Comfort food takes on a whole new meaning when you move abroad. You develop strange cravings for things that you never thought you would miss. Stumbling over products from home in a supermarket here can make you feel elation akin to winning the lottery. Such delicacies as Angel Delight, Sandwich Spread, Bird's Custard and Walker's Shortbread are sold in the British international section of supermarkets here in Germany. The reality is that probably the people of Britain have moved on from these to more sophisticated foods whereas expats like me are trapped in an ever decreasing spiral of instant powdered puddings, questionable salt levels and twee packaging.
As part of the Trailing Spouses' Art Project in Bielefeld, Germany, Rachel asked us to contribute a recipe that reminded us of home or connects us to home. I found this surprisingly difficult, realising that my expat tastes have changed so much over the twelve or so years since moving to Germany and, for me, it is products rather that dishes I crave.
So here, just for the record, are some of the foods I can't do without in Germany, my couldn't do withouts (I am reformed), and my 'could I now do without these if I had to leave Germany?' food quandries.
Can't do withouts -
This is my most serious and incurable expat addiction. Actually, it would be an addiction even if I was in the UK. I don't eat Jam, honey, peanut butter or Nutella, so if I don't have my little glass jar of black gold then my breakfast is a sad affair. It is rare to find a German who understands Marmite. I have never been a pusher, but there are some Germans curious enough to sniff it at least, but then vow never to go near it again. I now have my sources in Germany and have compiled detailed charts with various prices. I have been known to pay four times its British market value just to get my fix. And it is worth it.
Couldn't do withouts
Heinz Treacle Puddings
When I first moved to Germany I got an inexplicable need to fill my suitcase with those treacle puddings that you boil in their tins. I was, I think, trying to impress by new German boyfriend shock and awe style with what British culinary culture had to offer. The average German woman can bake a cake from scratch at the drop of a hat, but could they boil a pudding so sweet and rich that it takes a week to digest it and not spray boiling water over themselves in the process whilst opening the tin? I felt confident.
Could I do without if I left Germany?
Bread has changed perhaps in the UK since I moved to Germany for the better. My German spouse told me how, as an experiment, he once held a loaf of white sliced bread in the UK between his hands and squeezed, squeezed until it was reduced to tiny proportion of its former self. There was nothing to it, he said, it was light as air and never filled him up. In Germany, they sell bread with a 1KG stamped into it. You can eat the bread, but also use it for other purposes, such as body building or door stops, which is very practical. But there is so much variety of bread here, you are really spoiled for choice. And that is something I would miss if I left Germany.
Do you have any guilty expat food pleasures? Or would you miss food from your new country of choice if you returned to the UK?
P.S. anyone who knows me will wonder about the glaring omission of crisps. This is, I feel, a topic that will one day take up a blog post of its own, or even a book or two. As I am going through a period of reflection and introspection about my crisp eating habits at home and abroad I feel I need to give this theme the time and space it so rightly deserves. Thank you.