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What should I send my sister living overseas?

My sister is living in Taiwan teaching English for a year. She missed good 'ol American food, but when I asked her what I could send her from home she couldn't really think of anything. Most packaged foods (candy, chips, etc.) is actually available there - it's the real food that she is longing for. I would be sending her a package via Priority mail, which would probably take a week or two to get to her. She does not cook very much but she does have a large toaster oven and some type of frying pot (she has tried explaining it to me but I don't understand what it it). Any fun ideas?

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  1. It's always the small things from home that you miss when you least expect it. Peanut butter, waffles, breakfast sausage, etc. I reckon there must be some brand names that she can't get in Taiwan to which she's partial. Maybe some Mint Milanos, Pringles or Hershey's chocolate syrup.

    8 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      My British colleagues like Mexican stuff (spices, peppers, etc), and peanut M&M's for some reason.

      An American who works for my company but lives in Germany makes sure that when someone goes to Europe on business, they bring Nestle's toll house morsels, as she can't find an equivalent there.

      1. re: coney with everything

        You mean she takes CHOCOLATE to Germany? I've heard everything.

        Hint: to make chocolate chips - chip them - or simply chop them up.

        1. re: lagatta

          Toll House cookes are not Toll House cookies without Toll House morsels - much as I agree with your general premise about the chocolate. I believe that MakingSense actually posted elsewhere about also bringing US flour and sugar from Miami to Latin America in order to replicate the Toll House cookie! There is something about living abroad - however wonderful, exciting and eye opening it is - that sometimes makes you crave things that taste "just like home."

          1. re: MMRuth

            Yep, I really did cart flour and sugar to Latin America just for Toll House Cookie for my kids - and the Nestle's chips too. Chipping chocolate does NOT work for the "authentic" thing if you grew up with them in the States and my kids knew the difference.
            I also bring Nestle's Toll House Morsels to our former au pairs in Europe every time I visit. They fell in love with the "real" Toll House Cookies here and just won't accept substitutes.
            This is NOT about chocolate, it's about Toll House Cookies.

            1. re: MakingSense

              So, to help the OP - are you sure Priority Mail takes that long? I wonder how a box of frozen Toll House Cookies made by you might fare!

              1. re: MMRuth

                Priority mail will likely take less than 5 business days. I often mail photographs overseas in the 10x12 GP cardboard mailers. If I mail on Friday, they often arrive in the UK by Monday and Hong Kong well within a week. Assuming that a larger box won't take any more time, you could reasonable expect the package to get to the Orient in less than a week. GP is very reliable.

                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Uh, depends on where you're mailing from, too. It can take a few days to get to whichever coast they go through, then depending on whether the recipient is in rural Taiwan or Taipei could make a difference. I'm still bitter about the priority mail packages that took four and six weeks to get from Seattle to Bhutan, USPS' estimate of 6 to 10 business days was WAYYYY off, it took ten days for one box to get to the east coast. I feel like my mail is not their priority after all, even for $37 postage, grrr.

                  Things I'm missing in landlocked Asia are good cheese, the variety of American supermarket produce, wine in bars...the kinds of things that don't ship.

            2. re: MMRuth

              I have lived in several countries. I'm sure there are things I miss from Qu├ębec but I'd have to give it a think...

      2. Please don't laugh but I've lived overseas and the darnedest things aren't available and when you miss them most are the holidays when you have to have those traditional foods that you only make once a year from the recipe on the back of the can.
        I know this will sound terribly un-Chowhound but it's only once a year...

