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We are so spoiled!

Living in Egypt has put some things in context regarding food. I, for one, have commented on pizza, for example. This one's crust isn't thin enough, that one's crust doesn't have the perfect char, you name it, and we Chowhounds-- myself included -- have beaten the subject to death. Here I am in Cairo, and I would be THRILLED to have any of the pizzas I had formerly turned my nose up at. The "best" pizza here doesn't come close to what is generally available in my NY Tristate area. And which aged beef is better than another aged beef, and which steakhouse has the best steak. I'd take any steakhouse at this point! The meat here is not aged and tends to be very tough, and the US concept of a steak, that is a thick, juicy piece of meat, doesn't exist. And basic kitchen supply items, like a cooking rack for cakes that you can get in any hardware store, Kmart, whatever in the US, just doesn't exist.

Living in the US, despite what problems there may be with our food supply, (see The Carnivore's Dilemma) we have amazing food and unbelievable choices. Despite some occasionally good food here, there is much that is not available. This spoiled American is trying to figure out how to do without!

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  1. well, I agree we are spoiled. In fact, I point this out to my kids if they complain too much about not liking the food I have cooked - it is good, nutritious food, and they cannot all have their favorites every night. Other people in other places (near and far) have much worse choices of food, or no food at all.

    That said, some of the food disappointment living in another country may be partially due to cultural differences as well. Who knows, maybe someone from Egypt would be sadly disappointed in American pizza and steak! (I don't know, as I have only lived in several US states, no other countries)

    1. I do agree, we take so much for granted, myself included. Spend some time in a third world country and we wil see how blessed we are. I am not putting down the diversity of our food supply, but maybe a fresh perspective.

      1. Hear, Hear! I spent two months in Egypt (Luxor) years ago and it certainly changed my appreciation of what we have. A summer of stewed goat, rice, stuffed peppers, canned orange juice, instant coffee, Stella Beer and the ubiquitous watermelon was about all we had. But the real appreciation came for fresh tap water without "stuff" floating around in it. We just don't know what a luxury this is for most of the world. How I cherish it to this day.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Chefpaulo

          LOL! I found some Maxwell House coffee here and I have a one cup Melita and filter papers, and I have to tell you, this is the nectar of the gods! Nescafe is what is widely available, and Taster's Choice is the "best" Nescafe!

        2. we may be spoiled, and here's a big hooray to that.

          just because i can't get a good pizza in cairo , doesn't mean i should settle for a lesser pizza when i'm in new york

          1. A number of years ago Mr. CG and I were staying in a lovely b & b just outside of Avignon, France, and the woman who owned the establishment was talking to us at breakfast and she made the statement that she considered herself so lucky that there were so many options there that she never had to eat the same meal twice. I've thought about that many times because I realize that that is also true for me.

            I'm not sure what the definition of "spoiled" is, but I certainly consider myself blessed to enjoy the extraordinary diversity and the abundance of wonderful food in my life.

            1. I absolutely agree, for living in Dubai, despite its relative modernness, I probably share many of the same frustrations as you do. It makes me long for the US and the sheer variety of quality foodstuff commonly available there, so I take many of these threads with a strong dose of amusement.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Roland Parker

                Dubai? Seriously? I can't think of any city I've been to with a greater choice of good food and ingredients. Arabic mixed grills with warm khubz, creamy hummus and olives. The world's best shawarma. Indian food, indistinguishable from what you'd get in India. Fresh fish from the Gulf. Good Thai, Iranian, French, Italian, you name it. Yeah, if you're after American-style pizza or steak, you're stuck with a chain, and if you want a BLT you have to make it yourself. But still, it's not a city whose food choices I'd complain about.

                1. re: Scrofula

                  I am wondering if perhaps you've visited Dubai as opposed to lived there. I think that the day after day grind of preparing meals in Cairo (I have never been to Dubai, so can't speak to it as Roland Parker has) wears you down after a while. From what I understand, Dubai has a plethora of great restaurants, which are lacking in Cairo. But eating out all the time in good restaurants is expensive, even in places like Cairo. And since we are not on any kind of an expense account, I am trying to keep an eye on the bottom line...

                  1. re: roxlet

                    I lived near Dubai for several years. Not all the options are pricey; you can get a good meal for a fraction of what it would cost you in the US. I never noticed any difficulty finding good groceries or kitchen supplies either. I've never been to Cairo, so I can't comment on the options there.

                    1. re: Scrofula

                      How many years ago was that? The cost of living has risen more than 60% in the past few years because of inflation. It is definately more expensive than when I arrived in the Gulf region. Locally grown and Indian imported foods are still cheap, though. Also, certain types of restos are very extremely cheap.

                      1. re: luckyfatima

                        That was four or five years ago. I'm sure the cost of living has gone up, but there's a big market for cheap, decent food there (thanks to the large population of expat bachelors who don't cook much).

                  2. re: Scrofula

                    We have fabulous restos in Dubai. The restos represent many many regional countries, loads of Indian of every shape and form, gorgeous Lebanese places, and many others. However, if you want to cook or eat North American, the restos are limited to fast food and a handful of chains. Chains that I would consider yucky, like TGIF, Johny Carino's, etc. And we have basically the same veggies all year long. We have a good variety of the typical Indo-Pak and South Indian and Sri Lankan veggies, plus some for the Filipinos, and some Arabic veggies all available to us. But many products and processed foods as well as healthfoods are nowhere to be found or extremely expensive. No it is not at all as limited as the offerings in Dhaka or Cairo, but it is still limited if you are a North American or European expat. In the past couple of years the Chinese food offerings have improved a lot. Despite the fact that the place is very commercial, I am still so excited when I go home to the US and see all of the products in my hometown grocery store.

