You'd think I would have already covered this topic since I've been away for five months. In a sense I resisted it because, well, what is the benefit to thinking that which cannot be mine until June? But when friends asked me about what they could send to ease my cravings I found myself at a loss. Sure there were many foods which I would love to taste again but I have grown so accustomed to the foods here that nothing seemed to be missing in my palette. As the year progressed there were times when all I wanted was my mom's homemade peanut butter and a spoon or Zippy's chili (those from Hawaii will understand) and there was a certain challenge to adjusting to the food; as delicious as it is not once have I had a meal prepared precisely like one I was used to. Though the ingredients are the same, nearly all domestic dishes are different than anything I've had in the states. However globalization's effects are definitely visible in both what is available and what is prepared.
My host mom in Novi Sad talked about the sanctions that were enforced just ten years ago which didn't allow for any import or export. This meant no supermarkets and only purchasing produce at the pijaca (green/farmers markets), bread at the pekara (bakery), and meat from the butcher. Though this traditional and sustainable way of living is still very much a reality, when my host mom is in need of packaged goods she doesn't refrain from taking advantage of Mercartor or Tempo, two chains of supermarkets in Serbia. I took a while to make this point but another reason for my lack of cravings is that so much is available here. Thrice we made chocolate chip cookies and though they don't sell chocolate chips by the bag we just cut up baking chocolate. Sure they don't have chocolate chip cookies, or any kind of cookie for that matter, that you can buy packaged or fresh from the pekara or supermarkets because for some reason cookies haven't reached the Balkans or are simply not popular, God help them, but when we felt the urge for these treats we whipped them up ourselves.
Those three instances were the only times was in the kitchen preparing something not Serbian. I'm unfortunately not a very good cook but in both my homestays I've asked to be included in the cooking/baking to learn about how their food is prepared and so at least once a week I help or rather hopefully don't hinder work being done in the kitchen and I really enjoy doing this. Oftentimes the foods prepared are variations of what you can find in America: the pljeskavica is a much better form of a hamburger. When purchased at a street stand it is sandwiched between a roll much better than the hamburger bun but at kafanas (domestic restaurants) it's served traditionally without a bun and is sometimes stuffed with bacon, cheese, and various condiments. Their pica (... pizza) is baked dough with ketchup as sauce, ham, cheese, and mushrooms and once it's on the plate more ketchup is spread along the top with senf (mustard) or pavlaka (sour cream), upon request. Boston's pizza is greatly missed (a Hawaii reference oddly enough) but this style has grown on me so I no longer have to be asked if I want to add the extra layer of ketchup.
Additionally our friends and family have been very generous in sending us both Skippy and Jif peanut butter, oreos, butterfingers, and twinkies, and I've received much appreciated packages with assortments of Wholesale Unlimited purchases, li hing and the like. On occasion we'll see candybars such as Twix and Kit-Kats on market shelves and we've been greatly disappointed with what we've found. Both candy bars were less sweet than in America and they weren't simply different, they tasted terrible. It really puzzles me as to why because I always thought companies like that succeeded because they found that one inscrutable formula and mass-produced it. Maybe the European recipe caters to their population?
I've been documenting foods I've craved and I've compiled a comprehensive list of them all which is probably not of interest to anyone else but since I made it I figured I might as well attach it to this related post:
Peanut butter, li hing (local Hawaii treat), bagels, cream cheese, french toast, toast, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, everything that my mom makes, fudge, peppermint bark, pop tarts, twix that taste like twix, nutter butters, cheese-its, fruit/cinnamon gum (there's only mint here), reeces, butterfinger, swedish fish, choices of cereal, oreos, spicy-sweet korean chicken, teriaki anything, chilli -- zippys, scrambled eggs, mom's omlette, cupcakes, funfetti, Bostons pizza, english muffins, bread pudding, lemon bars, macaroni and cheese, thick pancakes, maple syrup, pumpkin pie, mexican food, Thai curry, sticky rice, shave ice, spam spam spam spam spam spam, spam musubis, sweet and sour stir fry, bentos, ramen, miso soup, soy sauce, manapua, Hawaiian sweet bread, butter mochi, the cookie corner chocolate chip cookie, caramel cuts, scones, guava, dim sum, malasadas--yes I'm aware carnival is coming up and that would bring a whole new set of cravings, chocolate molten cake, crab cake, frozen yogurt, muffins, pretzelmaker, panda express orange chicken
Gosh this isn't even all of it but I'm sure you get the picture. I know as soon as I have one bite of an American pancake I am going to wish it was a light, thin palacinka and that applies to a lot of these. It's not so much about the quantity but just having that familiar taste again. Oh what growing up in America's consumer culture does to the taste buds.
In missing these foods I have come up with an answer to the question I posed in the first paragraph. The benefit of recognizing that you miss something is that you appreciate it more in its absence. This is true for everything; being, in a sense, deprived of those things, places, and people for an extended period makes your gratification of them expand like you wouldn't think possible!