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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 moderators@chowhound.com 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 pesto...next 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

                    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, too...you 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.

                    3. posh english lady wanted hershey's cocoa to make brownies. yes, hershey's cocoa!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alkapal

                        makes sense. brits probably have dutched cocoa.

                      2. I really used to miss crunchy cheetos. And Reese's pb cups. And Kraft dinner.

                        All foods I try to avoid nowadays. ah, childhood -- sigh

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: linguafood

                          I've lived in Europe for the past 5 years (UK, France, Czech Rep) and i suggest you bring items that have a long shelf life and can be enjoyed well after you've visited and items that pack easily. Finally, bring a good recipe for ranch and/or blue cheese dressings. A couple tips and sure fire expat needs are:
                          -Frank's Red Hot and or other hot sauces
                          -Reese's PB cups
                          -Steal cut oats
                          -Rye Whisky
                          -Twizzlers
                          -Cilantro
                          -Marshmallow and graham crackers
                          -Kids here love the plethora of American fruit snacks Fruit Roll ups, gushers etc. take them out of the box and they pack well.
                          -A can of Pabst so they realize how good the beer they're drinking really is.

                          1. re: braniganlee

                            I'm very surprised that you were unable to find cilantro (not native to the Americas, by the way) in Arab or Vietnamese/Chinese shops in large French cities, or in South Asian or East Asian shops in the UK. I have certainly bought it in Paris, and also in Amsterdam.

                            I don't get the oats thing, with respect to the UK. Of course they have steel-cut oats.

                            1. re: lagatta

                              some people dont realize cilantro and coriander are the same thing

                              1. re: kpaxonite

                                they are the same plant, except cilantro is the leaf and coriander is the seed and have somewhat different flavors and uses.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  but you can find fresh cilantro in the produce section of most groceries...but it's labeled Coriandre.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    good to know, maybe there's a different name for the seed there? or is it maybe not used? (doubtful) when I was living in Europe I was surrounded by astoundingly unadventurous eaters.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Nope, the jar in my spice cupboard says Coriandre (grains moulu -- ground seeds), too. (had to go look!)

                                      You just have to know the difference, I guess...French recipes call for a stem of coriandre, or a cuillere a cafe (a teaspoon) of coriandre...which I guess logically dictates which one you use.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        that would make sense, stem or leaf versus seed or ground.

                            2. re: braniganlee

                              q control on reese's has gone downhill. check ppl for allergies before sending...

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                Just wanted to agree with this. I finally got some cany bars last night, Mars bars, tasted pretty good since it's been awhile, but Reece's PB Cups have been tasting pretty bad for years now, center is really powdery & just nasty.

                          2. Have no idea about Europe, but whenever I go to Korea, I must bring Oh Boy Oberto Beef Jerky, JIF peanut butter, and American candy (i.e., snickers, sweettarts, skittles, sour patch kids, etc.) to my friends relatives (per their request)...

                            1. Dried cranberries and sour cherries!

                              1. My American aunt that lives in Spain begs me for chocolate chips and marshmellows.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Anna323

                                  I was also going to say chocolate chips--an American in our company who lives in Germany asks for them whenever anyone here is going over.

                                    1. re: bropaul

                                      Strangely, there were bags of marshmallows in the market in Cairo.

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        In Egypt/the Middle East - they are big on marshmallows - but they do not taste the same at all. Different kind of gelatin used, different texture. American marshmallows are still definitely a treat when you're in the Middle East.

                                  1. Steak that I've had at Outback in the US far exceeds steak that I've had all over Europe.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      That's been my experience in the 6 or so countries I've visited. I was most surprised the first time I was in Ireland. I recently watched Bobby Flay's Saint Patrick's Day special where he went on and on about how good the beef is in Ireland because the grasses are so lush. That's what you'd think, right? But I've not found it to be the case. He said they import a lot of their steak. WTF? I also thought the steak quality was poor in Italy and France last summer. I came home CRAVING red meat.

