And now the continuation…
Food is a delicate topic across the globe – especially for those of us who have just stepped into a new environment. Names, smells, flavors, even entire food items don’t match with what’s in one’s memories.
Me: “What exactly are Pop-Tarts, Joe?” *
I stood in front of hundreds of small blue boxes that all looked the same. I knew the brand, but the product depicted on the box looked unfamiliar. On first sight, they all looked the same, but they weren’t. I read “strawberry” on one box, “raspberry” on another, “chocolate fudge” on yet another one.
Joe: “You’ve never had them? Well, they are usually for breakfast. It’s pastry with a filling. You can either eat them right from the box or, which is what I would recommend, toast them. They are pretty American.”
Me: “OK, I’ll think about it. Don’t look too healthy, though. Besides that, I don’t have a toaster.
Joe: “Fair enough. You don’t miss all too much. And yeah, there are healthier options out there.”
We continued our round through the aisles. The cart was still empty. When we passed the tea section, I was taken back in time.
I was studying the tea boxes. The aisle was much quieter than the rest of the supermarket. I was looking for a specific type of tea – Earl Grey, my favorite. I had picked the least expensive one the first time around, but couldn’t get comfortable with this brand’s taste.
“Florian?” I heard a woman’s voice calling. At first, I didn’t realize. Why would someone call me? I didn’t know anyone in here. But the voice came closer and sounded familiar. I heard it again. I left the tea-world and turned around. Who was that?
A familiar face came in sight. I was surprised. What are the odds that I would meet someone I know in a supermarket in a town that was still new to me.
Me: “Hey, Kathy. That’s a surprise.”
Kathy: “I know. Nice meeting you outside the classroom. I’ve just stopped by to get some essentials. I don’t really like this kind of supermarket. The lighting is so bright, which makes me uncomfortable. And they don’t have a good variety.”
Me: “It’s a bit confusing, I agree. But I found some bread that looks familiar.”
I fished a rectangular package out of my little basket.
Me: “See, that’s bread I can relate to. It’s not exactly what I’m used to, the taste is still a bit off, but it comes pretty close.”
Kathy: “I hear you. When we lived in England, it took me a while to adjust, too. No worries there. It will get easier.”
Me: “It’s something about the smell. It’s hard to describe. I’m more used to the smell of freshly baked goods. Here, it smells like a chemistry lab.”
Kathy: “You know? There are much better places to shop for food. There’s one a bit closer to New Haven. It’s a bit more expensive, but they have dedicated sections for food from around the world. I go there to find cornish pasty for Frans. I’ll have to send you some links.”
Me: “That would be nice, thank you.”
“Excuse me.” The polite interruption by another shopper reminded us that we had blocked the teas on display.
Kathy: “Uh, before I forget. I just talked with Frans about this. We would love to have you over for lunch or dinner one day. He’s out with Sikorsky a lot at the moment. But it should be better in March.”
Me: “Wow, that sounds great. Thank you, I would love that.”
Kathy: “Great, I’ll keep you posted. I gotta go know. It was nice bumping into you here. Have a nice night.”
Joe pulled me back into the present.
Joe: “Over here are all the coffees. Can be a bit overwhelming at first.”
Me: “Don’t worry. I’m not into coffee anyway.”
We continued our trip through the vast resources of the supermarket.
Joe: “Soda. That’s familiar to you right?”
Me: “Yeah, different name, but the world is pretty Americanized in that area. But you’ve got quite a lot of options here.”
Joe: “Ha, just thinking of something… Root beer. Do you know what it is?”
Me: “No, I mean, the name rings a bell, but never tried it. I don’t even think that it’s sold in Germany.”
Before I had a chance to ask for more information, Joe continued.
Joe: “Never? Whoa, that’s gonna change – today! It’s a soda, you’ll love it!”
We continued our shopping spree and arrived at the checkout counters with a cart that was filled to its brim.
Joe walked to one of the mini fridges positioned in-between the checkout counters.
“That’s still on me,” he said to the clerk, handing him a bottle. “He’s fresh from Germany and never had root beer before. I thought what would be better to make him familiar with the country’s food than to let him try root beer.”
After he had the bottle back in his possession, Joe passed it over to me. “Enjoy, Flo. I’m excited to find out what you say about it.”
I had learned of some typical American foods and had been familiarized with procedures in here. It’s always the little things that make the difference. How to weigh fruits and vegetables properly, what’s a decent cereal option, how to operate the self-checkout system, and how to get all the stuff home, to name just a few.
Thanks for making the transition into my new environment so much easier. The safety net just got stronger.
To Be Continued…
* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.