        Canned Pumpkin for pie. The recipe uses Libby's canned pumpkin and evaporated milk. In some countries, you can't even find an acceptable substitute for American pumpkins and if she doesn't cook much she's not going to go beyond the back-of-the-can recipe anyway.
        Green Bean Casserole has to have French's Fried Onions and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup. Send along Libby's canned green beans anyway.
        Graham crackers for any other pie she might want to make. I have no idea why these are so hard to find outside of the USofA.
        Marshmallows for the sweet potatoes which she can probably find.
        Wild rice for a holiday meal. Even if you send the Uncle Ben's White and Wild mixed. It will be a nice change and if she has Asian friends for a holiday meal, it's a way to integrate their necessary rice into an American native grain product.
        Corn Bread Mix.
        Stuffing Mix.
        Canned Cranberry Sauce, whole and jellied.
        Canned whole corn and creamed corn with directions for a "corn pudding."
        Pecans or walnuts - whichever your family traditionally prefers.
        A packet of gravy mix. (OK, I know that stuff is pretty bad but she may not have any other way to make gravy and what's Thanksgiving without gravy?)
        Anything else your family always HAS to have.

        Your sister should be able to put together a pretty funny, half-way decent Thanksgiving meal for herself and a few American and Taiwanese friends with your CARE package and some chicken from the local market.
        I know some of this stuff sounds like dreadful convenience foods but sometimes for nostalgic holidays like T'giving, when you're far from home with friends who are also far from home, they make you feel a little less far away.

        4 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          Great ideas. When I lived overseas as a kid - and even though we hadn't yet lived in the States, only visited, we craved Wonderbread with Skippy peanut butter and oreos!

          1. re: MMRuth

            That sounds a lot like the list of items I missed as a kid overseas- Wonder Bread just had that spongy, light quality to it that did not exist in European sliced bread market- and Skippy peanut butter with GRAPE jelly. In Sweden, where I grew up, grape jelly did not exist, and we had to eat our PB sandwiches with strawberry jam. It's just not the same. We also had to bring back Duncan Hines cake mixes for all of our neighbors whenever we visited the States- they couldn't get enough of it!

            1. re: MakingSense

              All of the above can be found at Jason Supermarket located at the basement in Taipei 101. I don't underestand why people think peanut butter would be hard to find - it's on EVERY supermarket's shelves in Taiwan (Skippy brand). Everyone eats it.

              For more information on what can or cannot be found in Taiwan - visit http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan/viewfo...

              I strongly encourage your sister to spend some time on that forum. Very useful!

            2. Agree with MakingSense. My list for an American living overseas long enough to long but not long enough to forget: peanut butter, saurkraut, canned pumpkin, canned cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, can of Campbell's cream of mushroom, can of Chef Boyardee raviolli, cornmeal...

              Similarly, send me saurkraut, masaharina/masaseca, corn husks, peanut butter, aburage, frozen mochi, canned and packed Japanese vegetable pickles, ume, mole, canned cranberry sauces, dried mushrooms from everywhere, cheeses from Italy, dried fish, smoked fish, smoked eel, caviar, ........aaakkk!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                When I lived in Rome, it was peanut butter, American jelly (alas no longer as good since they introduced corn syrup) and graham crackers. Popping corn, too.

              2. When I was in Europe my favorite things to get in care packages were peanut butter, maple syrup, marshmallows, Reeses' and Girl Scout cookies.

                1. Having lived overseas I can relate to the elation of getting care packages from home. Now my daughter lives overseas and the torch has passed to me to be the shipper. Some of the things she craves are bottles of various hot sauces, jars of nopales, bags of masa, Patak's curries, and cans of thai curry paste to name a few.

                  Each breakable item is wrapped in bubble wrap and all items go into individual foodsaver bags. That way, if anything breaks, there is no leakage.

                  A few weeks ago, I vacuum packed some sliced Jamon de Serrano (prohibited to send to their locations) and placed it in a false bottom I created in the shipping box. The vacuum packaging keeps the aroma from being detected and they didn't seem to notice the false bottom of the box.