                2. I live in Bangladesh, and it is possible to tell how long someone has lived here based on what they think of the local restaurants. If someone says "Oh, Spaghetti Jazz is really good!" I know it is time for them to leave the country, because there is no way it could survive in any other city."

                  On the other hand, I had stupendous pizza in Kathmandu, and the place (Fire and Ice) has an outpost in Calcutta, so sometimes great food pops up where you least expect it.

                  I do miss drinking water from the tap though.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: lulubelle

                    I lived in Dhaka! I remember that Dominous Pizza (no spelling mistake) was quite good! Or maybe I was just really homesick.

                    Now I am in Dubai. I miss a lot of things, drinking from the tap water is just the tip of the iceberg.

                    I just try to look at the plus sides of being here. There are some great things here that I will only get lesser quality of at home, or which wouldn't even be available.

                    And I eat like a mad-woman when I go home. Thin New York style slices of pizza, all of my Mexican and Vietnamese foods, lots of tasty breads, good cheesecake, etc.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      Just curious, lf, what things do you find their that are of superior quality than you could get in nyc? I love reading the posts from those of you living abroad, especially those outside of Europe or North America. Very interesting!

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        I have never lived in NYC...by the pizza I meant NYC style only. What is superior quality in Dubai than in the US...I have had Jackson Heights and Devon and Hillcroft (Houston) chaat and dosas...Dubai chaat and dosa taste just like they do in India at good places, though there are some shady places, too. But in the US even in the best places neither the chaat nor dosas taste the same. Especially the dosas. They are good, but a good dosa from a top place in Dubai is fabulous, same taste you would get at a good place in India. Levantine food tastes better in the Middle East than it does in my hometown in Texas. It is just the ingredients...everything here from regional nearby countries is fresh fresh fresh. Lebanese olive oil, fa'oos pickles from Lebanon, etc. It is like here in Dubai we have a Mexican resto owned by a couple from Mexico City and they fly in a lot of their ingredients but there basic ingredients are from India, not Mexico, so the end result is just not the same...and so I would say you cannot get really great Mexican food in Dubai for this reason.

                        1. re: luckyfatima

                          Just re-read my post above and realized I should have edited it before posting -sorry!

                        2. re: lynnlato

                          Local food, (Bangladeshi is similar to Bengali Indian food, only they eat beef, and a lot more meat in general) is outstanding. Biryani in particular is fabulous, unlike any I have had in the States outside of a home.

                    2. I agree and it's not only for those no longer living in the US. One only needs to look to those who don't have the luxury of choice in the US due to some unfortunate circumstance to realize although we may not have it as good as we would like, we may not have it as bad as someone else either.

                      I'm greatful everyday that I'm as blessed as I am...

                      1. It is sometimes painful to read many of the posts here because of what you allude to. Not that enjoying good food is a bad thing, it is surely a great pleasure.

                        That being said, there are some mighty fine folks who share generously from the heart.

                        1. I'm been back to living in the typical mainland US after three years of living in a fly-in village on the Alaskan tundra and I still delight in going to the grocery store! For the first few months I was back I had to take a chaperone with me to the market or I would come home with ridiculous amounts of stuff and having exchanges like this "Look! oranges!" "Uh, yes, they usually have those...." "But... oranges!"

                          I had always enjoyed the incredible variety in grocery stores but I definitely appreciate it more now! I took advantage of any local foods I could try and learned to enjoy new foods while I was in Alaska but I missed access to variety and fresh foods.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: alitria

                            I have a different reaction when I go home. The first time I was in a Target after being out of the country for 6 months I stood in front of the deodorant display for about 15 minutes because I was unable to make any kind of choice. There were just too many options.

                            1. re: lulubelle

                              They actually have LOTS of deodorant in Cairo! It's the food choices that are lacking! I am going to Belgium tomorrow, and I am looking forward to bringing back some good, stinky cheeses, some ham and other pork products, and some good chocolates. I also have some kitchen items I will be shopping for...

                              1. re: lulubelle

                                Lulubelle, too funny! I had the same reaction recently in front of the Target toothpaste stand, after 9 months in France. Too many choices!

                                At the same time, I agree with a few other posters here who point out that it's not just the country, or city, that can limit one's choices in food. Certainly, economics play a big role, too. When I read many of the CH posts, I have to chuckle a bit to myself, because I simply don't have the resources to be quite as snobby about my restaurants and brands as many other posters, apparently, do.

                              2. re: alitria

                                Yes, I know this feeling. I was incredibly excited to find celery in one of the markets, only each stalk was about the size of a pencil! Lettuce, too, is extremely hard to come by. It must be because it easily bolts in the hot weather. As the weather cools off, I am looking forward to choices other than zucchini and eggplants -- not that I don't love 'em!

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  I am sick of cucumbers. Really sick of them.

                              3. My wife grew up in the Soviet Union and came to the US when she was in her 20s, back in the 1970s. Her stories of how she felt the first time she walked through an American supermarket...well, let me just say that she REALLY knows how lucky she is to be here! And through her, so do I.

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: BobB

                                  I've often wondered what immigrants think on their first visit to a nice modern American supermarket. I started thinking about this when I saw the reaction of my Manhattan-dwelling brother to our regular suburban Virginia supermarket.

