Saturday, March 7
Expat Shopping Spree
My friend Annabel, accomplished chef, food writer & marketing maven came to Rome to work in an authentic trattoria. She blogged about her experience (and terrific recipes as well) here [Her past blogs include India: Who's Sari Now? and Tokyo: Vending for your life - where she left with no suitcase & decided to purchase all of her necessities from the ubiquitous vending machines which purportedly sell everything from underwear to electronics and more..]. Needless to say, the last time she came over, she ended up developing Tex Mex menus for Dixieland restaurants in Milan, training the kitchen staff to make Huevos Rancheros and Silver Dollar Pancakes (still on offer, I might add -- although they probably cost a silver dollar to eat them).
Her arrival sparked in me, however, a little Expat Shopping Spree. Having not been back to the USA for well over a year, I was in definite need of stuff. And, I'm very brand loyal. So, for any of you 'across the pond' who come visit us expats over here, here goes. My brother, for one, stocks up on yummy granola, kids' toothpaste and vitamins. This is not to say you can't find the items here (and Carrefour gets our vote), but, at nearly $12 for a little bottle of maple syrup, well, it's a lot less trouble to go to www.drugstore.com and let your fingers do the walking (and your friends do the carrying).
So, here's my short list of things I absolutely, positively, cannot live without (it goes without saying that we're talking family-sized containers, a concept that has not quite reached the continent):
Maple syrup - because here it costs more than truffles
Imitation vanilla - bottles here are sold for a family of lilliputians
Arrid Extra Dry - incredibly, boiling hot Europe offers either anti-perspirant or deodorant, and never the twain shall meet. I won't go into the net effect of this most outrageous practice.
Brown sugar - not cane, but soft, packed, thrice-refined, imperative for cookies, brown
Ghirardelli Brownie Mix - I know a caterer in London who brings it in by the case full -- there is no greater product on earth.
Bisquick -- for those Sunday a.m. pancakes - and don't let them fool you, Europeans love American breakfasts if it's put in front of them.
Aveeno lotion-- this is sold here, and prices on toiletries are nearly the same these days, but I still hold out for the family-size
Ditto for Johnson's Baby Oil, Nivea & other sundry items including Aquafresh (which, anyone coming to Europe will find the 'minty' taste has been altered -- turns out, they hate our mint, we theirs).
Starbucks chai tea packs - they don't sell the loose stuff over here (and thankfully, there are no Starbucks in Italy -- I think even the Italians will balk at a 4 euro latte)
Brita water filters -- can't find them at those prices over here!
Marshmallows -- just because
Hand-held dish scrubber sponges -- make great gifts too!
Altoids -- they say they come from England, but you won't find them over there (believe me, I've tried!)
Coffeemate & Folgers Instant when you want a cup o'Joe that's "good to the last drop" and decidedly not an espresso with lots of water added!
And, for those of you leaving Italy, always pack a huge family-sized Nutella jar, 'cuz you won't find 'em even that large at CostCo. Touchè.