                                      1. re: southernitalian

                                        A friend of mine from Italy told me that his father ate steak when he came to the US everyday.

                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                          Millions and millions of Italians moved to Argentina precisely to eat steak everyday. Italy has very little grazing land; that is why cattle are slaughtered as grain veal, not beef.

                                          1. re: lagatta

                                            It never would have occurred to me, but that makes perfect sense. I always thought veal and Italian food was a preference rather than a practicality.

                                    2. Whenever I go back home to the Netherlands, my family always ask me to bring Hot Sauce (especially Tabasco Chipotle & louisiana Hot Sauce) Babrbecue Sauce (Bulls Eye) dried Chipotles (yes, very popular in my family and they don't seem to have it in Holland) Peanutbutter cups (they have snickers, skittles, milky way, etc in Holland, and sorry to say, but the chocolate candybars are way better there.....) and Kashi Bars.
                                      Some other things I can think of... : Chocolate covered Pretzels, Wasabi Soy Almonds, Salsa & Queso dips, anything mexican or barbecue items.... Chips Ahoy or maybe even Cheerios....
                                      I would ask them!
                                      Be careful with any kind of produce or meats though, I believe you're not supposed to bring them in the country

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: chefschickie

                                        The novelty of American food was for me at least - the "junkier" stuff:

                                        Reese's Peanut butter cups

                                        Kraft Dinner

                                        chocolate chips (the ones that usually have a delish choc chip cookie recipe on the pack)

                                        Pop Tarts (I DREAMED of these as a child - after being served them for *breakfast* at an American friend's house)

                                        Anything with "fake cherry flavour" - ie fruit rollups, jolly ranchers, tootsie roll pops - same goes for "fake grape"

                                        In Norway we don't get blue m&Ms (illegal colouring), so I thought that was quite novel.

                                        Chips ahoy equivalents are available in Europe, same with Cheerios, but Oreos aren't everywhere as far as I know...

                                        And Fruit snacks! The ones that are actually candy masquerading as "fruit" - SOOO good!

                                        Haha, that's all my guilty pleasures in one go...

                                        1. re: hangrygirl

                                          *laugh*
                                          hangrygirl, awesome post. i'm including all of your suggestions in my next care package to my sister. i don't even think she likes pop tarts or kraft dinners, but maybe she can sell them to all the expat kids in her apt building for a profit.

                                      2. As a few posters have said already, chocolate chips are a valued commodity in many parts of Europe. My sister lives in Switzerland, homeland of great chocolate, but it's still hard to find it in chip form.

                                        In care packages to her, I usually include c chips, as well as peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, mint chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips. (Ghiradelli makes good versions of most of these.) I also include vanilla extract because vanilla is more often found as beans than as a liquid -- at least in Switzerland -- and sometimes you just want the convenience of processed shiznit. Cheddar cheese is rare in many parts, though similar cheeses exist. Oh -- and very important for anyone who likes to junk out: American style potato chips, esp. in BBQ, sour cream & onion, and "cheddar" flavors.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cimui

                                          cinnamon chips are the best! ;-)

                                        2. I have a sister that lives in the netherlands and she always asks for Little Debbies for her and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for her Dutch husband. He loves them and I try to take enough of the individual snack packs so he can pack one with his lunch for a couple of months at least. He actually tries to ration them so they last as long as possible. Another one that may sound a bit odd is Girl Scout Cookies. Another one of my sister's cravings.

                                          1. When I lived abroad I most wanted people to bring me:
                                            chocolate chips
                                            maple syrup and pancake mix
                                            stuffing mix for Thanksgiving turkey
                                            any bag of Fritos, Chitos, American potato chips etc.

                                            Even though I consider myself a "gourmet" cook, I am totally an American food junky for the above items once in a great while. It reminded me of home.

