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Feb 16, 2008 05:56 PM

If you live in Europe, what American products do you crave? [Moved from International board]

We are about to visit relatives in the Netherlands and would like to bring some food products for them. But given that most things seem to taste better over there, we're not sure what to bring! What American products do you crave when not in the U.S.? We live in California, so one thing we thought of bringing was avocados. And we know that our relatives like American-style peanut butter. Other than that, we're stumped. Any ideas?

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  1. Check before you take fresh fruits or vegetables anywhere; they could well be confiscated. Avocadoes aren't rare in Northern Europe, they seem to come from Israel or southern Europe, depending on the season.

    I'm surprised about the peanut butter, because pindakaas is very common in the Netherlands, and doesn't seem very different. (I only eat the peanuts-only kind, which is obviously similar at natural-food shops on either side of the pond, but the type with sugar and hydrogenated oils exists there too, in all supermarkets).

    How about some quality organic products - challenging the often-held comment that people in the US (and to some extent here - I live in Montréal so I'm not US American, but North American) eat crap? There are many lovely Californian products - you might even take a bottle of quality Californian wine if they like wine, or olive oil.

    Of course from my parts I always am expected to take a tin of maple syrup, but that isn't remotely local for you.

    11 Replies
    1. re: lagatta

      I moved to Portugal a month ago; I'm blind, makes grocery shopping so much harder since I don't know what exactly is available, & I don't speak Portuguese. My husband, though, also blind at least works for a grocery chain, & ofcourse, speaks the language. I kept asking for things I couldn't get, & have been making more homemade things, & just asked for peanutbutter. Simple, right??? NOT! Now, maybe another grocery here has it, not ours. I'm going to make it home made. Also, asking for pickles seamed too easy. Pickles means pickled veggies here. coliflour, carrots, etc. Still learning.

      1. re: autumnabroad

        wow. that would be a matter of game change.

        I've been studying xhtml and recently realized the subtleties of the new coding for TTY/TDD interface. I can only imagine. the new coding makes a lot of sense, but still it has to be difficult.

        pickled cauliflower and carrots? hey - that's practically the relish for a good muffaletta sandwich!

        1. re: hill food

          Are you referring to phone systems for the hearing-impaired? & OMG!!! Muffaletta??? I didn't think of that, my brain is fried from all this. He doesn't like many veggies, which doesn't help, but wonder if I can get away with that; maybe tonight after a grooling session of grocery shopping. Thanks for the ides.

          1. re: autumnabroad

            I thought it was more or less the same technology that translated the written word to spoken or onto a braille touch pad.

            I clearly still have a lot to learn.

            muffaleta - if you can't find a good bread for it in Portugal, you're just shit out of luck. (smirk)

            1. re: hill food

              Haven't investigated all the breads, Gill lit some chorizo (sp) over alcohol last night, he says it's not the best, I didn't care for it, but I've made french toast with cream cheese & fresh strawberries which he loves. You're no doubt correct about the technology. I have a Mac with voiceover, so no expensive JAWS software to buy. Do you know about Dragon Speak? Is that along the same lines?

              1. re: autumnabroad

                will put it on my list. I fully believe in universal access to all things. (used to study architecture)

                so this is going a bit off-topic, but I'm curious what you hear in the translation, are punctuation marks like parentheses or dashes carried over?

                I ask to be sure my communication is clear. and I AM still learning a lot.

                as a comparison, the old html code for BOLD or ITALIC has changed to comply with the voiceover capability. but now I'm thinking, that is easy compared to some things. does it pick up on superceded code? this place isn't html enabled so it's not an issue here. but I do wonder.

                sorry. I didn't want to put you on the spot. one never knows who reads this, but its never a bad idea to be aware of who might. funny as the biggest gripe about misunderstandings on the web are it's a written medium, but I'm guessing for you it's spoken, only it could be Steven Hawking.

                on topic - pickled veg on anything sounds good to me.

                1. re: autumnabroad

                  We removed some discussion of adaptive technology from this thread since it was getting really far afield for our site, but if anyone wants a copy of their posts (or all the removed posts on that topic), please email us at and we'll pass them along.

                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                    understood and fair enough. sorry, we were getting OT for here.

        2. re: autumnabroad

          Interesting -- I have to go to a Portuguese grocery to buy affordable peanut butter in France, so I would have assumed it would be easy to buy the stuff in Portugal.. Go figure!

          1. re: sunshine842

            Well, our store is Tinco Dose, & he says we'd have better luck at Continente. (please excuse incorrect spelling). I'll just try making the peanutbutter, though. BTW, surprised at the lack of adventurous food choices in France.

            1. re: autumnabroad

              Adventurous (non-French) food is available, but you have to learn how and where to find it.

              there are plenty of French foods that would be considered adventurous to other cultures!

