International Junk

Pizza Flavored Shapes.  Whittaker’s Chocolate Coconut Block.  Holiday Ham & Turkey Pimento Cheese.  TRISCUITS!

One cold and wintery evening while living in Australia I drew a nice hot bath, plugged in my computer at the edge of the tub (yes, yes I know this is the start to like 5 different bad movies and that if the computer had fallen into the tub I would have been electrocuted only to change bodies with my Mom or start hearing men’s thoughts or something) and climbed in.  Then I reached down and opened a box of Shapes ( and proceeded to eat the entire thing while watching Project Runway.  Was this kind of disgusting?  Yes, yes it was.  It was also totally awesome.

There are similar stories of mine about Whittaker’s Coconut Chocolate while living in New Zealand and certainly regarding HH&T’s Pimento Cheese with Triscuits when I’m back in the U.S.A (similar as in over-indulging not as in eating in the bathtub…that was really a one-off, over-eating while naked is kind of disturbing and really eating naked at all seems gross to me, maybe I am repressed, I don’t know…okay, digressing).  Point being, while I am not much of a junk food eater, when I find my junk food that I love I can go a little overboard.  Lucky for me, however, the aforementioned junk-food kryptonite doesn’t exist in every country and I have to travel long and expensive distances to get it.  However, this does leave a hole in my diet, an inner aching as my cellulite calls out to me in agony, “please, we need you to eat more garbage, we’re shrinking!”  Wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we?  So, it is only natural that I have found a new junk food addiction here in France.

Now, we have already covered the issue that while France is exceptionally good with food it doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own junk food as well (Exhibit A:  And while I find things like apericubes and fully frozen hamburgers repugnant I do have my not-so-secret shame.  A shame deeper than apericubes and a little bit gross…crabssdlkjgkdlsjaktlja.

“What was that?  I couldn’t quite understand.”

“I wrote: crabstiflubidyblubber.”



“Ewwwww!  You mean those plastic tasting things filled with chemicals that aren’t actually crab but instead whatever poor fish was stuck at the bottom of the net that they stewed and then reshaped into crab legs?”

Yep.  That’s exactly what I mean.  MB was the first one who told me that I should try them with the mayonnaise so we bought them once and I did…from there the addiction

The EVIL Benedicta that promotes my crabstick addiction.

The EVIL Benedicta that promotes my crabstick addiction.

grew.  Now, I have to physically stop myself from being lured into the crabstick section at the grocery store (yes, that exists) as the chemically goodness calls to me, “But we are so tasty, we are SUCH a good vehicle for getting mayonnaise into your mouth!”  BWAH!  Quit taunting me with your siren song, Crabsticks, we all know that I will feel sick after I eat you!


Even MB has his own international junk food shame.  If you refer back to Exhibit A, you will see that I introduced him to the world of Kraft Blue Box Mac and Cheese years ago.  Ever since then, he now gets excited when shipments come from the U.S. and always wants me to share them with him (which makes me wonder if I should have ever let him taste it in the first place – who wants to share their mac and cheese – Dad, I’m looking at you).  So, as a result of our relationship something unnatural has been created, something that could possibly be the first sign of the apocalypse:  a Frenchman who gets



excited to eat powdered chemicals cheese?!?!?!?!  (Somewhere the French Tinkerbell just

died and there is no amount of clapping that will bring her back.  Don’t worry Mme Tink, afterall…it is THE CHEESIEST! Har har har…she’s not laughing.)

But this is one of the unspoken perils of being an expat or in an international relationship, while on the one hand you gain a first-hand understanding of a new culture; on the other hand you gain a first-hand understanding of a new culture.  Meaning, when you are living somewhere overseas or with a someone from another country you can’t cherry-pick all the delightful things about the new culture…you get it all – the tournedos rossini and Quick’s, France’s major fast food chain, foie gras burger (check it out:  It’s the darker side of the expat life…and for now, I’ll just let you digest that.

To Be or Not to…wait, what was that? I got bored.

