Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Home is where...my stomach is!

You know, I've been really good. Since I've gotten pregnant, I haven't had real cravings; eaten badly or anything like that. I have stayed healthy and gained very little weight.

But while the countdown has begun before my delivery and chapter deadlines are rolling in faster and faster, I find myself thinking of home a lot. And when I think of home, I dream of food. Since moving to the UK, I can't say I've had trouble finding good dishes and restaurants for fine dining. However, there are numerous occasions when I wish I could have some foods that I miss--foods that give me comfort.

To make it stranger, two friends recently asked me what foods I miss most. But these people know me. And if you know me, then you know how important food is to me.

So, pardon me while I briefly lament the loss of these products. And if anyone out there has any idea how I can get my hands on such products here in the UK, please contact me.

As it turns out, I miss foods from all the different places I've lived in the US.

Growing up in Miami: I miss Cuban baked goods.
I don't know why I was dreaming about it, because I haven't had a slice since I was 12 or so...but I really miss Cuban birthday cakes. Extraordinarily light, fluffy, sweet, cake layers with a kind of gooey, fruity filling and iced in a sticky, airy, ultra-white, glossy frosting.

I also miss buying cans and cans of coconut water with tiny chunks of coconut meat. This is one of my worst cravings for comfort. It's the drink you eat and drink. If you're from the Caribbean, most likely, this is comfort for you as well. I couldn't imagine never touching coconut water again. That's too painful of a thought.

Of course, I miss many dishes...particularly Haitian dishes that you can't get just anywhere. For example, Haitians love our black rice "diri ak djon djon" made with water steeped from a special black, dried mushroom (djon djon) that does NOT grow anywhere else in the world. It's unique. It's Haitian.
But there are all the other Caribbean fruits and delicacies that I miss too. No point in going into all of that. I'll depress myself further.

As for some typical American foods, Pillsbury crescent rolls! If the UK ever discovered these delicate, buttery rolls, it would become the new crack

From the Mid-Atlantic area:
fresh Polish keilbasa sausages! I got hooked on that because of my exboyfriend's Polish mom. Served with some horseradish and sauerkraut--lovely dish.

From the South:
Soul food mac-and-cheese! Damn, that stuff is truly crack. Buttery, cheesy, just the right about of saltiness. I believe it does take a year off your life for every 3 portions you consume. I believe the only thing worse for you is Krispy Kreme donuts.
Sooner or later, the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will admit that they have always known that crack cocaine was one of the major ingredients. KK donuts are extremely dangerous for people--worse than smoking, I say. One should not even look at KK baked goods directly. Like the sun, it could cause permanent damage.
God forbid the Brits discover Krispy Kreme donuts. The country would just blow up in weight and die within 10 years. They couldn't handle something as delicious and deadly as KK donuts.

However, my true comfort food is grits.
My husband does not get it how coarsely ground corn is loved, much less tolerated, by our palates. But this man doesn't care for polenta either so, what am I to do?

(Now, my husband comes from the culture where men would pour oat-based porridge into the drawer of a dresser and let it harden. Then they would cut a slice and take it with them as their "snackbar" in the fields while tending sheep or whatever mess they were doing out in the middle of nowhere! Do you people see what I'm dealing with up here in Scotland???!)

To be realistic, anyone who didn't grow up in the southern states doesn't seem to get the love of grits either, and I understand that. For me, like many Southerners, grits is best enjoyed with cheese and garlic!

Something else that I miss from time to time, which surprises me, is Carolina mustard bbq sauce. Now, for those of you who don't know...not all bbq sauces are created equal. And most regions in the US have their preferences dry rub; wet rub; tomato based; mustard based; vinegar based; sweet; acidity; spicy; hot...and so on.
I am no different. It surprises me to crave the mustard variety because I did not grow up on mustard bbq sauce. Floridians usually prefer dark red/brown sticky, sweet tomato based bbq sauce. Which I still do--don't get me wrong. But living in South Carolina for two years did introduce me to their preferred bbq flavors and hell, I guess I grew an affinity for it.

The last place I lived before moving to Scotland was Austin, Texas. It takes quite a lot of effort to not eat Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisines. It's everywhere...and let me tell you, when you find a good restaurant--it's hard to not hit that spot every week.
For me, it was El Chile restaurant--near my old neighborhood. Their drinks (my favorite was prickly pear margarita)and food were quite tasty but, what always drew me back like an embarassed addict was their salsa that they served for free. I can't really identify all the ingredients and I never asked (stupid me). But I know several types of roasted chili peppers were involved. That, I think, was the key...roasted chilis. The salsa is never red but dark brown with flecks of burned chili flecks.
I'm telling you...that is the sh*t!