      2. Avocados and American-style peanut butter are easy to find in Europe. For me, I miss having poblano chiles, tomatillos and meyer lemons. Dry masa is available (though expensive) but fresh masa is not. But for someone else it could that what they really really want is a pack of twinkies. One woman I know always brought back a bunch of kraft mac n' cheese. Why not ask them if they can think of anything? If they are foodie types you can also ask if they are interested in any of the cookbooks that have come out recently in english, or kitchen gadgets, which tend to be cheaper in the US.

        1. How about some good quality bacon? I find bacon to be rather expensive in Germany -- not sure what it's like in the Netherlands, though.

          1. Suggestions: masaharina for making tortillas and tamales, corn husks, dried chilis; nori, California Japanese rice, Asian piclked vegetables, ume, soba noodles, fish sauce, aburage; raisins, peanut butter, common US candy bars, DVDs of fave US cooking/food shows.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              While the Mexican foods you mention might be an option, I'd be rather suprised if the most of the Asian ingredients weren't readily available in the many Asian grocery stores in the Netherlands. And raisins? You're kidding, right? '-)

              1. re: linguafood

                Isn't there something special about California raisins? They sing and dance, right? Seriously, if you find some high quality local product, even if it's something "ordinary" like dried fruits and nuts (pistachios!), it will be appreciated. And like Behemoth, I would also suggest just asking them. You might learn something surprising/disturbing about these relatives, and you won't end up bringing them a suitcase full of tamale-making ingredients that they have no idea what to do with.

                I always ask for candy corn. And nobody ever brings me any.

                1. re: DeppityDawg

                  Ha, candy corn is actually a good call. I always send my husband the most tacky Hallowe'en and Valentine's day candy I can find if I am in the US during that time of year. It doesn't help our culinary reputation any, but I think his colleagues are always really amused.

                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                    haha! when I lived in germany I had a friend bring me mellowcreme pumpkins...I also missed ranch dressing(meh, i was a college student). For the most part though, now that I'm back in the USA I miss stuff I ate in Germany more than I ever missed stuff from home. Jar sundried tomato time I go back I'm bringing a suitcase full home! I also miss how cheap my grocery bill used to seem...even with the conversion to euros.

                  2. re: linguafood

                    Indonesian items are readily available. Any Japanese goods seem really expensive, albeit available. Raisins are available, but California raisins are better and much less expensive.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Our late friend Sam was right. Japanese goods, while available, are luxuries. Indonesian and Chinese foods (probably Sino-Indonesian in many cases) are very common, even in supermarkets. Even small supermarkets have a shelf of them.

                      I want to point out a slight word of warning for this reason. The most common soya sauce in the Netherlands is sweet Indonesian sauce. You can buy Japanese and Chinese types as well, but check the label first.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        Conversely, if you want Dutch products in the USA, look at the Indonesian section of an Asian grocery. That especially applies to Dutch chocolate items.

                2. Definitely ask them, because it depends on country/region and the person.

                  I crave black beans. I can't find them at all in my region in France. My family has also sent and/or brought me pancake mix, tomatillos (canned), Mexican spices, Japanese rice, miso, nori, certain soup mixes and cans/boxes of chicken stock (hard to find in France, surprisingly).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mcdon


                    I had to laugh about the chicken stock. We have friends who live in Paris, and when we visit we like to cook dinner for them one night. I was amazed that I could not get chicken stock, and had to use bouillon cubes. I also could not find fresh sage. Luckily I did find some packaged from Provence, which were whole leaves and not completely dry, but still not like fresh which I can get in supermarkets in the U.S. We like to think the French are so sophisticated when it comes to food, but they are really not all that adventurous with things that are not traditionally used in French cooking.

                    1. re: rrems

                      And yet chicken stock and sage are very much used in French cooking. Perhaps "real" cooks make their own - I do, but then I mostly work at home, and stock is something you can have going in the kitchen while writing on the computer at the other end of the apartment or house. (Though yes, years ago I DID have a disaster when working to a tight deadline, so I won't make it then). It seems to me that I've seen the packaged stock - such as Knorr - in French supermarkets.

                      But indeed, not all French people are gourmet cooks by any means.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        I don't know if it is the case in France, but in Germany I was initially thrown off by the format. Ready-made stock comes in glass jars. Another good tip (at least in Germany), is that you can often buy stock at a butcher shop.

                    2. re: mcdon

                      McDon -- do a search and see if you can find a Portuguese grocery. I realize that here in the Paris region it's easier, but there's a Portuguese grocery near me that carries all kinds of foods that folks accustomed to Latin/Caribbean influences might miss. An African grocery might have a good choice, as well.

                      Try some of the online groceries, might be able to get some shipped....and if that still doesn't work, maybe we can work out a way I can put a kilo or two in La Poste for you.