“Look what I have!!!!!!!!!” I come bouncing into the kitchen with my grocery sacks.
MB turns around to see what I have brought him, no doubt expecting cheese or a spreadable meat or, at the very least, some sort of internal organ like gesiers. He looks very excited, anticipating whatever delightful thing I have found at the store. We are food people – food makes us happy.
“BAM,” I say with satisfaction as I hold out the small white paper package.
“What is this?” He takes the package from me and looks at it, confused and slightly disgusted. “I don’t understand, is this fish flavored crackers?” He makes a face.
I laugh…silly Frenchman. “No, they are goldfish crackers. They have different flavors, like cheese or pizza, or sometimes they can come as pretzel goldfish.”
He seems comforted to know they are not fish flavored but still confused. “But then, why are they shaped like fish?”
“Why they are shaped like fish if they don’t taste like fish?”
I ponder this for a moment. “I don’t know, they just—UGH—I’m not sharing any!” I snatch the package back from him in a huff…he has ruined my goldfish cracker moment by pointing out that it is totally bizarre that they even exist.
“No, I’m sorry,” he begins. “I want to try them!” He seems desperate now that he realizes he may be about to miss something incredible (like the Kraft Mac and Cheese experience…I will always regret letting him try it since now I always have to share).
“We’ll see,” I say with a smile, clutching them to my chest. “This is the first time I’ve ever found them here!”
Okay, now let me be clear, I am not obsessed with goldfish crackers or anything. I mean, I like them, they are a tasty treat but it’s not like my favorite cracker of all time (that would be Triscuits…obviously, is there even another option?), but there is something thrilling about finding a home product when you are overseas. It’s like getting a high five from your native land.
“What’s up, USA – appreciate the shout-out!”
“Word,” responds USA, slapping my palm.
(This is how USA and I talk.)
When you are expat, you will get excited even about home products that you aren’t really into. For instance, I don’t like Dr. Pepper (or any soft drinks actually) but it still makes me happy when I see it and I will tell every American expat about where I found it. Another example is the friend of mine who left an exuberant post on Facebook about finding cottage cheese. That’s right, you just read the word “exuberant” in reference to cottage cheese. I was so stoked that I ran right out to the store she mentioned and then called her in a panic when I couldn’t find it.
“What does it look like,” I demand into the telephone. “I’m standing with the cheeses.”
“It’s green,” she says, “It’s Jockey brand. It is with the yogurts.”
“The YOGURTS,” dread creeps over me. “I’ll never find it on the yogurt aisle!” The yogurt aisle in France is epic (salty dogs chocolate frogs).
After a few minutes of her talking me through it I find the outrageously priced cottage cheese and feel a surge of energy course through me. “Victory is mine! Cottage Cheese for dinner tonight, muhahahahahaha!”
I have never before or since had quite such an emotional reaction to cottage cheese.
But I have had many emotional reactions to food before. During our honeymoon in Italy, I remember sitting at a particularly fantastic meal and telling MB that the food made me feel even more in love with him…and it was the truth. There was some portal of emotion inside of me that the meal opened up, just as tasting an old recipe of your Grandmother’s might bring a tear to your eye or how the first bite of something deliciously sinful can make you grin (or moan if you are that type…you know who you are, you sexy food-moaners). And it doesn’t have to just be in the eating, I love cooking for people as well, taking the time and effort to put together a creative and delicious meal to share with friends around the table is one of the great joys in life.
I know there are the “fuel for the body” people but I will just never understand that. In fact, I remember the first time someone told me that food was just fuel for the body…I never invited them to dinner again. Why would I want to share a meal with someone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty, the majesty, and the soul’s connection with food?
Food, whether it is typical grocery store fare that allows you to time-travel to your childhood or a 5 star meal that makes your senses dance – is emotion.
And so, with that being said, starting next week I will be rolling out the Bread is Pain Food blog sharing some of my favorite recipes and dinner party ideas. Everything from the simplest party dip to the menu for a 7 course dinners. I hope you will come and check it out!
Here is a clip from the penultimate food movie: “Babette’s Feast” (in a close 2nd is “Like Water for Chocolate”). It is a long clip but perfectly elucidates the “fuel for the body” people vs. the “food is emotion” people. Enjoy!