Tastes Like Home

Image: DTTSP

Image: DTTSP

Today’s prompt in the Expat Blog Challenge is, “Tastes like home.”

I’ve blogged quite a bit about Melbourne food and dining out. It’s not that I don’t enjoy food here; I do. I especially like trying new restaurants and new foods. I’m a hopeless optimist. No matter how often I am disappointed by food and restaurants, and that’s quite often, I still keep at it, believing that it might be better next time.

Almost nothing in Melbourne tastes like its counterpart in Miami. Pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, sausages, cheeses, coffee, pasta dishes, steaks, cocktails – none of it tastes the same. Only American commercial foods such as McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Coca-Cola taste alike. That aside, nothing tastes like home, nothing.

My partner Theo insists I can find everything in Melbourne. I can’t find Cuban food. I can’t even find the ingredients to cook Cuban food at home. My mother sends me Cuban coffee and some spices. I attempt to cook arroz con pollo (yellow rice and chicken) and picadillo, but they don’t taste the same. I haven’t bothered to attempt making Cuban bread, pastelitos, or desserts. And, oh, do I miss it.  Cuban food, that which I ate nearly everyday for more than 30 years, is now something special, something I look forward to when I return to Miami for a visit. I want to fill my belly with it at every meal as if I could store it and bring it back with me like a chipmunk storing nuts in his cheek pouches. The only thing I bring back are extra pounds.

This is one of those expat experiences that local people are astonishingly insensitive about. In part it’s because, I’ve discovered, many Aussies think American food is crap and Melbourne’s food is far superior. Let’s pretend that’s true. Even so, how would they feel if they could no longer drink their favorite beer or coffee, or eat their favorite pizza or souvlaki, and they couldn’t find anything like the lamb or sausages they’ve been eating their entire lives? Would they be so flippant then?

What flavours from home do you miss?

Comments

comments

16 Comments

  1. Now that you mention it – it is really flippant to be like “oh, you miss American food do you?… boo hooo… our food is better.” I feel like this is an issue that would be harder for you as an expat than say me as an expat (because – while yes, there are some things I can’t get here… for the most part – I can go Woolies or Coles and buy what I need to make the food I grew up eating.)

    That is such a bummer – that you can’t even get the ingredients you need to make your food at home! 🙁 Especially, when you were accustomed to eating that way your entire life.

    • I often see American expats inquiring about where they can get their favorite products and I don’t really understand this. I find the Coles and Woolworths has just about everything we eat in the States. The brands may be different, but there isn’t a lot that’s missing or that we can’t buy the ingredients to make.

  2. We have pastelitos in New Mexico too! We cook them a bit differently though! One big sheet of pastry, dried plum middle and another layer on top, almost like a pie. How funny that they are so similar and yet different. We generally only make them around Christmas, you?

    • Cuban pastelitos are an everyday type of food, mainly eaten at breakfast. They come savory filled with ground beef or sweet and filled with guava, cream cheese, or coconut.

  3. too true, some folks are too ready to dismiss another culture based on what they see portrayed on television and they are sadly missing out on some really tasty adventures

  4. oh my GOD! First let me respond to the Aussies think American food is crap because my brother-in-law moved to Australia and now thinks his shit is far superior. I actually wrote a post about it that I ahven’t published yet – not using his name of course. but I wrote one of my monthly posts on a great little coffee shop that opened in NJ. he tried it and was like, “Oh. I guess I’m just so spoiled but how great Australia’s coffee is that everywhere else seems like dirt.” i’m like, “Fool, I live in the Dominican Republic.. you don’t have to talk to me about good coffee.” Sorry for that rant… On the far more important second note, I would be soooooo sad if I couldn’t find or at least make Cuban food. Sorry Aussies, but Cuban food is some of the best cooking there is. My husband and I just made vaca frita the other night. Delicious! And of course my mama’s recipe of Cuban black beans… obviously you know what my post will be about. 🙂 IS there an award for the longest comment ever????

  5. I can definitely identify with this – in reverse, of course! We used our trips home to get a fill of all the goodies we missed when we lived in the US. Moving to Scotland was bliss because so many of our favourites were available there.
    However, I think you are in the unfortunate position of receiving a double dose – you’re really missing the foods of two cultures, not just one. Melbournians do love to experiment with foods from other cultures – maybe you should open a Cuban restaurant one day. I’d try that! 🙂

  6. Whooops, just read your post above mine.

  7. It depends where you are going to buy your food in the US and what your diet is like. Plenty of people shop at Farmer’s Markets where ingredients are fresh and usually local. Whole Foods is like a cult here (I hear about it all the time at work from my Brooklyn dwelling hipster coworkers) and all I hear about lately is kale and quinoa (do they have those in Australia?).

    There are certain ingredients that you just need to make certain recipes that are impossible to find in other countries. My dad makes his chocolate cake with this one specific chocolate he found in France–it’s not sold anywhere in the States (and I highly doubt you can find it in Australia either). He can substitute the chocolate for other brands of course, but he has found one he really likes and sticks to it.

    • Yes, Whole Foods is totally a cult. Kale and quinoa are available here, but it’s kind of trendy too. The big trend now is gluten-free. Suddenly everyone is allergic to gluten now.

  8. I identify with this so much! It’s a bit easier finding English food in Sydney, but there are plenty of things that I just cannot get. Last year I tried to find a gammon (uncooked ham leg) and I searched for weeks – eventually had to get one by mail order, and I could only get a HUGE one, where in England they’re so commonplace. I can’t find English biscuits (ie cookies) anywhere, and several more esoteric things are impossible to find (e.g. Angel Delight). Sausages too… I could go on and on.

    (That said, I had much the same problem in America, and supermarkets in Florida and California infuriated me so I have limited sympathy for you missing your “crap” American food! (j/k))

    • I don’t miss any American food. There’s nothing in the USA that I ate regularly and haven’t been able to find here or can’t make at home. I don’t think the Australian diet is as healthy as Aussies think it is. There’s plenty of junk food in Coles and Woolworths.

  9. That is a really good point- we’re meant to embrace the new culture we live in but sometimes you just want some ketchup that tastes like ketchup (apparently, Heinz in the US uses corn syrup and the rest of the world uses sugar… it’s different). I feel your pain on this one. Coke here isn’t even the same 🙁

    • Yes, I was surprised to discover that ketchup and Coke taste slightly different due to using sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. That’s a food change I embraced, but it’s amazing just how much is different.

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