                                            1. Soda is always a good one, because certain sodas are just not available outside america. Rootbeer, sioux city etc etc.
                                              And also, a jar of marshmallow fluff. Can't go wrong. I would hesitate to bring chocolate though. American chocolate is among the worst I've tasted (bar "cooking chocolate" bleagh, so waxy). One exception is hersheys cookie and cream.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Soop

                                                I went to a Christmas market in Germany and there was an American booth with root beer and marshmallow fluff, even though the prices were ridiculous we all bought some of each just b/c we couldn't find anything like it anywhere else.

                                                1. re: Fromageball

                                                  I'm convinced that there's a special atmosphere at Christmas markets -- you keep buying stuff because it all looks so wonderful, regardless of the price...then you get home and realize how much you spent for THAT.

                                              2. My friend in the UAE always wants the 100 calorie bags of microwave kettle corn and popcorn. Go figure.

                                                1. Depending on when you go - canned pumpkin is almost impossible to find overseas. Though if you're located near an American Embassy, they will give canned pumpkin out for free around Thanksgiving time. At least the busy folks at the American Embassy in Dublin did.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                    good point on the canned pumpkin. I've lived since 1980 in Italy and for the past 10 years or so it's been easy to find chocolate chips, cheerios and other things. Canned pumpkin is impossible to find, as is cranberry sauce, stuffing mix and (though a non-food item) ...Bounce sheets for the dryer. I always have to bring back numerous boxes for my friends with dryers. Oh and ziplock bags!!

                                                    1. re: alidrum

                                                      In Jerusalem, most likely thanks to their large American population - we were able to track down canned pumpkin eventually...and we probably tested exactly how long canned pumpkin can last. However cranberries, cranberry sauce - we never were able to find that.

                                                      That being said, if you're going to visit in the spring - bringing over Thanksgiving staples might be an odd choice.

                                                  2. I always take PAM- my mom loves it and can't get it in Poland. Also good California olive oil, wine, See's candies. Once I even brought a huge Honeybaked ham for Xmas:-))))

                                                    1. on a tangential note, the ex-pat community around Madrid in the late 80's circulated cheat sheets of where one might find these sorts of things, collaboratively developed over years of hunting. it came to several pages of sources all over the metro area. why someone would want to drive 40+ minutes for Spam is anyone's guess.

                                                      but I guess homeland and childhood cravings get strong.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                        When I lived in Douala Cameroon (West Africa) in the '70s, I was in a network of Americans and Brits that would telephone each other when they found a food from home in a shop (i.e. "The chinese store has Campbell's Chicken Noodle!!) We would drive long distances over rut-filled roads to pick up a case (if we were lucky) or even a few cans. I once drove four hours to an experimental dairy farm and waited two hours for cows to be milked in order to purchase 2 litres of fresh milk. Our only other resourse was UTP milk which in those days tasted a lot worse than Parmalat, or canned evaporated.

                                                        1. re: lattelover

                                                          There is no Chef Boyardee ravioli here in Colombia; and I wouldn't drive out of Cali for a can or two. That's why its so good when I work in DC and have a suite w/ kitchen. Now let me say, "You're kidding" as to Campbell's Chicken Noodle!

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            I agree with you about the Chicken Noodle, Sam. It was just an example. However, be it Campbells or Chef Boyardee, these things are coveted perhaps less for the taste than for the good memories they trigger.

                                                            1. re: lattelover

                                                              I have childhood memories of Campbell's chicken noodle soup and Chef Boyardee embalmed raviolis too. But I always regarded both as a form of child abuse. My parents only fed it to the kids when they were going out for the evening. They wouldn't touch it themselves.

                                                      2. When I visited friends in Italy they begged me to fill my suitcases with, of all things, lime jello and Lawry's seasoned salt.

                                                        They're not normal. *G*

                                                        When I returned home I brought 5 jars of Nutella. The American version just doesn't taste the same!

                                                        1. My German friends always request the Lime-flavored Tortilla Chips. It gets to be a bit bulky, but it's worth it to see the joy on their faces. Kettle corn popcorn is always a hit, too.