I love television shows that have to do with food because I think that food is awesome and fascinating.  I enjoy watching people use their creativity to develop dishes and concepts; I enjoy seeing new techniques and ideas; however, I do not need it in 3-hour chunks at a time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to pretend that I have never watched 3 episodes of say…Top Chef at a time, because I have.  I have even watched a 2-hour one episode special because they usually only do that when it is action packed with disasters and people being sent home; but I do not need to see 3-hour episodes on a regular basis.  Who has the attention span for that?

Apparently, the French do.

Their episodes of Masterchef and Top Chef are 3 hours long and not because there are crazy out- of-control-fights and not because someone catches the kitchen on fire and serves raw chicken resulting in an epic outbreak of salmonella which ends up involving a spin off reality show about the CDC but just because 3 hours for a TV show is apparently normal.  It’s like watching a staging of Hamlet in which the director decides not to cut one line (ahem…Kenneth Branagh); I mean let’s face it – Hamlet can figure out whether “to be or not to be” in less than 3 hours.  Right?

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”


“I’m bored!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  This is said with a wail as I fling myself across MB, obscuring his view to his computer screen.

“EH!  I’m trying to do something, huh?  I’m organizing the hard drive so that we can actually find things*.  Here I will explain it to you.”

I pretend like I am already asleep and snoring.

“You are ridiculous,” he says to me.

“Whaa-?  Oh, I’m sorry, I feel asleep because that explanation was SO uninteresting.”  I grin at him impishly…it’s super cute and not at all annoying…probably…maybe…ehhhhhhh…don’t know.

He leans me back against him so that we are both facing the computer and puts his arms around me.

“I don’t know if I have ever met a person with less patience than you in my entire life,” he says before giving me two quick pats on my leg meaning “get up” (which by the way, always cracks me up because it is like I am a dog…wait, should I be offended?)

This little scene is a normal everyday occurrence in our household.   I need to be entertained, I need to be moving around, I need to be doing something fun all the time; even when I clean the house I listen to books on tape with my IPod .  NO TASK SHALL EVER BE BORING!

I can’t watch a 3-hour finale of Masterchef in which only 2 people cook…especially 2 people who are super polite to each other.  Give me some drama, some action, keep me enthralled!

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”

So where does this desire for constant entertainment come from?  Why do I have an inability to sit at a dinner table for more than 2 hours without getting itchy or watch a 3-hour episode of a show that I enjoy because there isn’t enough “action”?  Is this an American trait or is this a “me” trait?

I tend to think that Americans, in general, are action people/busybees/whatever you want to call it.  We don’t like to remain still…we take our coffee to go, we eat our lunches while walking back to the office, we tend to stand at bars instead of sitting at tables to converse.  And sure, we all know that Americans watch tons of TV but each episode better be no more than an hour and action-packed in order to keep our attention spans.

Europeans, on the other hand, are still slow to embrace the take-away coffee trend and McDonalds and other fast food restaurants are always packed with people because the drive-thru isn’t as popular as sitting in the restaurant to stop and enjoy your meal (as much as on can enjoy fast food…yeah, that’s right, I said it, I’m judging).  A 3-hour dinner in Europe might even be considered short by some standards.

So which is the better method?  Is it preferable to relax and take time and soak things in…you know, smell roses, contemplate life.  Or is it better to have high energy and be constantly engaged, cutting the roses and putting them in an arrangement to be smelled and enjoyed at a more convenient time?  MB would probably like it if I could slow down and sit still some of the time (something that he considers relaxing and I consider stressful); I would occasionally like it if he had some more frenetic energy.  I don’t know whether this is a French and American thing or just our own personalities.  And I don’t know if one method of living is better than the other.

So I’ll leave it to the wiser mind of Shakespeare: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  A mature philosophy, the philosophy of a reasonable and patient person, a person who thinks things through, a person who is not distracted easily…wait a minute…you know, he also wrote: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Meh…what can I say, kids?

“This above all: to thine own self be true”


*My computer is a disorganized nightmare that MB is constantly trying to take in hand.  I think it is a deep secret fantasy of his to get my files organized.  Oooh la la!

*Special shout-out to my old friend Billy Shakes…thanks for letting me steal so many of your lines – your words ever delight my brain!*