Tuesday, August 02, 2011

food and foreigners

Continuing the discussion on expatriates and food... bear with me as I get a wee bit political. I've heard many people in the US criticize immigrants for failing to assimilate quickly, for clinging too long or too strongly to the language, customs, and foods of their country of origin. But the vast majority of Americans I've met living overseas do the same thing, to some degree or another. Familiar food is incredibly comforting when you're homesick. I remember a group of our cross-cultural students in Peru making a bee-line to the MacDonald's they found in Lima, bypassing the local sandwich shops. And although some expats do "go native" and take pride in enjoying the local cuisine, the reason they take such pride in this ability or preference has a lot to do with (in my opinion) that it's NOT the norm. In fact, when an expat does "go native" too deeply they often become subject to criticism from other expats. (Side note: why are immigrants in the US never called "expats"? Even those who are only coming temporarily to work, which is what we're doing here in Albania? Something to think about. I think it has a lot to do with power, privilege and class. But I digress. Sort of.) Anyway, it's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine and I'm a bit bemused by my own current fixation on oatmeal and Cheerios.

Did I mention that I spent $10 on two lbs. of frozen blueberries today? You can't get blueberries in the shops here, but apparently they do grow wild in the mountains near Tirana, and a woman picks them and sells them to American missionaries. I can't tell you how excited Valerie was to get them. She's been talking about blueberry muffins for ages (prompted, I believe, by a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book she has) and I told her Grammy can bring some dried blueberries from the States. We made some delicious blackberry muffins today (those grow all over the place here and showed up fresh in the markets a couple weeks ago), and tomorrow we'll make blueberry muffins. Right now both kids have purple-stained lips and fingers. And I feel silly for buying them, but... I really wanted them!

Ah, expat dilemmas.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

It is true that many Americans criticize immigrants for not assimilating and you are right, we do the same thing. I think Americans are guilty of this even when we go to a different town. I am constantly having to ask, "Do you have a restaurant we don't have?" and it throws people off. My husband and I really try to frequent locally or regional restaurants instead of chains and many of our friends and family just don't understand that. While I have not traveled extensively I have been to 3 different countries and with the exception of Starbucks (which we ducked into during a rain storm) I have not eaten in an American restaurant in any of them. However these were countries with cuisine I typically enjoy. I think if I ever travel to Asia or move to a country even temporarily I will have a more difficult time.