                                  1. re: Bob W

                                    One thing that struck me about her account was her amazement at not just the quality and variety of products, but the variety of packaging. In the Soviet Union everything was packaged in just a few standard box and jar sizes.

                                    1. re: BobB

                                      This brings back memories of 1972 student days to share here. Our official tour included a visit to a Soviet supermarket in the "model city" section near Comecon headquarters in Moscow. It was enormous - as big as a Costco - and would have bedazzled any third world citizen by its sheer size. However, closer inspection revealed the display shelves were only one item deep. Furthermore, you had a display of one product, say #6 Egg Noodles, that was six shelves high and 15 feet wide. Next to those were #10 Egg noodles for another 15 feet and then # 13 Egg noodles for another... well, you get it. All were in a plain white box with blue printing and no photos. And this was the same in every aisle for jarred vegetables and fruits, preserves, pickles, soap powder, salt, etc. The "meat department" was one pitiful 3x6 foot open chest freezer with a few packs of freezer-burned sausages and pork parts unknown in this hemisphere. Produce was limited to seasonal piles of availability. My July visit meant a proliferation of cucumbers, strawberries and all tubers. Fresh fish? Forget it.

                                      The "super" market was as big a sham as the whole communist experiment and remains in my memory as a succinct reminder. We are blessed but only spoiled when we don't realize our blessings.


                                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                                        I was back in the USSR in 69-70, living on cafeteria food at U of Moscow on top the Lenin Hills. Lots of watery, greasy potato & cabbage soups. Next to nothing in the super markets and department stores. No burgers, hot dogs or pizza at all. the best meals I had, however were in people's apartments.
                                        God bless Mother Vodka.
                                        ps I am having schi for lunches this week.

                                    2. re: Bob W

                                      Me too. The last time I was in Vegas, I ate at some fancy buffet and wondered what the workers, many of them immigrants (name tags listed the countries they came from) thought of it, watching so many people take food they had no intention of eating and then tossing it in the trash without a second thought. Must be mind boggling for someone coming from a homeland that suffered through poverty and starvation.

                                      1. re: Azizeh

                                        I had the same revulsion when I was in Vegas this spring. I am 63 and a natural born US citizen. I've had feast and famine. I've seen how others live in poor areas of the US and abroad. I participated, but I was grossed out by the obese line of obese people waiting to get to the trough of plenty.

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          Wait a minute, Scarboy! I thought you will be 63 this Wednesday!? The worst meal we had on our LV to NE road trip wat the buffet at M. The long wait even made it more so!

                                        2. re: Azizeh

                                          Those people give Americans a bad name. And they also cost the rest of us tremendously on the healthcare front. They should get their names and place a surcharge on their medical bill.

                                          1. re: Azizeh

                                            In the Philippines, most buffets come with a "leftover charge". If you don't eat every thing on your plate, you get hit with a surcharge. It reduces waste, but it means you can only take a little bit of something that you haven't tried and might not like.

                                            And I agree with other posters that we have a staggering amount of choice in North America. Any one who has traveled to the Philippines, and sees what real poverty is like, has to come home grateful for our bounty.

                                            1. re: FrankD

                                              The first time I was in Alexandria about 4 years ago, we stayed at a very Egyptian beach hotel where there was a very nice included breakfast with hot, freshly made pitas as well as all manners of other pastries and food. I was so surprised to see the Egyptians absolutely fill their plates and then leave a huge amount of food uneaten. The Egyptian coach we were with commented that it was a very Egyptian thing to do that. It's would most certainly typical of a only certain class of Egyptians, I would think, but it certainly doesn't seem too be limited to Americans in Las Vegas!

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                in the USA the manpower cost of monitoring waste would outstrip the food waste savings in short order

                                          2. re: BobB

                                            I spent a year in Moscow in 1991-2. I couldn't get over how much choice there was when I came back to the UK. The winter in Russia was especially tough - we subsisted on bread, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, along with tuna, peanut butter and chocolate that we bought from the British Embassy shop. Washed down with lots of vodka. Best diet I've ever been on though - I lost about 20 pounds!

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              Does anyone remember Robin Williams breaking down in "Moscow on the Hudson" when he goes to supermarket and is overwhelmed by the choice of coffee? It wasn't a great movie, but that scene really struck home with me.

                                          3. While we continue the Middle East pizza issue - the issue of toppings has to be brought up. I've been in Israel for a while now, and I don't care what anyone says - I refuse to believe in corn as a pizza topping. Crust wise, I don't have a lot of complaints...but what they chose to top the pizza with is just terrifying.

                                            That being said, anytime the meat over here isn't like home - I get a delightful lamb experience that just does not exist outside of the region.

                                            1. I think what the OP should focus on is finding the best Egyptian food, rather than beating one's head against a wall trying to find good pizza in Cairo. (After all, I'm sure any Egyptian who finds himself living in New York would be making the same kind of post about how he can't find good koshary there!)

                                              I have lived and/or spent extended periods of time outside the US, and long ago came to the conclusion that it is just folly to try to find "US-style" anything--you will ALWAYS be disappointed. But if you want to keep being a Chowhound, you can be just as obsessive about ferreting out the best and most Chowish *local* foods. They are there, and they'll be a lot better than any foreign food concepts, pretty much by definition.

                                              As an added bonus, when you get back to the US, you can be proud of yourself for being able to talk just as dismissively as any pizza snob, or noodle snob, or burger snob, about how there is no good Bengali food in New York. (Or whatever.)

