February 8th, 2007

lick

BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET

One thing that seems to define most expats that I've met is their craving for things from home that they can no longer get, and the strongest feelings alway seem to be engendered by candy. jes6ica wrote a post earlier about childhood desserts and sweets that she missed and it got me thinking about it again. It's always been amusing to me that if you put any group of expats together, after a while the conversation will inevitably turn to food and suddenly people are moaning longingly about Pop-Tarts and Tim Tams and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Here in Sweden, things have dramatically improved as far as imported foods and selection in general goes. When I moved to Sweden 10 years ago, I was horrified, not to mention boggled, to discover there were no seedless grapes or oranges available at all in the produce section. They started showing up about 3 years ago, sporadically at first and now they're available year-round. A revolutionary change for a country and a culture that has always had foods available only when they were actually in season (or imported at exorbitantly high prices).

The longer you live abroad, however, the more of the things that you initially craved fall off that list of things you wish you could get. Either you grow used to life without them, or you find substitutes, or you learn that if you get to have them once, or maybe twice a year, that's enough. And once in a while, you get lucky and something you miss becomes regularly available on the grocery store shelves.

Going to the American store in Malmö is a treat still, and always has been, but it's just not realistic to do any kind of regular shopping there since paying import prices for cereal or Campbell's soups is not an option most of the time. They, together with the American store in Stockholm, made a deal some years back to supply the ICA (and some other grocery store chains in Sweden) with the Top 10 most-purchased American food products (purchased by SWEDES, not Americans, mind you) and so for a long time we've actually been able to find marshmallows, peanut butter, maple syrup, hard pretzels, Hellmann's mayonnaise AND Miracle Whip, caesar salad dressing, croutons (yeah, I know, don't ask me) and a few other items happily shelved together.

Besides candy, the one food item I probably miss the most is Campbell's soups. There are excellent canned soup brands available here, but I still miss the ones I grew up with, and that's usually the first thing I think of when someone asks me if they can bring me back something from America.

When I first moved to Sweden, the care package lists I gave my mom and family were really long, and when I think of some of the things I asked for now, it makes me laugh. There are still lots of things I import, mostly toiletries, over-the-counter remedies and cosmetics, but even those I am slowly finding substitutes for (well, except for huge bottles of Advil and Tylenol Cold Medicine. There are no substitutes for those.) Today, I found out that the shampoo and conditioner that I've been taming Barky with for all these years is going off the market and will no longer be available. My mom will probably jump for joy since the bottles were HUGE and weighed a TON and she always had to bring a half dozen of them with her, every visit. A friend recently recommended a product here that I've been trying the past few weeks which seems to be keeping the poodle restrained so at least the timing was good.

Because I'm pretty well stocked up on my personal necessities (thanks to my mom and sister and husband's business trip last November) and also because I'm trying NOT to have candy in the house for awhile, I've actually found myself saying, "No thanks, I don't need anything" to several people who've asked me if they can bring me something, which kind of leaves me feeling a little strange. Don't I miss things anymore? Well, yes, of course I do. But what I miss mostly is the prices and the selection available in the States and someone else can't bring me back a can of that.

I miss bookstores full of English books. I'm very close to going off into a paean to shopping in America, because I'm so excited at the thought of going "home," even though realistically I can't afford to just go crazy when I get there anyway. I'm not even a shopper usually, but man, I am really looking forward to stepping foot into Target and Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate & Barrel and Pier One Imports and BORDERS and BARNES AND NOBLE and F.Y.E. and Best Buy and C.J. Banks and yeah, you get the idea. Be still, my stifled shopping heart!

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Chocolate and Candy-Pink Birthday Wishes to Holly Burns!
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