Monday, January 28, 2013

Hoarding, expat style

Chances are, you don't have 5 1/2 bottles of wheat germ in your pantry.  I do.  I also have 1 1/2 large bags of pine nuts, 12 boxes of veggie-burgers, 1/2 a box of turkey bacon, a few dozen bags of frozen fruit, 4 bags of stone-ground get the idea.  Not, I'm not a Doomsdayer or a contender for an A&E reality show, but I am living in a place where Goldfish trade as currency.  Show up with a pork product, and you are an instant rock-star.  Welcome to the world of Expat Hoarders.

Make no mistake, there is no shortage of good and fresh food available in Tunisia (wine too!), but if you want peanut butter, you're out of luck.  Same for pecans, cheese that melts, GOOD coffee (Tunisians drink a lot of coffee, but it's truly terrible), and a lot of other items of the first world.  As a result, each trip abroad involves strategic food purchases and transportation.  Essentially, we become food mules, albeit without actually having to disguise the "product" as fake boobs or stuff it into balloons to be swallowed.  Getting an airline ticket with an allowance for TWO checked bags is a cause for celebration, traveling with children means one bag per child (and they don't need that much room), and you always fly with extra bags that can be carried on if needed.  The food transport opportunities are greatly increased during the summer months due to less clothing requirements, but chocolate does not fare well.  Conversely, wintertime is a great time to fly with cheese.  Word of caution:  if you find amazing cheese at a Parisian market, do not attempt to carry it on board.  No, it's not your fellow travelers you have to worry about, it's the security nazis who determine that a certain cheese is just squishy enough to pose a danger to all aboard.  I nearly cried as I once watched a security screener take my freshly purchased Compt é to the trash can, ignoring my pleas for cheese clemency.  It wasn't pretty.  Don't do it, just check the cheese.

At this point you may be wondering why the eccentricities of Expat Hoarders has anything to do with this blog.  Well, it's a matter of supply and demand.  Pre-September 14, we made steady progress through our cornmeal collection and tablespoon by tablespoon, our 6 boxes of vital wheat gluten.  However, on September 16, there were suddenly three less tummies to fill, including one pecan-crazed toddler.  The result was a pantry and freezer full of random items in unusually large quantities, all needing to be used up.  Exacerbating this problem was the subsequent kitchen clean-outs and pack-ups for colleagues and friends that wouldn't be coming back.  While I will happily discard or give away junk-food, I can't in good consciousness waste good, usable food.  Consequently, my quinoa collection doubled and I'm unlikely to run out of baking powder before 2018.

So, like anyone else with a problem to solve, I Googled it.  "Rhubarb recipes," "pine-nut recipes," "cornmeal recipes" (this was surprisingly disappointing, turns out you mostly just make cornbread with it), "cheerios recipes" (I still have 4 boxes).  As a result, many of the recipes I've made recently I've found on-line, and it's been rather fun to try new things and flavor combos I would have never thought of on my own.  Plus, if I was cooking from a book, it takes too long to write down the recipe, but it's quite easy to just copy and paste a link to share on here.  So, the consumption journey continues, one $100 carton of butterscotch pudding at a time (an early and expensive lesson in too-quick-Amazon-one-click-shopping, but I'll leave that story for another time).

Happy Hoarding,

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