The thing about weird food in other countries is that if you eat it often enough it stops being weird, it becomes regular and some of it even becomes new favourites.
When I first went to a British BBQ I looked at the sausages that appeared so different from the hot dogs or sausage patties I was used to and I had to hold fairly tightly onto my resolution to try everything at least once. I just wasn’t convinced they would be easy to eat. But at about the third bite I thought it could probably work. Not as a substitute but as something different to have. Now, twenty some years later, one of my favourite pub meals is sausages, mash and Yorkshire puddings. And if the pub gets the sausages from a specific butcher then I know the sausages will be especially good. See, I’ve even become a sausage connoisseur.
But although I have new favourites in Britain, I still love food from home. Sometimes I crave it because I just like the flavour and I crave it as anyone craves a flavour no matter where it comes from. And sometimes I crave it simply because of the emotional connotations–it’s from home and it’s fun to walk down memory lane.
I once posted on my previous blog, A Mid-Atlantic English that a Taco Bell had opened near me. I was excited (but being realistic, I know that chain restaurants taste different around the world). I wasn’t looking forward to sampling the haute cuisine Taco Bell had to offer; I was looking forward to the trip down memory lane. Most commenters understood and shared their similar experiences. But one reader took great exception to my being an expat and my celebrating the arrival of yet another American chain restaurant. I knew what she was trying to say, but I think she missed what I was trying to say. I wasn’t offering up any political statement, I was just thinking about all those years I worked at a taco joint through high school and I wanted to share that same feeling of excitement some expats get at the arrival of a memory trigger. It really was that basic. (As it was, the food was terrible, but I got to gaze at the sign and share my teenage taco-making stories with my friend while I sat in the food court eating the terrible food.)
Sometimes I think expats can get too militant about how they think fellow expats should experience the world, but other times I too feel a bit frustrated with close mindedness of some people.
I’m nearing the completion date of a small book of tips for expats (ideas for making the most of our life overseas) and one chapter is on food. New expat or seasoned traveller, you may find some of my tips for enjoying food overseas useful, and I’ve turned my chapter into an article, One of the best souvenirs from living overseas, for my regular column this month over at Expat Focus–and if you have any to add, that would be great!