On food

I think you'll find that when it comes to American women cooking in their overseas homes, their frequency of use of imported ingredients from their home country can best be classified as falling somewhere along a spectrum. At one end, you have people like (forgive my characterizations if they are imperfect, ladies) Amira and Sarah, who seem to be skilled at - and dedicated to - eating as "natively" as possible. Even when some essential ingredient isn't available, they find a great local substitution, or cope simply by not making that food anymore.

On the other end of the spectrum is my friend Ashley, whose skill at planning, buying, shipping, and unpacking a few years' worth of American consumables for use in Azerbaijan amazes me. She has everything she needs to cook her favorites, and it's thanks to her superior organizational habits, not the whims of the local grocery stores.

I've been at the native end of the spectrum before, mostly in Syria because western food was almost entirely unavailable there, and at the cushy embassy end, too, thanks to our access to the commissary in Moscow. Here in the UAE, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I shop at Carrefour, which does have a wide variety of products available from all over the world right alongside the local stuff, but the selection is not skewed toward American tastes.

If I wanted to be completely true to my American cooking habits, I'd have to shop exclusively at Spinney's, specifically at the one in Mirdif, because it is the Mecca of imported-food grocery stores, at least the ones I've seen here.

But you can't get Tillamook cheese here, not even at the Mirdif Spinney's, and all of this is to say that when I ate my first slice of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar (brought to the UAE by my mom a few weeks ago), actual tears came to my eyes. It reminded me so much of my formative years, of my favorite foods, of the country I grew up in. I knew I loved the stuff; I didn't know I would cry at the taste of it.

I guess my cooking habits will always remain a little bit foreign, a little bit American. As much as I'd like to go completely native, there are certain foods I love too much to give up.

February 10th, outsourced

A new semester