Picture a typical American grocery store. Now just pause for a sec and think about all of your favorite things there. Maybe it’s the ice cream aisle. Or the cake mix aisle. Or even the frozen foods section. Yum.
Now picture your life without this grocery store. Hard to do, isn’t it?
What most people probably don’t know about ex-pats (people who do not live in their home country) is that a lot of us spend a lot of our time thinking about, talking about, and planning…our food. We love to talk about food. But not the typical conversation that you might expect – what’s for dinner? Where do you want to eat tonight? Read any good restaurant reviews lately?
Instead, we often say things like –
“Wow, the import store got in sour cream!”
“Sour cream? Really? Wow, that’s amazing. How much is it? Did you get any?”
Or you might hear –
“Do you have a good salsa recipe? I’m trying to make enchiladas, but they’re just not quite right.”
You might be thinking – sour cream? Salsa? Can’t you just run to Kroger (I’m from Texas) and pick those up? Why do you need recipes? Why doesn’t your store already have them?
Well, we don’t. When Jeff and I make a “typical” meal – let’s say of soft tacos (which we just made for lunch recently), we probably spend about double the amount of time that we would if we lived in Houston. In Houston, one of us would run to the store, pick up tortillas, lettuce, tomato, salsa, grated cheese, sour cream, ground beef, and a taco seasoning packet. After cooking the beef, all that would be left to do is assembly. And done.
Here’s just a quick overview of how Jeff and I made our soft tacos the other day –
1. Someone had to first make the tortillas. This time, they were already made and in the freezer waiting for us so we were pretty lucky.
2. Jeff runs downstairs to buy lettuce and tomato. We are super fortunate that we live above a pretty decent vegetable store. Bonus.
3. If we decide we want salsa, he’ll also buy extra tomatoes, cilantro, and onion. What follows is either chopping all of these up by hand and then blending/cooking them, or just chopping them up and having pico de gallo instead.
4. I brown ground beef that we bought from Walmart. About 3 weeks ago, my wonderful mom sent us a package that had…taco seasoning! All the way from America. I add the taco seasoning – tastes just like home. If we don’t have taco seasoning sent from home, then we just use salt and pepper.
5. One of us pulls cheese out of the fridge. We are really fortunate that several places in our city sell cheese and butter. Then, we grate the cheese – no already grated cheese here. On a sidenote, when Jeff and I are back in the States, we usually take a few moments to walk around the cheese section of the grocery store. Neither one of us realized how many different kinds of grated cheese there were until we moved here.
6. Jeff has mastered making sour cream – using heavy whipping cream and vinegar. He mixes it up.
6. We move on to the assembly/eating stage. Tastes so good!
Since so much of our lives revolves around food, you can see why we get so excited when we hear that a new product has arrive in our neck of the woods. The other day someone found semi-sweet chocolate chips! It was a big day. You should have been around the day (about 2 1/2 years ago) when my good friend called and told me that she found spreadable butter at Walmart. Spreadable butter?!? I was thrilled. Before that, we just had this random brand of butter sticks that were fine for baking, but were terrible when you tried to spread them. The spreadable butter day was a good day.
This also explains why before we make a trip to the US, we make two lists – the first is who we want to spend time with and the second is where we want to eat. 🙂 Jeff’s favorite thing to do when we’re back is to have Mexican food for breakfast – he loves his breakfast burritos. Mine is good Italian food. I always request Johnny Carino’s (which apparently changed their name to Carino’s?!), Olive Garden, etc.
Life here is never boring. The other day, I was walking around in Walmart and found a….Dr. Pepper! I almost had a heart attack. Now, they don’t always carry it, but wow, something about drinking a cold Dr. Pepper on a really hot afternoon…now that is a good day.