Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moving abroad? Some things you might want to take with you.

I was at a Superbowl party whenever the Superbowl was, and some fellow expats got to talking about the typical American things you can't really get over here. Sure, Amazon delivers, and the big superstores can order many things for you. But it's not as easy as you'd think to find those little things you take for granted over here, and who wants to go to the 'burbs to a superstore when you live by a castle? Talk about a buzzkill.

Some items that were brought up in a wistful, nostalgic way (not all by me, as you can probably guess) were:

Ranch Dressing
My life doesn't revolve around ranch dressing, but I'm pretty sure that's because I'm not from Texas. When my parents visited a few weeks ago, they brought little packets of ranch dressing mix for David. He is a Texan, after all, and pub chips and pizza crusts are apparently lacking slightly without ranch. (If he ever actually brings his own ranch to the pub, I'll let you know.) You can't get it over here, and David's a much happier man now that our pantry is stocked with that weird processed powdered stuff you mix with mayonnaise and milk.

Tortilla Chips
This is something I miss ... madly. So far the only real-ish tortilla chips we've found over here are: Doritos™. Waitrose makes a wee pack of tortilla chips, but they don't taste like home. Unfortunately, tortilla chips don't pack well, but they make fabulous (and edible, if you like crumbs) packing material. See the Texas-shaped chips shipped from Austin to us by lovely friends. We found about three that were still shaped like the state. The rest looked more like Hawaii.

Microwave popcorn
Another expat brought this up. I actually can't stand microwave popcorn because it tastes like chemicals to me. I'm told that the microwave popcorn over here is even worse. One fun expat said when she went to the US for a visit, she was bringing an empty suitcase to fill up with ranch dressing and microwave popcorn. Team USA!

Chocolate Chips
Some folks here claim they have found the elusive chocolate chips, but I had to import them from my parents. I've been to countless grocery stores and haven't seen these little kisses of chocolate deliciousness. Even semi-sweet chocolate is hard to find, so my cookies have had to suffer with Cadbury dark chocolate chunks. This is not actually a problem.

Kosher Dill Pickles
I finally found a "Mrs. Elswood" brand that has pretty decent dill-ish pickles. But I would sing "Brown Eyed-Girl" AND "Me and Bobby McGee" at a gig in exchange for one jar of Kosher midgets. (Please don't ship me any though ... they are way too heavy!)

Kraft Macaroni &Cheese
I never even tasted this stuff until college. I think it's gross -- unless I'm recovering from a migraine. After a day or writhing, sweating, and crying in bed, the only thing I want is a fountain Coke and a box of macaroni and cheese. Oddly, David has the same craving after he has a migraine (it's love!). Here they seem big on Heinz canned mac'n'cheese, which I am not brave enough to buy.

Graham Crackers
I hadn't noticed they aren't readily available here until the Superbowl Party Goers brought it up. Further investigation proves them right. It's time to find a recipe.

Stick Deodorant
My parents re-filled David's "Old Spice" prescription when they came, but I figured I could find something. I hate gel deodorants, so it looks like I'll be trying one of those bizarro natural rock salt brands that don't quite work as well as the carcinogenic US brands. I'll report back when it's time, but I'm longing for some of that purple Lady's Speed Stick.

Clothes Dryer
That pulley device we have in the bathroom is charming, but without any airflow in there, it's not particularly efficient. Our washer takes about two hours per wee little load, and air drying takes a further two days -- not to mention that our shirts truly do stand up on their own/

Now to resolve a myth: Peanut Butter
There is plenty of peanut butter over here. It might not be Jif or Skippy or any other of your childhood brands, but all those jars taste peanut-y enough to me. Plus, the earthy food stores have natural fresh peanut butter. Also, no one puts it with jelly over here. But it does exist, even at the smaller stores.

Truthfully, there's nothing on this list I can't live without, but it's been funny to see the cultural differences between the UK and America. Don't get me wrong, the UK has plenty of processed foods of its own, but I'm not quite willing to try anything else in a box. Thank goodness for the Sunday farmers' market.

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  1. As a Canadian also living in Edinburgh I feel your pain. However Lupe Pintos in Bruntsfield carries great tortilla chips - proper ones that you can't get in regular shops (they also sell O Henry bars and root beer!). Sainsbury's now has chocolate chips, both milk and dark. The rest I cannot be of any help, because I'm in the same boat. I would add Shake and Bake to the list. Friends have been known to mail me Kraft Dinner and Shake n' Bake for Christmas and birthdays. Sophia @pleasebringcake

    1. I need to get to Lupe Pintos ... you're the second person to bring that up today. I let my bus pass expire and have been a Stockbridge hermit ever since. Time to cross to the other side. I think I'll do about anything for tortilla chips at this point.
      Shake and Bake = good one. After today's grocery run, we are also craving those little yellow-packaged Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs that appear around Easter time. Cadbury cremes just don't cut it!

  2. Two answers to what you are looking for:

    Graham cracker recipe:

    Deodorant: Make your own. I have found .25 cup baking soda, .25 cup corn starch, and approx 6 tbls coconut oil works well. Push into your old stick container, tada. deodorant. Been using for 2 years, no complaints.

    Have fun!

    1. I love this! Thanks much. Will try and report back:)

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