                                              27 Replies
                                              1. re: travelmad478

                                                Oh, you can get great Bengali food in New York (most Indian restaurants are actually owned by Bangladeshis)

                                                In general, I agree with you about finding the best local food, but when you are out of your home country for a long period of time, and the homesickness sets in, one of the easiest cures is food that reminds you of home. This is why my suicases back from the States are filled with parm, olive oil, etc. I have gone so far as to bring a frozen food box full of Italian Beef back from Chicago in an effort to have reminders of home.

                                                1. re: travelmad478

                                                  I lived in Europe for a year, and although I HEARTILY agree that finding great local food is possibly the finest joy of living overseas, you can't ignore the fact that we miss those once-common favorite items/dishes/cuisines we can't get where we are.

                                                  For instance, I have been perpetually burned out on Mexican food (except for true Taqueria food) for the last 20 years, but what I wouldn't have given in Vienna, Austria to walk in the doors of the cheesiest Tex-Mex restaurant on the West Coast and down several servings of (free) chips and salsa. Boy, did I miss that.

                                                  As an aside, there was a gentleman living in Vienna at that time who was Austrian-Mexican (a rare breed, I'm sure). He provided my little expat ghetto (mostly Americans from the South) with proper tortilla chips. His name? G√ľnther Gonzalez.


                                                  1. re: travelmad478

                                                    We have found some good Egyptian food, but let's just say that Egypt is not a Chowhound kind of place. If you lok at the chowhound boards for Egypt, you'll basically see that I'm the only one posting. Not that that proves anything, mind you. What our Egyptian friends exist on -- really crumby sandwiches on terrible bread, for example -- are just not to our taste. We love fuul, a fatir, and other specialities, but when you are feeding a teenager 3 times a day, it's hard not to respond to his desires for familiar, comforting tastes. I do my best to cook most of these at home, but it is often difficult or impossible to find the ingredients that you need. Yes, the fruits and vegetables can be quite wonderful, but we're not vegetarians and don't make meals of these things. My point is that I now appreciate what I can get when I can get it far more than I did previously. And guess what, we did manage to finally find quite decent pizza and wonderful baguettes. Now if we only could make a ham sandwich...

                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                      I don't understand why Egypt is not a chowhound kind of place, I'm of mixed descent and partly Egyptian and I enjoy the food very much.

                                                      Have you mixed with the locals or been invited to their homes to see what they eat? Sure it's a poor country but Egyptians have survived well because of their diet since ancient times.
                                                      Have you tried the different types of Mahshis? Muloukhia with either rabbit or chicken served with rice and vermacilli. Koushari is such a homey comfort food and available as a street food. Okra stew, kufta, falafel, makarona bil bashamayl (one of my absolutely favourite meals of all time!!)
                                                      All the lovely breakfast foods, tomatoes with eggs, 'bastirma' with eggs, dates with eggs, duka with olive oil and good bread, cheeses and fresh vegetables.

                                                      As for desserts: No one makes basbousa as well as the egyptians IMO! Kunafa, Qatayef...

                                                      The list goes on. I would hate for people to be discouraged to try egyptian food because they think it's boring.

                                                      1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                        I have not been invited to anyone's house for a meal yet, and most of the Egyptian restaurants that we have eaten in have been either poor or mediocre. The one exception is Gad, which is a kind of fast food Egyptian restaurant, and has very good Egyptian specialities. But fine dining? I haven't found it yet. Some Egyptian foods I like, but I would be hard-pressed to eat moloukhia again, even though everyone claims that their mother makes it the best. I think you have to have been raised on it; it is just too slimy a texture for the uninitiated. I like koshary fine, but I don't think I could exist on a steady diet of it, plus my son really dislikes it. I don't think that Egyptian food is boring, I just haven't had many meals that have excited me.

                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                          You might want to try ordering one or both of these books from Amazon:

                                                          "Feast from the Mideast" by Faye Levy, or
                                                          "The Arab Table" by May S. Bsisu.

                                                          Both of these books use ingredients that should be readily available to you. "The Arab Table" is more traditional, while "Feast from the Mideast" is somewhat streamlined and lightened.

                                                          It's been my experience, throughout the Middle East, that restaurant food (with the exception of old Beirut) is pretty abysmal. The best food is to be found in the home. Raw ingredients, however, can be stellar if you choose your markets with care.

                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                            I also studied Arabic in Egypt and stayed in Cairo for about five weeks and I must say that I agree with Roxlet, Cairo is not a restaurant heaven by any means. The upscale restos are very overpriced and mediocre at best, and the "middle class" restos are all sort of Lebanese inspired grills but ingredients like olive oil are so expensive, nothing tastes that fabulous...I had amazing seafood dishes outside of Cairo, though. In Cairo I mostly ate fool wi ta3mayya and ta3mayya wa fool day in and day out, plus various kinds of street food sandwiches and then koshary. I LOVED the aish baladi...brown flat bread. That stuff is just wonderful. I was a student though...I can only imagine it would be hard for a Western expat family with kids, just as it is hard for Egyptians when they move abroad...that's expat life.

                                                            I would say that the best food in Egypt is as Bamia w Roz said, in peoples' homes: tomatoey stews with meats and vegetables, dolmeh and maHshi, Egyptian type casseroles, and all the rest, etc., but you won't find the best versions of these in restos. If you are cooking for yourself or family every day and you want a Euro-American diet, it is hard with just koosa and eggplant and lentils and all that is available, even with Carrefoure and the Western style groceries in the upscale parts of the city.

