Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The meerkat report # 4

The ingredients.

When you move to a foreign country you're pretty much prepared for your life to be different. Still there are a lot of familiar things that you take for granted and it never, ever!, crosses your mind that they might not exist in your adopted country. And so you begin a quest to find the simplest things that you never thought you'd miss.

That's the point where I'm at. All the recipes I know require ingredients easily found in Portugal but here it takes a little bit of digging to find them. Mind you, it's more a matter of learning how to navigate inside a supermarket rather than whether or not the ingredient exists. Because at home that's something so natural that you don't even have to think about it because there's a sort of system behind it. Well, here the system might - and at times is - quite different. For example, in Portugal soy single cream can usually be found next to soy milk or next to regular cream. Here, after quite a few long strolls in Asda, I found it next to baking products. It would never have occurred to me to look for it there, because in my mind that's something I'd use for cooking, never for baking. Yet there it was (probably because it had a picture of strawberries on the box).

Then there are things that simply aren't sold in your new country. There are a lot of types of instant soup here, but instant onion soup - that I use so much for seasoning - I just can't find anywhere. You see a lot of familiar brands that in some cases a) sell exactly the same products, b) sell some products you don't find at home, or c) don't sell some products that are quite common in the country where you're from. I see a lot of familiar Kellogs Special K cereals, but the one I used to have (with dark chocolate) I can't find.

And so you adjust. You learn recipes from natives, you try new things, new products, new flavours. And you keep looking for bits and pieces of home. And every time you find something familiar that you've been searching for a long time you feel that you've found a good old friend. Yesterday I had the biggest smile on my face for hours because I found breadcrumbs, bay leaves and condensed milk, which means that I've found the final ingredient for some of my recipes.

Paraphrasing Bill Bryson, living in a foreign country is like being five years old again. "[...] you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."

1 comment:

Tati said...

o melhor é veres o Jamie Oliver. Pode ser que ajude. Mas não ponhas tanto azeite como ele! :P

Good luck my friend, se precisares de alguma q eu puder ajudar:P