                  1. What a nice sibling! 5 years ago when I was living in Japan, my mom sent me a stuffing mix. It is easy enough to get celery and onions and butter. Now that I'm here again I ask for things like different kinds of mustards (here I can only find french), cheerios, gum (orbitz), and kashi granola bars. My brother always asks for pepperoni. I don't know if your sister likes Mac and cheese, but box type things and are light to ship and easy for her to prepare might be fun. Oh, I thought of one other thing. We always used to get handmade chocolates from a local shop near my house growing up, so I ask for those chocolates during holidays. We can get great imported chocolate here, but I miss the local things. If you have any kind of local goods from your area, it would be great to send her those to remind her of home. Oh and as someone mentioned before, I ask for spices. For some reason I can't find tarragon here.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: taryn

                      I lived in Japan for 10 years and I remember the time my MIL sent me some avacados. Two things we couldn't get in Japan were avacados (about 4 buck each on the economy) and cilantro.

                      Now my daughter sends me Georgia canned coffee, Meiji chocolate almonds, and weird flavors of Calbe potato chips.

                      1. re: bkhuna

                        Sometimes it is still hard to find cilantro, but I bought a plant at a nursery this summer, so I am growing my own now. I send home Meiji chocolate almonds too :)

                    2. So many great ideas! Please keep them coming! I really like the Thanksgiving meal suggestion. I need to pin her down and figure out what she can get there. She lives in a fairly large, modern city in Taiwan.

                      I looked on the USPS website - it says Priority Mail takes 6-10 business days. It would be great if it happened to get there sooner - but I am going to err on the side of caution and assume that whatever I send her will get to her 2 weeks later.

                      I remember when I spent a couple months overseas, my sister-in-law sent us Ranger cookies, which were such a delight. Can anyone recommend a cookie or baked good that I can make and won't be stale by the time it gets to her 2 weeks later?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: seconds

                        When I was in Honduras...an island off of Honduras actually, I missed beef. Really good beef...and vegetables! I craved a great salad.

                        1. re: seconds

                          coconut macaroons...anything with lots of moisture

                        2. When my son taught English in China, the one thing he missed most was cheese.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: PeterL

                            Yes, that has also been my families' experience. Dairy products in general and cheese in particular. Don't know if you can ship that though.

                          2. 10 years ago my cousin lived in Japan. He most missed goldfish crackers, fig newtons,
                            Hellman's mayo, and a brand of cinnamon flavored chewing gum whose name escapes me.

                            1. Taiwan is an affluent and developed country and my suspicion is that EVERYTHING is available there, but many particular American products like say a box of stove top stuffing, can of cranberry sauce, etc. are really expensive there because they are imported. If she were in a developing country, she would be missing out on a lot, but not in Taiwan.

                              I know you want to surprise her, but perhaps it wouldn't hurt to ask in this case.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                I can't speak for Taiwan but assuming just because a country is affluent that they will have American products is possibly incorrect. I live in Canada which is affluent & right next to the US. You would think we would have most American products but sadly....No.

                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                  Imports are expensive and they're also in limited supply. It's doubtful that the OP's sister has a regular craving for cranberry sauce (who does?) so when she suddenly realizes she's going to do T'giving for a few friends, it might have all disappeared from shelves.
                                  I was suggesting doing a Thanksgiving CARE package of the corny traditional foods that sort of cross regional and cultural preferences in the US.
                                  An instant Taste of Home for people far away on a holiday. Not gourmet but they'll laugh.

                                  Even in the most developed countries, people miss their homelands. Europeans can't find things in the US; we can't find things in Europe. It's the strangest small things that you don't expect until you or your kids want them and they are nowhere to be found in the entire country you're living in. You never expect it until you're stuck without it.

                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                    I know that there used to be a significant American military presence in Taiwan, don't know if that's still true. But where there are American military families, there is a commissary with ALMOST everything you'd find in a typical American grocery store.

                                    My dad was career military, and when we lived in Germany, the commissary had everything except SweetTarts and red licorice. Guess what everyone craved and had their friends send when they went back home...

                                    1. re: coney with everything

                                      Usually though non-military personel don't have access - we lived in Germany and father didn't work for the military and we coveted the American lunches brought by the military kids (went to the military school).

                                  2. Old Bay seasoning! However, we just tried to send some to Australia and customs confiscated it for some reason.
                                    we will keep trying!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: nosey

                                      "Do what I say, or I'll season you...so help me, I'm desperate, I'll do it!"