                                                            I also never loved molukhiyya...I have some very close friends who are Egyptian origin American and have tried it a few times cooked by their moms and I swear I wanted to love it, but the texture was just off putting. But I love Egyptian homestyle foods and I don't know if your son would appreciate it but you could take an interest in learning more masri cooking: imagine a beautiful dish of meat patties layered between eggplant slices covered in savory tomato sauce served with rice, beautiful meat and veg tomatoey casseroles covered in a layer of bechamel (I dunno but Egyptians sure do love their bechamel sauce!), etc. All you need is a good Egyptian cookbook and you can pick up the cooking, it is simple and rustic and I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't love it.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              Don't worry, it's a good thing egyptian food is fairly simple to make. If you want any recipes, let me know.

                                                              roxlet, Slimey moloukhia I agree is something you need to have grown up with. I didn't realize you were looking for fine dining.

                                                              1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                does anyone really read the postings? or do they just pick out 4 or 5 words. The comment about fine dining was an aside, she already said she is talking about every day foodstuffs.

                                                                Apparently Cairo is not nearly as cosmopolitan when it comes to food as someone might imagine from the size of the city. Yep, the same was true in Seoul, and friends in Tokyo said the same thing. If you have the money you can find what you want, but if you want to live within a reasonable budget, most expats around the world find you have to adapt to the local culture (and or find someone with access to US or European specialty stores, be they some type of national commissary, the embassy kitchen, or whatever.) The black-market demand for mayonnaise in Seoul always amazed me. I had never made it before, but knew the basic technique. When explained/attempted by a couple of friend's mom's, they were amazed how easy it was to make, and became the envy of the neighborhood.

                                                                I should add that when the first Burger King opened in Seoul (long before the golden arches showed up) I was there on opening day, feelling foolish - but ohhh... lousy american fast food tasted soooo good.

                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                  Black market mayo -- who knew?! (Can't you get the very good Japanese variety in Seoul?)

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    no doubt you can now, when I was there in the mid/late 80's there were very high tariffs on many imported goods, and many (like tobacco products) were simply not allowed to be imported.

                                                                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                    I rarely eat in American fast food restaurants at home, but I have to say that the MacDonald's here is much better than in the US. Everything seems to be cooked to order (the bring the food to you when it is ready), and we have found it to be really fresh and hot. For an Egyptian, it might be a place you save up for to take someone out for a special treat. To us, it's still pretty cheap, but I certainly wouldn't make a steady diet of it. Right now, I am in despair. My refrigerator is not working and my carefully hoarded bacon and all the ham we brought back from Belgium is in danger.

                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                      Bangkok is the R&R town of choice when we have long weekends, and BK is always visited, along with, and this is really shameful, Outback Steakhouse. (I'll turn in my "Chow Card" on my way out)

                                                                      1. re: lulubelle

                                                                        I've eaten Big macs in Bangkok after long periods in Laos, Cambodia, or in remote areas of Thaialnd.

                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                            Oh, absolutely!! And this from someone who had his first Big Mac at age 41 in the Philippines.

                                                                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                            I don't think anything would tempt me into a McDonald's, to be honest. Haven't eaten there for a decade or more! Pizza Hut, on the other hand, is another story....

                                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                                              I used to feel the same way, greedygirl, and maybe you are made of sterner stuff than I, but the first Big Mac I had here was so delicious I wanted to cry.

                                                                          3. re: lulubelle

                                                                            I have a friend from Portland, Maine, who had to travel to Asia frequently. As the visiting big wig, he'd get taken out to a banquet every night, regardless of whether he was in Singapore, Malaysia, or China. He didn't mind the food, but admitted to me that after a week of it, he was hungry for some North American food. One day, his hosts suggested they go to "TGI Fridays". He was ecstatic, and spent the afternoon dreaming about chicken wings or nachos or a burger. When they arrived, he was shocked and disappointed to find what "Fridays" means in China is a place where everyone orders their own Asian dish, instead of everything being served family style.

                                                                            Sometimes, you just gotta have a steak or a burger.

                                                                  3. re: roxlet

                                                                    So THAT'S how you spell fuul. Many thanks. I forgot to mention that as a noontime staple during my Luxor days.
                                                                    I've used canned favas but cannot get it the way Ahmed prepared it. If you care to post a fuul recipe on the Home Cooking board, I'll be there!


                                                                    1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                      There are many different transliterations from Arabic to English -- nothing is standardized. You might see "ful," or "fu'ul," possibly something else. This can make Google searches for recipes challenging.

                                                                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                        Fuul is actually made with a different kind of fava bean, not like the kind you normally get canned. It is a dried brown bean. I don't know where you live, but I have found them at Yarnoush, a middle eastern/armenian market in White Plains, NY. I do have a recipe, but not with me in Cairo. I'd be a fool to make fuul here in Cairo....;-)

                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                          I knew canned wouldn't be as good as fresh but, considering how hard it is to find canned, fresh will be a mission. I'm 30 miles outside of Philadelphia so there should be a M.E. grocer somewhere around here. I'll have to ask my Jordanian friends for their recipe.


                                                                          1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                            Sorry if I wasn't clear -- they're not fresh favas, they are a kind of dried legume, which is different than the fava bean I know as an Italian. You should be able to find an on line source for them.

                                                                              1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                                It's not that large, but I think it is sort of flatish. I have some at home in NY, but I haven't really looked here.

                                                                  4. I am in total agreement that there is no good pizza in Cairo, judging by American standards of what a pizza should taste like. I just gave up on trying after a while.