                                                          1. If you live in California, why not take a box of See's candy? In my experience you can get anything in Europe you can get here, grocery-wise, but you can't get See's. (I can't even get it in Chicago.)

                                                            1. You can't really bring many of these but when I travel abroad I mostly crave:

                                                              Many American craft beers
                                                              An excellent steak
                                                              A great burger
                                                              Corn
                                                              Cornbread
                                                              Corn Chowder
                                                              Jewish Deli
                                                              American breakfast: eggs, sausage, waffles, pancakes, grits, hashbrowns . . .
                                                              bbq
                                                              good fried chicken and a plate of buttermilk biscuits

                                                              1. My sister lives in Spain and when she comes home she goes crazy with the cheesecake. She's made it in Spain so she must be able to find the ingredients, but she had to call home to get a recipe. When she comes home, though, she hits a good cheesecake shop and buys several to box up and take back.

                                                                Maybe other countries in Europe have some variation of this, though.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: rweater

                                                                  Italy has cheesecake, but it is made with ricotta. Much better for you and personally I prefer it - I find the American type too heavy and sweet.

                                                                  Isn't the US type of cheesecake originally of German origin?

                                                                2. Jell-O.... not avalible... american kraft cheese not avalible either... only in macdonalds but no markets... these are random items i noticed while i was away in italy for 3 mouths

                                                                  1. Some of the foods I miss most since moving to Norway is, Dukes mayo, French's mustard, Franks red hot and Mount Olive DILL Pickles Or any good sour, dill pickle. I use these things in alot of salads. Except the Franks, thats good on just about anything.... I have been here more than 2 years and still havent found a good DILL Pickle to use, everything i have tried is sweet. HMMMMM Maybe Mc Donalds will sell me some LOL

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: birdie_1976

                                                                      That's funny. Coming from Germany, I find the pickles in the US to be overwhelmingly sweet and dilly. I find it impossible to find pickles that are savory, slightly sour.... they're all sugary and overkill on the dill.

                                                                      1. re: birdie_1976

                                                                        Do they even have hot sauce in Norway? Spicy food connoisseurs frequently complain about the lack of hot sauce and chili peppers in Northern Europe.

                                                                        1. re: aynrandgirl

                                                                          Does the Netherlands count as Northern Europe? Indonesian chow is big there.

                                                                        2. re: birdie_1976

                                                                          I can tell from the list of foods you miss that you are from the southern United States. The Duke's mayo and Mt. Olive pickles gives you away!

                                                                        3. i miss the quallity of the fruit and veggies.. and donuts, the ones we have here doesn't taste like the american ones.. and i miss the ham, like honey ham and apple maple ham.. here we have smoked or cooked ham.. and i miss the ice cream, all the diffrent flavors...

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: L987

                                                                            Where in Europe are you that you can't find quality fruit and veggies?

                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                              well the fruit and veggies r fresh but they r shipped fron around the world most of the time.. im from sweden so most prodouct come from warmer countries, like the tomatos r from spain, and all they taste like is water.. during the summer its ok but during the winter its to cold to grow anything here

                                                                              1. re: L987

                                                                                If it's any consolation - I can't remember the last time I bought a tomato in the US that tasted like anything (or Europe, for that matter) in the last 10+ years.

                                                                                1. re: L987

                                                                                  That is also true in Montréal and can't imagine it is much different in nearby parts of the US. We do have wonderful vegetables in the summer and early autumn.

                                                                                  I was sad about the lack of taste of many vegetables in the Netherlands, as so many are greenhouse-grown. I did find good local vegetables at an organic market in Amsterdam though.

                                                                            2. Chocolate things from Arizmendi

                                                                              1. Been in Spain 2 years. If I cant find it I make it: brownies, choc chunk cookies, pancakes, bagels, decent pizza, buttermilk, cinnamon rolls, clam chowder, fried chicken, decent bread, mac n cheese, mex food. Things available here in Spain(Barcelona): fresh milk, PB, cilantro, cheddar cheese, nacho cheese dip, tortillas, maple syrup, soy sauce, marshmallows, avacados, tabasco, jalepenos, mex salsa, bbq sauce, black beans, after reading this thread I feel lucky to have so many things readily available!

