The first time I packed my bags to move overseas, it was to work in Senegal about ten years ago. Based on the job description (public health worker in a village) and my previous experience (growing up in West Africa), I packed long skirts and t-shirts, to be worn with some über-attractive sport utility sandals. My trunks also included an self-inflating camping mattress (never used), Pringles and Tang drink mix (didn’t know you could get both here).
The second time I moved overseas, we were going to France as brandnewlyweds. So I packed what I thought I’d want most: Kraft Mac-n-Cheese, Ranch dressing, Crystal Light, Jolly Ranchers and lingerie. As my stocks of American foods ran low, I’d try to replenish them when people came to visit or when we’d travel back to the US. It got to be a little ridiculous. I’d count the number of taco seasoning packets and ration them out over the months ahead. “Okay, we can have Mexican every 17.2 days.”
Life got a lot easier once I quit restocking my US stash and just started ‘eating locally’. I discovered some new things in France that I loved (little petit suisse yogurts, Speculoos spread and stuffed olives) and some things I just got used to not having all the time (Multigrain Cheerios, Fritos and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce).
So when we moved to Senegal the second time, my goal was to ‘go local’ as soon as possible. Easier and cheaper.
But then something happened. A friend moved away recently and gave me her stash of US goodies. Pecans, flaked coconut, canned pumpkin… Then another friend moved away. My pantry acquired jalapenos, pizza sauce, Crisco…
Each time someone moved and gave me their treats, I discovered (or rediscovered) something amazing from America.
- Did you know America makes cake and muffin mixes that you only add a couple ingredients (sometimes just water!) to make?
- Did you know America makes chicken in a can? You don’t have to boil it, cool it and pick the meat off the bones!
- Oh, and did you know about sourdough starter mix that’s ready in just a couple minutes? And yeast pizza dough that’s ready in under half an hour?
Craziness. What will America think of next? And when can she send it to me?