                                                                    However, Cairo has a lot of amazing culinary things that make the lack of pizza well worth it. Just yesterday, as I was eating my $2.50 pomegranate, I was thinking of just how many pomegranates I could have bought for that price at a local market in Cairo- perhaps 8 or so. I think you're still in pomegranate season. It's amazing. And then there's mango season. Wonderful mangoes like I've never had them here in the U.S. for a tiny fraction of the price. And Egyptian grape season. And peach season. And pretty decent tomatoes year round. And carrots that taste like no supermarket carrot in the U.S. ever did. Then there are the fresh dates, the dried dates, the fresh figs, the dried figs. Oh- you're getting pretty close to chestnut season in Egypt. Don't miss it. It's wonderful. For much of the year you can get wonderful red peppers for 50 cents/pound. The spices at spice stores are fresh and many are extremely cheap. You can chose from about 10 varieties of eggs at your neighborhood egg store. I know well how extremely annoying it can be to try to find things for a recipe from home, but don't lose sight of how great it can be to be close to local markets which have fantastic, inexpensive produce and other products that would only be sold at expensive high end places here. Don't limit yourself to places that cater to westerners- they make cairo seem like a culinary wasteland, and you pay much higher prices for bad produce.

                                                                    Happy Cairo eating!

                                                                    1. You're so right- just in general- we're chowhounds, and we're in Fat City (those of us in the USA, I'm talking about).

                                                                      I feel so privileged to be able to say that, and don't feel entitled or anything besides lucky and blessed.

                                                                      1. You need to get outside of the American mindset that you should be able to eat whatever you want whenever you want. Food has seasons, and different parts of the world eat different things. You can get fantastic fresh veggies and fish in Egypt. Why on earth do you think you should be able to find pizza in Egypt, for Christ's sake?

                                                                        1. Can you not get pide in Egypt? In Turkey I love having the Turkish version of pizza, which is flatbread cooked in a wood-burning oven with minced lamb and chilli.

                                                                          1. Wait!!! I'm always twice spoiled. I miss stuff from the US AND I miss stuff from elsewhere no matter where I am:

                                                                            The years I lived in Bolivia and moaned about what I was missing in the US was followed by decades of missing the artisanal breads and cheeses, the Tarija wines, the fresh squeezed juices in the markets, the goat meat ,the empanandas, the saise. I've ever since missed the cheap and fresh sea catch and the smoked fish from the Philippines. I miss the momos in Nepal, the tandoor foods in parts of the sub-continent, the breads and mutton in Pakistan, the laab, sausages, and sticky rice in Lao, all the great food in Vietnam, in China; ALL the food in Mexico ... and on and on. When I leave Colombia - I miss the great diversity of inexpensive and perfect fruit and vegetables and the great rangefed beef. I miss streetfood from around the globe when in the US.

                                                                            But, yes, where ever I am, I miss stuff from the US. When in the US, I shop in the supermarkets and in Target and in the Asian stores with glee and pack full suitcases back to where I live.

                                                                            But I don't miss things like pizza. I delve into my stock of cheeses and simply make a pizza at home. I can make a satisfying - albeit incomplete - range of Japanese, Italilan, Indian, Mexican, French, Chinese, Viet, and more foods - the trick is fly out with a near empty suitcase and fly back with suitcases of ingredients (that are then carefully hoarded, used, and not wasted).

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                              I was waiting for you to pitch in. I knew you'd have an interesting spin on this. Thanks, Sam. I think I'll go eat some butter pecan ice cream, now.

                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                Sam, when I saw the first sentence I knew it was you. :)
                                                                                And I like your post.

                                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                  yaya & EWS, rhanks, this is a fun topioc.

                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                    I have had similar thoughts, Sam. I miss Spanish and Greek food. Of course I'm here in the land of plenty with a Whole Foods about to open, just ten minutes away via a beautiful four to six lane highway. No problem! I can try and replicate about anything I want to! Just can't replicate the people and the setting.
                                                                                    I was struck by some comments that made me think back to trips to Questa, NM and the impoverished people and the lack of selection at local stores. Then we spend two weeks in the mountains making do on basic provisions, but sure not suffering. No electricity, no phone, no gas, no Starbucks down the street.
                                                                                    When you get back, take a hot shower, take off your hat and let someone fix you a splendid hot meal, you have a better appreciation for what you have and the others that don't. Hard to see how those poor souls could ever be happy, isn't it?

                                                                                2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                  I like the way you think. Instead of saying "I can't get a good slice of pizza," you mention that you've got lots of ingredients and you'll gladly make it. That's awesome- so many people don't think in terms of preparing at home. I've never lived anywhere but NYC but I feel like keeping kosher is a limitaion, so I've learned how to cook so many cuisines that I would never be able to eat in a restaurant. Sure, not everything's totally authentic, but it's good!

                                                                                3. I totally agree with cbrunelle's post above. While you figure out how to do without your American favorites, don't miss all the wonderful things you can get in Cairo. I know the feeling. I lived in Jordan for a while, where I learned to love fuul for breakfast and Amstel beer and schawarma. I really missed Thai food, believe it or not!

                                                                                  Now I'm in England, where there is lots of choice. However, I do miss a few things--like American beef (burgers, steak). It's difficult to find the same quality here. And strangely, I really miss American Chinese food. I mean plain-old, white carton-packed takeout Chinese. The Chinese here is very different, and I don't enjoy it.