                                                                                Things I can't find: sour cream(but I make crem fresch and it is actually better), pepperoni, italian sausage, good steak, chiles, graham crackers, I especially crave the pepperoni, if anyone knows where I can get some please let me know!!!

                                                                                Seems like most of EU is so stubborn and traditional when it comes to food, in general they don't stray from their usual ingredients at all. Here its always olive oil, fish, potatoes, and garlic. God forbid a little spice, they just can't handle the slightest bit, seriously things I didnt even had a hint of spice yet they would complain.

                                                                                Good things they have and that I will miss when I leave: patatas bravas, pan con tomate(catalunya), ali oli, cheap good olive oil, tortilla espanola, churros con chocolate, spanish hot chocolate, Fanta (its better here than in the States), and croquettes.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: hotrippr

                                                                                  No decent bread in Spain? That does surprise me.

                                                                                  1. re: hotrippr

                                                                                    "Things I can't find: sour cream(but I make crem fresch and it is actually better), pepperoni, italian sausage, good steak, chiles, graham crackers, I especially crave the pepperoni, if anyone knows where I can get some please let me know!!!"

                                                                                    Isn't Spanish chorizo as good or better than pepperoni? I go out of my way to find a good chorizo (not the fresh Mexican kind) in the USA.

                                                                                    Italian sausage - how about fresh ground pork seasoned with fennel seed?

                                                                                    chiles - what kind? I've developed a liking for several Spanish styles, including the mild piquillo, the long green pickeled ones, and pipmenton. Nora is supposed to interchangeable with ancho. So that leaves fresh green ones like jalepeno, which aren't my favorite. I've read about,m but never tried, alepo chiles.

                                                                                    Graham crackers - how about digestive biscuits instead?

                                                                                    1. re: hotrippr

                                                                                      check the web, in the 80's in Madrid all the US ex-pats had a cheat sheet/newsletter of where to source all sorts of things American and through that network you could usually find someone who could score what you were looking for at the PX on the nearest base (name of the one outside Madrid escapes me, we were in private industry)

                                                                                      I can't imagine there isn't some listserv out there in this day and age.

                                                                                      1. re: hotrippr

                                                                                        yeah tortilla d patata y espinaca with ali oli....

                                                                                        mmm

                                                                                      2. I had a heck of time finding baking powder to make biscuits while in Rome. Of course, this was nearly twenty years ago, so who knows? Maybe Romans are now expert and avid quick bread bakers...

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: amyzan

                                                                                          baking powder is a relatively recent innovation - 2nd half of the 1800s, and for various reasons became more popular in the USA than Europe. I suspect that on the American frontier and small towns, home baking was more common, were as in most Italian towns you could get all the bread and cakes you wanted from the village baker. Also in the USA, softer wheat and corn did not make as good yeast bread, but did fine with baking soda and powder (in cornbread, biscuits and cakes).

                                                                                          Some shops in the USA do sell European baking powder in little envelopes. Vanilla flavored sugar comes in similar packets.

                                                                                          I have an Italian cookbook (published in the UK) that has a lot of recipes using yeast, but only a couple using baking powder.

                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                            Yeah, the little packets is what I eventually turned up. I was making biscuits for a potluck, and had to buy several packets, and was surprised how expensive it was relative to the US. The biscuits were a big hit at a party with a bunch of Italian students who'd been studying Appalachia at La Sapienza. They thought the biscuits were quite novel, and unlike anything they'd had before. I turned up buttermilk at a dairy cooperative, where it was the real stuff, a byproduct of butter making, which is part of why the biscuits turned out so well, no doubt. Here I can only get the cultured kind.

                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              baking powder not recent at all... native to the american southwest, where it's been used for centuries.

