Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Speaking of packing

One of the things that every expatriate does is stockpile food from home. We’re all guilty of it. I have a 3-month old package of Philadelphia cream cheese sitting in my fridge right now that I can’t bear to open. It is so precious, so rare! I just like to open the refrigerator door and see it twinkling back at me in all its foil-wrapped glory.

A lot of the foods that we take for granted are difficult to find in many African countries. In Eritrea, the only cheese I ate for 5 months came packaged in little foil triangles. In Sudan, they follow Sharia law, meaning no pork. One time I returned to Darfur from home leave, toting a 50-pound backpack of food, stuffed with pepperoni, prosciutto, and pre-cooked bacon. I felt a little guilty cooking the stuff around the housekeepers, but it was so good.

Malawi is better than most countries I’ve worked in, in that we can get quite a lot of good imported foods from South Africa, so for the most part I don’t feel deprived. But there are a few things from home that every American likes to bring, so that on a rough day we can whip up some of our favorite comfort food. Each time we travel from a developed country, we push the limits of our baggage allowance, then hoard our precious commodities like crazy once we get over here. For me, those items are:

Bakers chocolate for making brownies (This makes me very popular)
Parmesan cheese (the real stuff and the fake. It’s all good.)
Tony Chachere’s
Refried beans
Wonton wrappers
Chocolate chips
Marinated artichoke hearts
Creole mustard
Andouille sausage (the real stuff, from Louisiana)
Cheese of all kinds. It stinks up the plane, but who cares!

This is actually pretty restrained. I know people who work for the US government here who get free shipping from the states, and they have olive oil and salsa sent over by the gallon. I once went into a friend’s house and saw, stacked high up in the pantry, packages and packages of American toilet paper, shipped over on Uncle Sam’s dime. I mean, I would understand if we only got the scratchy brown stuff here, but the toilet paper here is great – triple-ply, little patterns stamped on – that’s luxury, folks. You wouldn’t get toilet paper like that in Chad, let me tell you.


Lex said...

Are you hinting for a "care package"?

Tina said...

what is the shelf-life of cream cheese?

Joan said...

We all love things from home. I always bring Yorkshire tea bags from England - and Mars bars and Imperial Leather soap and oxo cubes etc. Love to everyone.

Janna said...

I'm totally with you on most of your list, but occasionally you can find decent bakers chocolate at Bowers (the dark is better than the milk though!).

Joy H said...

I'm surprised your list doesn't include Cheez-its...

Gwyneth said...

Ha - I don't pack cheezits, I just ask visitors to bring me a box. Then I ration them for weeks!

And I can't believe I forgot pecans and walnuts! We buy big 2-pound sacks at Costco.