Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jetlagged...for food.

I have lived in four different countries in the twenty years of my life, and each time I left one, I was forced to give up so much more than just my friends and school and home - I had to give up THE FOOD.  Not just the restaurants, not just the supermarkets and the specific brands, but also the customs that dictate homemade food.  Certainly one could argue that if one moves to another country, one always has the same ingredients ready to make dishes that are traditional from the other country.  My mother would laugh in the face of this argument.  She is forever complaining that the fruits and vegetables just aren't "right," they just don't taste the same here in the US compared to Europe. 

And I have to admit, coming back from Paris a month ago today, most food here just doesn't taste the same.  Coffee, French roast - What? What French roasting method are you thinking of?  French baguette? Oh hell no. You are surely mistaken.  Please don't think that any "baguette" you get here is anything like the real thing.  Camembert? Don't be ridiculous.  There is no way to achieve that smelly, moldy, creamy, gooey, sensational cheese if you have to pasteurize it (which you do in the US - to my chagrin).  Eggs, fruits, jam, Nutella, pasta - everything tastes different (read: better) in France. 

Thanks to Wegmans, some limited food imports are available to us in Ithaca.  I can have chocolate digestive biscuits to reminisce on my childhood in London, or Le Petit Ecolier to snack on while doing my French homework.  Last time I was grocery shopping, my friend and I stocked up on some Indian food - spinach paneer, potato and lentil curry, and other such wonders contained in a little cardboard box.  Yes, it is box food - but knowing that it actually came from a factory in India makes it taste better. More authentic.  It doesn't come much better than "Tasty Bomby Potato" brand, right?

In conclusion, when I moved from Romania to England, I could barely tolerate the food - I was five, I had never had processed, frozen, or ready-made food before.  When I moved from England to the US, I lost all my favorite snacks and brands and candy, and had to adjust to living in a gastronomically-challenged Midwest town.  Moving from the US to France was spectacularly mind-blowing, and the return was...well, I won't dwell on that.  The point is, people adjust, people tolerate, and people learn to appreciate new things.  In the meantime, if food choices have go you down, dreaming of your homeland cuisine (or things you ate on a really awesome vacation), just try this - say "Tasty Bomby Potatoes" with a funny accent.  Come on, I dare you - tasteeee bombeee potatooooooes.  It's guaranteed to make you smile. 

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