                                      Did you try mailing them or carrying them on a plane?

                                      My boss had a sealed, small can of jalapeno peppers confiscated while trying to take them to England on a plane . What can you do?

                                    2. Maple products may not be available there. Vermont Country Store has some powdered maple that you add water to; would be easy to send. Pure maple sugar candy shapes. Real maple sugar....Actually, when I lived abroad as a girl what I longed for was American soda crackers (saltines) but they may not fare well in mailing...we used to beg them from visiting American Navy ships when we took on-board tours.

                                      1. This might sound really weird, as it's not food, per se....but plastic wrap/foil/zip top bags/tuperware.

                                        When I lived in Europe (my sister, as well), these products were really expensive. I like to cook with the intention of leftovers for lunch or whatnot, and having these things around is really important....but, they are really expensive and/or not available easily everywhere.

                                        So one or two of those things might help her keep what she does cook, fresh - including ingredients and leftovers.

                                        ETA: for what it's worth, my friends in denmark always ask for organic peanut butter.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Jeserf

                                          We have plastic wrap...that sticks to itself and nothing else. We have ziplock bags that never zip shut.

                                          1. re: Jeserf

                                            That's funny you should mention that. My wife's cousing from Belgium can to visit us and she loaded up on Zip-lock bags to take home. Said they were too expensive in Belgium.

                                            1. re: bkhuna

                                              That's because people in other countries actually care about the environment and try to limit their use on plastic bags by charging an arm and a leg for them.

                                              1. re: lydiainflorida

                                                ..pst...i care about the environment, but food storage (i.e. not wasting food) is not limited to plastic wrap - reusable containers are a good thing to send, too. When I put herbs in a plastic ziptop bag, I reuse the bag a few times before recycling. Foil is also recyclable.

                                                They cost a lot because 1) they are imported and 2) there's a VAT on everything.

                                          2. Some great ideas already....

                                            Cannot stress peanut butter enough. Overseas has gotten better in the last 10 years about this, but it's always a great idea.

                                            Mallomars or other fluff/marshmallow-type substance

                                            Maple sugar/candy/syrup


                                            1. It really depends on what her comfort foods are. During the times that I've lived in Europe, I've found myself craving things that I actually didn't eat regularly at home, but that were major comfort foods -- chocolate chip cookies, for example, as others have said. I had people send me bags of Ghiradelli chocolate chips (my favorite) and I made them at home.

                                              I'm a Californian, so burritos and other Mexican food were also high on my cravings list. My family sent me tortillas and various chili powders that are impossible to find in Europe.

                                              Find out what she wants when she's feeling homesick, then think of what you'd have to send for her to be able to make it at home. Living abroad is a great time to get into home cooking -- it definitely had that effect for me!

                                              1. Thanks for all the great ideas! I sent her a package today. I tried to get her to tell me what she would like, but she didn't give me much feedback. Lydiainflorida, that link to the Taiwan forum was extremely helpful - it helped me realize that she has access to a lot of American food there. I ended up not doing a Thanksgiving meal package because she can get a lot of those items there, even though I loved the idea.

                                                I went to the grocery store and picked up some random American things that it looked like she can't get over there - Craisins, Jello chocolate pudding mix, those single serving Crystal Light packets, Ranch dressing packets, Kashi granola bars, a jar of Grey Poupon, a few packets of fancy cocoa mix, Jelly Belly beans, and a Dove chocolate bar. I also made some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and wrapped them individually in plastic wrap - I'll have to ask her if they are totally stale or not when she gets them. I also packed a book, a candle, and a pretty candle holder and put those in there too (and a homemade card telling her how much I love her!). Everything was put into Ziploc bags so that the scents don't mingle and in case anything breaks. I will post a follow-up after she gets it and let you know what went over well and what didn't (hopefully she will tell me!).

                                                Thanks again for helping me get my creative juices flowing!