                                                                                  The great thing in all of this is how much it makes you appreciate certain foods. You have to go without in order to appreciate fully what you have. If everything we wanted were available all the time, we'd never get to enjoy that sense of anticipation and incredible satisfaction when biting into that pizza after such a long time away.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Kagey

                                                                                    Interesting about the beef - I've heard a lot of UK-based posters who've lived in the US say that the quality of meat is BETTER here because it's usually grass-fed. But Mr GG always really enjoys the beef he has in America.

                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                      Re: beef in UK and US. I think it's just really what you have grown up with. Most of us in the US grew up with corn-fed (or at least corn-finished) beef so grass-fed tastes "different". Same with chicken, when I lived in the UK (in the 90s) only the chicken marked "corn-fed' tasted right to me, the rest (I was told) had been fed fishmeal and tasted fishy to me.

                                                                                      But to echo others, while I missed certain American standbys, there were other things readily available right on the high street that I could never get back home -- venison and pheasant (in season), amazing cheeses, fabulous pork and lamb, local produce that at the time was unavailable here (now it is, at the farmers market). I think I quite possibly missed English food more when I moved back to the US than I ever missed American food living in England.

                                                                                      1. re: GretchenS

                                                                                        I think I'll miss those same things if I leave England, and also the fact that there's more emphasis on local and seasonal here.

                                                                                        Just to go back to the beef for a moment, it's not really the taste that I find difficult to like, it's the texture and (I think) the cut. It may be that I don't know what to ask for, but the roasting beef I always find at the supermarket or the butcher is always slightly tough and it doesn't seem to be the same cut as the roast beef in the US. If I ate meat often, I'd probably have investigated further by now. But I eat it maybe once or twice a month, so I'm not that bothered.

                                                                                        1. re: Kagey

                                                                                          Grass-fed beef will never be as tender as corn-fed or corn-finished beef, as I understand it, but it will have more flavour.

                                                                                          Pork and lamb - those are the other things that Americans rave about here. An LA-based poster who came to London recently couldn't get enough of the pork here. I also just bought some incredibly fresh Dover sole at the farmer's market for not much money and was thinking how jealous some of my Home Cooking friends would be. :-)

                                                                                          Oh yes, and dairy. Clotted cream and jersey cow's milk. Enough said.

                                                                                  2. You'll probably have to make your own pizza, if you can even locate good mozarella cheese. I lived in several ME countries and some have it and some don't so it all depends on availability. Things like lasagna noodles weren't available and my family made them from scratch. I just got back from the Caribbean and boy did I miss my everyday food that I took for granted, just a week away and I was happy to be back.
                                                                                    Good steak cuts of meat are also impossible to get in many ME countries, because they don't divide the cow the way we do here, they chop it all up in medium pieces and it's just meat, lean stewing beef chunks were very difficult to get, also ground meats always had tons of fat in it, so it's best to go to the butcher and point out exactly what you want and then bring it home and grind it up or ask him to do it without adding too much fat back in.

                                                                                    Cereal and toast bread were others that I really missed, the milk in a lot of places is also either fresh (tastes different) or powdered. I didn't mind the milk but if there was no cereal then what's the point. Whipping cream was impossible to get too, and we had to use those powders from a box (like cool whip). Also ice cream was not available to buy in many places though in pakistan they always had lovely ice cream at home and in cafes/restaurants. Butter was more like margarine in a tub because it was made out of seed oils.

                                                                                    1. We are spoiled. We are especially spoiled if we have a reasonable amount of disposable income and live in a large metropolitan area. At the same time, I really can't get a fantastic pastrami sandwich in Honolulu, nor can I find fresh lau-lau in Dallas. You won't find a whole lot of great Tex-Mex in Maine, and I've never seen a lobster roll in San Francisco. Anyplace outside Pennsylvania they insist on putting all kinds of stuff on Philly Sandwiches, and really great sourdough comes only from San Francisco.

                                                                                      Still when I lived in Seoul for 3 years I became totally spoiled by the produce (and I grew up in California). America had long since given up fresh vegetables in favor of cold storage, something that is finally being reversed. But one thing I found in Seoul, which in the early mid 1980's was just beginning to become a cosmopolitan city, was that if I looked around long enough I could find almost anything - for a price, depending on the season. And if i couldn't find it, i could find most of the ingredients to make it myself.

                                                                                      1. These posts are making me happy, and glad that I've joined this community.

                                                                                        I've experienced many different conditions in my life, from plenty to poverty and back again, in many different places.

                                                                                        And I have found that one of the most vital qualities a person can have to get by in this world, is a sense of gratefulness. That doesn't mean to say that we can't discriminate between a good steak and a better steak, but we can be grateful for the chance to choose.

                                                                                        And I think so many here have said it well, that when we carelessly waste food, it displays a lack of gratitude. The food we grab off a buffet and leave on our plates, for example, affects the establishment's budget and of course the hiring and wages, not to mention what can be donated to a local food shelf. It is true, that we paid for the food, but not to the point of gluttony and waste.

                                                                                        And on the lighter side, after having lived in Europe for a couple of years, I was overjoyed when I happened upon a Pizza Hut, in Heidelberg. It tasted like . . . heaven. Now, I'm not a Pizza Hut fan, and if given a choice, I will always eat something else. But at that time, it reminded me of home.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: miki

                                                                                          Thank you for your contribution. Please keep contributing; You have a good voice.
                                                                                          I particularly connected with the about the ability to choose. We can choose to be sensible, not overspend and not waste even if we have money to burn. This is one instance where trickle-down should help those on the bottom.

