them there. They came out different in taste & texture, but I was the only one who knew.

Sorry, I've digressed. I also missed peanut M&Ms on that trip.

Oh, it was lovely meeting you and your family today! Good luck with all the just-before-you-travel tasks!

Kathy Haynie said...

(I mean we baked the cookies in the neighbors' oven, not the family.)

Jen said...

Seriously. Wow.

I really like how so many of those items are not going to the UAE because you loved them in America and miss having regular access....but, rather, because you have specific memories and/or experiences with them from your childhood. Nostalgic food is my favorite kind of food.

I'm guessing that if pink and white animal crackers were readily available in Sharjah, you probably wouldn't be buying them every week. They'd probably still be a treat---and I think it's awesome that you're going out of your way to make it so that they can be part of YOUR kids' food nostalgia, too.

Ariana said...

I LOVE Gushers and I'm over 30. Sshhh don't tell anybody. lol So Winco, Costco, now you need Trader Joes! I bring back about $80 worth of stuff from there every time we go from Utah to Portland and back. Graham crackers, pound plus bars (chocolate!! I get the super dark stuff and use it instead of baking chocolate, and adjust the sugar in the recipe down just a bit. Way better flavor than the Hershey's stuff.) I wish I could bring back half of their dairy and frozen sections. Salt Lake is supposed to be getting a trader joe's by the end of the year. heck yes!

Bridget said...

Oh, dear Jen, you GET it. I felt weird posting this awful random junk food and having people think, "this lady is seriously bringing POP TARTS back to the UAE????" That's not the point. I'm glad you understand the power of food + nostalgia.

Bridget said...

Hooray for Gushers!!!

Do you know, I have had Trader Joe's lurking in the back of my mind ever since we've been in the US. I haven't yet gone inside one. I am afraid of the door that will open. Seriously. I kind of don't want to remember what I'm missing.

In Dubai, you can get all kinds of super dark chocolate but I've never known exactly how I should sub that for baking cocoa. Maybe when this stuff runs out I will give it a try, because it's really good European chocolate.

Bridget said...

Hahahaha, yep, brown sugar is scarce sometimes. Fortunately we can get that in the UAE, no problem, including some really great British brands that are very very dark brown. There's one called molasses sugar that is so delicious (and I used it in place of actual molasses for gingerbread cookies because I couldn't find molasses. Another time I subbed treacle. Anyway).

Lovely to meet you too! Katie told me to say hi to the coast but I'll have to tell her I did better and said hi to her mom!

Jen said...

In an era of electronics and e-reality, I think we're robbing our kids of this sort of sensory nostalgia. My childhood was full of sights and smells and tastes and all of that....but I worry that our kids aren't getting enough of that. It's hard to have olfactory memories if you're sitting in front of a computer all day long. Wouldn't it be a tragedy if our kids brought our grandkids over to visit and didn't ask us to bake such-and-such or to play this-or-that?

Jennifer said...

I also love Gushers for the same reason--forbidden as a child! :) I love your selections and hope you'll give us a glimpse of what other things you are taking back. I know you've had two years to make a list, but I think it would be hard to put a finger on the things that are so classic American and beloved that you will miss.

Liz Johnson said...

That's so awesome. I think my nostalgic foods are Fruity Pebbles and also Pop-Tarts. And a variety of baked goods, of course. OH! And fruit by the foot. LOVE THAT STUFF.

How long do you think it'll be before you're back in the USofA?

Jen said...

Fruit by the foot?! YESSSSSSSSSSS!

Crys said...

Lucky Charms are my Gushers. Sometimes when I meet people who are very controlling of their children's food choices I think, "someday you're going to have a daughter who when stressed will eat bowels of Lucky Charms in the pantry with the light off"...but then again maybe I'm just projecting ;)


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