But enough about that. Next, I want to learn what is comfort food here in the UK and other places.
If any Brits are reading this, please send me some examples of your comfort foods! I'm dying to learn!


At Apr 3, 2007, 5:32:00 PM, Blogger Bhuidhe said...

Hi Peggy,
Brit food I miss: marmalade, baked beans, black pudding, bacon, cheddar cheese, decent beer, all the "foreign" grub you can get, top of the list a DECENT BLOODY CURRY though a good Tex Mex would disappear pretty fast. I know Italian grub is good, but ALL the time?
Comfort food: semolina pudding, scrambled eggs on toast, mashed potatoes with cheese, apple crumble, decent beer, good red wine.
Food I ate during first 4 months of pregnancies: none (lost almost a stone each time).
Food I ate during latter 5 months of pregnancies: anything I could get my hands on that would go into my mouth (got that stone back pretty quick...).
If you want any info on Italian grub, happy to help. But please Peggy, tell me what I've been yearning to know for years:
Jane :-)

At Apr 3, 2007, 8:24:00 PM, Blogger Peggy Brunache said...

Hi Jane,
Thanks for your favorites! I'll have to find some apple crumble. Curious about that!
Apparently, Andy does not care for semolina--a texture thing, I guess.
My list have less to do with cravings and more to do a tangible, embodied aspect of home. I'm so far away from my friends and family--food comes close.
As for your question: Grits are much like polenta-coarsely ground corn.

At Apr 24, 2007, 10:25:00 PM, Anonymous amy said...

Hi Peggy,

I don't know if you remember me or not, but I was Angela Medearis's assistant at the "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" cook off event that you judged.

I just read the entry as I never knew it existed, but I really enjoyed reading your take on things. At the end of the post, you ask if Angela would really have won had the contest not been rigged... I would really like to know the answer to that question! :)

FYI, I no longer work for Angela, so this is no longer a conflict of interest, and am working on my own roman a'clef of my experiences being in her employ. Your information would be a very good inclusion, I think.

I wanted to email you directly, but couldn't find a contact link. If you have time, could you please email me at miss_amy2003@yahoo.com? I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you so much! I can't wait to hear who the winner SHOULD have been!

At Nov 19, 2007, 11:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the exception of the Cuban birthday cake, you know you can find nearly all the groceries you crave on the Internet. Specifically, I looked up "goya products" on google. They put commercial links in the frame on the right, and the first one I clicked showed 'yahoo shopping' links for Goya items. The first of them was www.foodservicedirect.com They had the coconut water at that site.

Yes, you have to buy a whole caseful, but prices range among vendors from $25 to $34 per case. Shop around.

I was raised in NYC, now living in Chicago. One 'comfort food' I dearly miss is Ronzoni Pastina, a macaroni that is tiny little star shapes. There are other 'pastinas' but the size and texture unique to Ronzoni is what I crave. I was able to buy some through amazon.com, of all places! Of course, shipping cost more than the Pastina, so I won't be ordering it again soon, but that one splurge was a sweet trip down Memory Lane.

Best of luck with your pregnancy and your cravings. Those may or may not disappear after the baby comes, LOL


At May 30, 2008, 1:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Peggy,

I just discovered your blog today (via Black Women in Europe) and have really enjoyed browsing through your archive. I was especially eager to read about your experiences in Scotland because I have an acquaintance (a black women) in the States who is married to a Scotsman. Though they both live in the States with their two daughters, they do visit his family in Scotland from time to time.

I have lived and worked in Germany since 1975. Though things have changed here substantially in the meantime, I can really empathize with your food cravings. Here were my 'must haves' when my mom sent a package and/or I was back in the States for a visit:

1. a good hoagie
2. an original Philly cheese steak
4. American-style Chinese egg foo jung (imagine my trauma when I ordered some in Germany and the waiter brought me a normal omelette instead of the egg cakes steeped in rich dark gravy!)
5. brownies
6. my mom's roast beef and mashed potatoes
7. grits (yep, I love it, too)
8. creamed chipped beef on toast
9. cheese cake
10. breakfast sausage patties
11. rice-a-roni
12. jiffy cornbread mix

sheesh! I could go on...

In the meantime, some items I craved are available here, and my taste for other things has subsided.

I've added your blog to my blog roll!



Post a Comment

<< Home