                                                                                          1. re: miki

                                                                                            miki, but if there had been Pizza Hut in Norway or Finland when I lived there, I might have never have known the joys of reindeer or mussel and white asparagus pizzas! Or learned to love the local "street foods".
                                                                                            Welcome to food Never Never Land.

                                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                              Ha, true! Fortunately, my husband met me (the scared pregnant wife) at the airport, and he had been stationed in Germany before. He introduced me to German food that afternoon, and I was so lucky to live above a NY French/Italian. Before long, we were running over to France for lunch. But you still miss home sometimes, you know? And Germans did NOT (at the time) make good pizza.

                                                                                              It is so common for Americans who are stationed overseas to cling to the familiar. I wish that people would not judge the newcomers to this country, who do the same thing. It's not a Mexican thing, or a Hmong thing, or a Somali thing. It's a human thing.

                                                                                              But we miss so much when we do it.

                                                                                              1. re: miki

                                                                                                Yes, when living in Scandinavia, I used to have visitors bring me hot Italian sausage and corn tortiillas, until I brought back a tortilla press. Imagine....stacked enchiladas or burritos w/ lefsa substituted tortillas. I was lucky in Norway on a small island; landlord was a fisherman, I bought a 30 m gill net, set it w/ him of Fri & Sat and had lots of fish and crabs. We long lined for cod too. Bought local island lamb cheaply and stocked up on reindeer meat in the autumn. Live should be so good?
                                                                                                In Bolivia, I missed nothing; cheap meat & fish, tropical fruits galore!
                                                                                                In really feel I do not fit in to the American fast food, Hamburger Helper, Wally World, Costco culture.
                                                                                                I deer hunt every morning and evening right now.
                                                                                                Carpe Chow , Veni Vidi, ........

                                                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                  Love that "Carpe Chow"!! That should be on the Chowhound mast head.

                                                                                          2. As I preparing my Thanksgiving stuffing, I was cutting the tops off celery and putting them in the trash. Along came Nasra, my occasional housekeeper, who pulled them out of the trash and took them home with her. I didn't understand what she was saying, but from her pantomime, I gathered that she uses them to make pickles. She also takes plastic bags out of the trash and takes them home. It is a little embarrassing -- things that I think are garbage aren't.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                              It's almost embarrassing, isn't it? We throw out so much in North America that millions in other parts of the world would be immensely grateful for. And especially after Thanksgiving, when so many of us are either pressing leftovers on our guests, or worrying about how we're going to fit them in the fridge, the richness we live in is especially humbling. I hope all of us truly prayed to whatever God we believe in, and sincerely thanked him/her/it for all the bounty we have received.

                                                                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                i almost never throw any sort of packaging out. Everything that can possibly be recycled is recycled by my maid. Cereal boxes, jars, lids, batteries. She washes plastic bags, foil and saran wrap too. I used to throw everything in the garbage, but after watching her sort in one day, I just rinse things and leave them on the counter for her to deal with.

                                                                                              2. Sixty years ago I was a young American girl living in Argentina. Our kitchen had a 24-inch gas range with no oven control, a 4-ft high refrigerator with no freezer, a stone sink, and a marble-topped table, period. In that unlikely setting I took up baking and cooking at age 15. I longed for American goodies, my mother's interest in things domestic was unreliable, and the maid didn't have a clue, so I went on the do-it-yourself plan. Ingredients were awful; our sugar was gray and had pieces of rope in it. Yeast had to be bought in bulk from a bakery. Baking chocolate, what's that? Shopping had to be done non-stop, and everything was primitive compared with the States even allowing for this all being so long ago. We agonized that we couldn't get US products and dreamed of malted milk powder, Campbell's Tomato Soup, cranberries, Hershey's syrup, canned pineapple juice, and saltine soda crackers. But , in retrospect, I now appreciate that produce was better than I can get today in Chicago---luscious ripe fruits, not picked green for market, were standard. Also, beef, cheese, and butter were marvelous. Bread was wonderful. My advice to cooking expatriates is: 1) Try to focus on what you CAN get there that is good (and think of the plastic tomatoes sold in US supermarkets). 2) Your experience will make you very, very resourceful: you can more-or-less manufacture everything from hamburger buns to marshmallows. 3) Take advantage of the chance to learn to cook the dishes and foods of where-you-are (my next-door neighbor taught me to make a mean empanada). You'll come home a little bit changed, and this will make the rest of your life more interesting. Sign me, Been There, Done That.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                  Very good advise. I remember making a ginger bread house in the tropics of Bolivia at Xmas and having it collapse from the high humidity, We make great saltenas and majadito.

                                                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                    Yup, and the smoked capybara (ronsoco) from the muddy, slimy open market in Pucallpa, Peru, in the Amazon still makes the most wonderful Christmas ham. Just steam to get rid of most of the saltiness and slice thinly on the diagonal. Nice, pink, and delicious. The world's largest rodent. I only told people after dinner that it was not Virginia smoked ham. People were surprised. The mango & lime juice compote made the perfect accompanyment.

                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                      I've only had capybara roasted whole on a spit at a ranch in the Beni, Bolivia. God, I miss saltenas. Gotta make a few dozen over Xmas.

                                                                                                    2. re: Querencia

                                                                                                      I have to say that my oven that doesn't have a thermostat is a real challenge. Even at its lowest setting, the temperature quickly spikes to "hi" on my digital thermometer. Making my son's birthday cake was a challenge since I had to continually crack the door open so that some of the heat could escape. Somehow it came out OK, but now, when I return after Christmas, I'm thinking bread. Maybe these high temps would work with bread and pizza!