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Mar 21, 2007 05:32 PM

Non-perishable food that's hard to find in Switzerland

International Chowhounds, I need your expertise! My sister moved to Basel a while back and I want to send her a care package of things that are hard to find in Switzerland. (I live in NYC and so did she until recently.) So far my list includes nori seaweed, dried Thai noodles, adobo seasoning, vanilla essence (apparently it's mostly sold as beans in Basel), and peanut butter. Can you add anything to the list? Non-food suggestion are welcome, too.

Thank ye kindly.

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  1. Are you sure about peanut butter? I've certainly encountered it in neighbouring Germany and France.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lagatta

      Nope, not at all. I just thought my sister had mumbled something about its scarcity during a phone conversation once. I could be completely wrong.

      1. re: cimui

        it's not Jiffy, but we can get peanut butter here in Geneva -- it even says "made in the USA" on it, which amuses me highly.

    2. Does she have a set of non-metric measuring spoons/cups for all her old
      recipes? It can be a real drag converting for the first year or two.

      Vanilla extract is *the* important missing feature. Get her the biggest bottle you can.
      Normally it's sold as vanilla sugar over there which doesn't translate well into
      her old recipes.

      Peanut butter is easily available but a lot more expensive and somewhat of an
      oddity. Maybe filling the same niche over there that Nutella does here.

      A six-pack of Bud would go over *very* well. If not with your sister then with
      her friends. No, I'm serious.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

        B-b-but German beer is so much better! Bud? Seriously?! I plan to send three XXXtra large bottles of vanilla extract. =) Thanks!

        1. re: cimui

          Vanilla extract is finally available in most of the major grocery stores. I'd save your space for chocolate chips, which are hard to find (and expensive when you find them).

          1. re: mousecatfish

            Good to hear vanilla extract is finally making an appearance. Life should
            be much better over there now :) Lack of chocolate chips is somewhat
            easily remedied with a chocolate bar and a knife. Three "american" things
            I would routinely make for friends while living in southern Germany, which
            for the most part were otherwise very rare, were chocolate chip cookies
            (made with chopped chocolate bars), brownies, and pumpkin pie. The latter,
            from various sorts of squashes, never really came out as the standard
            cliche'd Can-o-Libby's Thankgiving Pie, but usually went over great. So
            maybe a can or two of pumpkin (unless that's available nowadays too?).

            And yes, I'm serious about the Bud. Not for the taste factor but for the
            novelty, side-by-side comparisons, and the like.

            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

              not a single can of pumpkin in sight. very frustrating.

              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                to avoid injuring myself, what would you suggest as the best way to take a knife to a chocolate bar?

              2. re: mousecatfish

                Can you tell me where you have seen vanilla extract in Basel? Here visiting my daughter and we're having brownie cravings. Thanks!

          2. I live in Geneva (not too far from Basel) and all of those things are available here. Peanut butter is especially easy (available in regular supermarkets). There is also a store called here American Market where she could stock up on root beer, Karo syrup, Jiffy Pop, graham crackers, marshmallow fluff etc. should she feel the urge. And there is an online grocery ( that delivers anywhere in Switz. and has some international items. So the care package is a nice idea but she can also pick up items on weekends in Geneva or online!

            1 Reply
            1. re: FrogsLegs

              I never thought of marshmallow fluff as being uniquely American. How embarrassing.

            2. I don't know how the customs work, but if your sister is a carnivore if you could smuggle in a vacuum packaged steak, it would be great. I have friends who live in Geneva, and they told me that meat there costs a fortune. They buy it in France, but still it is not as affordable as here.

              1 Reply
              1. re: welle

                Yeah, my sister's said the same, but honestly, meat's just something better bought locally. She claims the meat all tastes better there, anway, but I appreciate the suggestion.

              2. Ingredients for Mexican food are still pretty hard to get in Europe. I once took two packages of big flour tortillas to England for a burrito-craving ex-California girl.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Hmm, I like this idea. But do you think I could ship tortillas (corn in this case) in a box? Wonder how long it lasts unrefrigerated.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Seriously. I miss flour tortillas. and Cheddar cheese. And black beans -- I find it incomprehensible that I can't get black beans in Switzerland.

                    1. re: mousecatfish

                      Oh yeeeah, I forgot about the Cheddar. My sister's definitely missing that. I could send her cheddar cheese powder, but I'm not sure that's what she wants....

                      Black beans are easily transportable--thanks for this! Are you still in Switzerland? Want me to send you some, too?

                      1. re: cimui

                        i know you can get cheddar through customs when you travel, not sure what the rules are for shipments. i think you can get something similar to cheddar in some of the farmers markets or carrefour or whatever, but it's definitely not the same. and don't even get me started on monterey jack...

                        cheddar cheese powder like the stuff in the blue boxes of macaroni and cheese?

                        one thing about switzerland is they may have cup-a-noodles and some similar stuff, but they definitely don't generally go in for the "just add water" items...

                        yup, still living in Switzerland, land of chocolate (but not in chip form) and cheese (just not cheddar). with packages like you're assembling, it sounds like chrismukkah.

                      2. re: mousecatfish

                        no tortillas and cheddar cheese? seriously, my boyfriend and I are planning on moving out of the US after we get married. Switzerland is top on our list. What can we look forward to foodwise in Switzerland?

                        1. re: ceejoi

                          Switzerland is FAMOUS for cheese. Gruyère and Emmenthal (among others) can certainly substitute for cheddar cheese. They are not exactly the same, nor should they be.

                          Indeed I'd think Mexican and other Latin-American foods are relatively unknown. Tortilla chips are common everywhere, as are the crappy US-Americanised tortillas.

                          The really good cooking from the US, such as good Soutthern, Southwestern, or California cuisine, is hard to export, like all authentic cuisines, unless there is a sizeable emigrant community.