“What foods do you miss?” one of my students asked me. It gave me great pause . . . I couldn’t think of anything.
“Well, I miss the chocolate balls I used to make, but that’s because we don’t have a food processor, not because I don’t have the ingredients,” I said.
But I kept thinking about it. Are there foods I miss? We’ve been here in Spain for five months and it takes me some time to even remember what kinds of foods we ate back in the US.
And so when Michael and I noticed the Taste of America store a mere three minute walk from our apartment, I had two thoughts:
- If such a store existed, were we living in a place that had too many Americans?
- What were the things that Americans missed so much that there was an entire (albeit small) store dedicated to them?
At first I didn’t want to go in. “I can’t think of a single thing I’d want!” But Michael thought I was being ridiculous.
And then he said the magic words: Aren’t you just a little bit curious?
Well, yes, about many things. But didn’t we come here to experience Spain, not replicate our lives in America? But let’s be honest. One look wouldn’t kill me.
The first thing I noticed were all the cereals. You know: the ones I wasn’t even allowed to eat as a child because they had too much sugar in them. Lucky Charms. Fruit Loops. Frosted Mini-Wheats.
And then I noticed the prices. “Even if I did miss these things, I wouldn’t pay 10€ ($11.35) for a box of cereal!” I told Michael. But curiosity pulled me further in.
When I saw the Jif Peanut Butter (7€), I was reminded of my first walk on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Along a path through a farm, beside a barn, David the Trail Angel had a wooden cart with fruits and drinks. No prices–just leave a donation if you can. When I approached, he asked where I was from. “United States,” I said.
“I have peanut butter!” he proudly exclaimed. I screwed up my face as I had no idea why this was significant. “The other Americans I meet are all excited to hear I have peanut butter. You can’t find peanut butter in Spain,” he explained.
“Oh. I had no idea. I haven’t missed it,” I said, helping myself to a banana, just a little bit proud for a moment that I wasn’t like “other Americans.”
Back in the Taste of America store (whose logo includes a steaming pie, which I can only assume to be apple. . . ) I saw the Pop-tarts (6.5€) and the candy, which made me wonder about the clientele of this shop. Maybe it was for those parents who moved here with children? Did they bring their kids here as a reward when the kids behaved? If you’re good, we’ll go to the American store and get you some candy . . . Indeed our local supermarket’s cash registers have nary a candy bar in sight.
Next to catch my eye were Toll House chocolate chips (6.9 €). Perhaps for the couple who retired here whose grandkids are visiting and eagerly awaiting grandma’s chocolate chip cookies?
After a few minutes of roaming past Stonewall Kitchen jams, Briana’s salad dressings, and a Jelly Belly jelly beans dispenser, I declared, “Okay. I get it. I’m good.”
“You don’t want anything?” Michael asked.
“Nope.” The frugal angel on my shoulder whispered, And even if you did, it wouldn’t be worth these prices!
But that was a few months ago.
Since then, Michael and I have decided to host a potluck Thanksgiving for seven American friends.
When one of them asked about finding pumpkin in order to make a pumpkin cheesecake, I told her about the roasted pumpkins I saw in the mercado (our local indoor farmers market).
“She can’t use that,” Michael said. “Who knows how it will turn out?” I thought it would be a fun experiment. Michael didn’t agree. “Taste of American probably has the canned stuff,” he said.
Next on our list: cranberry sauce. One of Michael’s most favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. My homemade kind? Nope. “I need the one with the ridges around it,” he told me.
As we didn’t think canned cranberry sauce was a thing we’d find in our local supermarket, let alone the one in the ridged can, we headed to Taste of America. Ocean Spray Whole Berry cranberry sauce? Yep. 4.90€. But Michael likes the jellied kind. He inquired. Nope. They don’t have it. So he picked up the Whole Berry version. “You’re going to pay $5 for cranberry sauce?!” I asked.
“How much is it in the US?”
“I think you can get a can for a dollar on sale.”
“So four more dollars for Thanksgiving. It’s not a big deal.”
We also picked up pumpkin pie spice and 100% pure (canned. . . ) pumpkin for Michael’s pumpkin bread. And some Thanksgiving themed paper dessert plates (because we actually don’t have enough dishware to host this event).
After leaving the store, I realized I had the answer to the question “Who buys things here?”
Apparently, we do.