                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                You'll have to elaborate. I don't see how baking powder can be 'native to' a place.

                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                  well, what other culture cooks with wood ash?
                                                                                                  Sodium bicarbonate was apparently easy to mine in colorado.

                                                                                          2. Be very careful about fresh fruits and vegetables, or any meat products - these are often banned from import. You certainly aren't allowed to take them into the US from abroad. Plus, after 24 hours or so in transit, they don't necessarily arrive in good condition.

                                                                                            Mexican ingredients are a good bet - the variety of dried chilis called for in Mexican cooking is hard to find abroad, for one thing. Or take a bottle of good tequila. Dried beans might be an option as well.

                                                                                            Dried cranberries might be good- I managed to make a fantastic cranberry sauce from dried berries last Christmas that was actually better than that made from fresh.

                                                                                            Some California things like olives, or wine, are also produced in Europe (French wine, Spanish olives) so what you bring might be a bit different, but not better quality.

                                                                                            Junk food can be good - I just brought back a stash that included corn nuts, wintergreen life savers and tootsie pops.

                                                                                            1. Hot Sauce (number one missed item)
                                                                                              Maple Syrup
                                                                                              Black Beans (actually, most Mexican items)
                                                                                              Wild Rice (I'm from the upper Midwest, so it was a nice taste of home when I received it in a care package)
                                                                                              BEER! Don't let anyone in Europe say that the US only makes horrible beer. Yeah, Anheiser-Busch/Coors/macro-brews are awful, but some of the best beers in the world are made here too. Since you're in Cali, there's a lot of really good beer being made in state.

                                                                                              I think things have really changed in the US though as far as food quality goes. I live near Seattle now and the fruit and vegetables in the farmers markets are just as good, if not better than in Europe. If you want to pay for it, you can get some incredible cheese and dairy products that are local too.

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: serendipity3

                                                                                                Beer: actually our German exchange students liked the crappiest G Heileman no-name beer products. which was fine by me 'cause as 18 YO's those were the only stores that would sell to us.

                                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                                  Hill Food, that's funny! I hope you showed your German exchange students a good time. The best parties I ever attended were cheap beer fueled. It's gross, but Natty Ice and Milwaukee's Best (The Beast) still hold a piece of my heart.

                                                                                                  1. re: serendipity3

                                                                                                    in 82-83 we were hitting the STL 905 stores (and even following a certain cool clerk around to various postings) but yeah, same brewer as MB or Weideman's and many other individual brands. I guess they had a good time, I was welcome in their houses the following summer.

                                                                                                    and yeah maybe audacious underage purchases warrants a thread on the appropriate board.

                                                                                                2. re: serendipity3

                                                                                                  Ok, the thing I will miss, guilty pleasure, Taco Bell. On the upside, making food homemade, made some wonderful Spanish rice last night. Perfect flavor, fingers still burning from removing pepper seeds. ;) Re; beer, I think it's much better here in Portugal than any I had in the U.S. Never liked beer, drink it all the time now, & also, as yet unexplained, no headaches from any drinking here. Not my case in the U.S. Again, usually elected not to drink for that reason, no trouble here.

                                                                                                3. I had a couchsurfer from Berlin who was in love with some local dill havarati I had and I took her out for her first hot fudge sunday. Slightly off topic, but those were foods I thought would be available everywhere.

                                                                                                  1. When my sister was living in Scotland she had fierce cravings for Old Dutch ketchup potato chips so I took them to her every time I went to visit.

                                                                                                    1. My wife and I lived in Germany from 2010-2012 (we're Californian, and are happily back in the Golden State)—we missed California Mexican food.

                                                                                                      We made a point of trying to make tacos at home in Germany as best we could on Sunday evening. We ferried chipotles and masa with us whenever we went home. Tortillas also travel well. (We used this recipe: http://bit.ly/V6sA2s

                                                                                                      )

                                                                                                      Another American friend in Germany always wants Kraft Mac&Cheese. :-)