Saturday, March 7

Expat Shopping Spree


My friend Annabel, accomplished chef, food writer & marketing maven came to Rome to work in an authentic trattoria. She blogged about her experience (and terrific recipes as well) here [Her past blogs include India: Who's Sari Now? and Tokyo: Vending for your life - where she left with no suitcase & decided to purchase all of her necessities from the ubiquitous vending machines which purportedly sell everything from underwear to electronics and more..]. Needless to say, the last time she came over, she ended up developing Tex Mex menus for Dixieland restaurants in Milan, training the kitchen staff to make Huevos Rancheros and Silver Dollar Pancakes (still on offer, I might add -- although they probably cost a silver dollar to eat them).


Her arrival sparked in me, however, a little Expat Shopping Spree. Having not been back to the USA for well over a year, I was in definite need of stuff. And, I'm very brand loyal. So, for any of you 'across the pond' who come visit us expats over here, here goes.  My brother, for one, stocks up on yummy granola, kids' toothpaste and vitamins. This is not to say you can't find the items here (and Carrefour gets our vote), but, at nearly $12 for a little bottle of maple syrup, well, it's a lot less trouble to go to www.drugstore.com and let your fingers do the walking (and your friends do the carrying).


So, here's my short list of things I absolutely, positively, cannot live without (it goes without saying that we're talking family-sized containers, a concept that has not quite reached the continent):


Maple syrup - because here it costs more than truffles
Imitation vanilla - bottles here are sold for a family of lilliputians
Arrid Extra Dry - incredibly, boiling hot Europe offers either anti-perspirant or deodorant, and never the twain shall meet. I won't go into the net effect of this most outrageous practice.
Brown sugar - not cane, but soft, packed, thrice-refined, imperative for cookies, brown
Ghirardelli Brownie Mix - I know a caterer in London who brings it in by the case full -- there is no greater product on earth.
Bisquick -- for those Sunday a.m. pancakes - and don't let them fool you, Europeans love American breakfasts if it's put in front of them.
Aveeno lotion-- this is sold here, and prices on toiletries are nearly the same these days, but I still hold out for the family-size
Ditto for Johnson's Baby Oil, Nivea & other sundry items including Aquafresh (which, anyone coming to Europe will find the 'minty' taste has been altered -- turns out, they hate our mint, we theirs).
Starbucks chai tea packs - they don't sell the loose stuff over here (and thankfully, there are no Starbucks in Italy -- I think even the Italians will balk at a 4 euro latte)
Brita water filters -- can't find them at those prices over here!
Marshmallows -- just because
Hand-held dish scrubber sponges -- make great gifts too!
Altoids -- they say they come from England, but you won't find them over there (believe me, I've tried!)
Coffeemate & Folgers Instant when you want a cup o'Joe that's "good to the last drop" and decidedly not an espresso with lots of water added!


And, for those of you leaving Italy, always pack a huge family-sized Nutella jar, 'cuz you won't find 'em even that large at CostCo. Touchè.

20 comments:

Carol said...

three musts on my list include tylenol, pepto and q-tips.
we all have our own (unique!) needs.

Anonymous said...

Che ridicolo: gli italiani che vivono in America si portano tantissime cose dall'Italia!!!!!!!
Per quanto riguarda la nutella, basta andare a comprarla in USA
nei supermercati italiani.......
molto meno faticoso che portarsela.

Anonymous said...

dont forget PEANUT BUTTER!

Anonymous said...

It's spelled HUEVOS not Uevos. Gracias.

Carol said...

you can actually get peanut butter here. the discount supermarket, todis, carries one that is made of 99% peanuts. after eating this, i can't go back to jiff. go figure.

Francesca Maggi said...

I must say, my brother always asks my mom to bring back things from Italy when she goes back & forth. She always obliges: by venturing into the Italian market in (nearby) Windsor (Canada) and bringing the wonderful bonta' straight to his doorstep!!!

Anonymous said...

Actually these days you can get just about everything everywhere. So herewith are the biggest price performers for bringing stuff from the USA to Europe: (1) By far, the best deal is BENEFIBER, it is light and powdery and marked up 20 times in Europe; (2) Costco cashews; (3) pure maple syrup; (4) Peanut Butter Co peanut mighty maple butter; (5) ibuprofen; (6) multi-vitamins; (7) metamucil [sorry for too many fiber references but for the older set it is much cheaper in US]; and (8) Coscto pancake batter. Happy shopping!

Anonymous said...

Why are you going to Italy to eat
"AMERICAN" food?
Save your money......and stay home!

Francesca Maggi said...

After 17 years, there are certain things you just gotta have every so often...Like cream of wheat and campbell's mushroom soup on toast.
That's why it's called, Comfort Food.

The Italian equivalent? Probably nutella on bread and risotto.

Anonymous said...

didn't you forget Hellmann's mayo?

C and H Romenesko said...

Too funny! I can absolutely relate. I'm an expat in Denmark and routinely have a list of 'comfort' foods and sundries that friends and family bring when they visit. Thanks for all the helpful info on Italy. We're traveling to Rome for 10 days and then northern Italy (Siena and north) for 3 weeks this year. Your tidbits are very appreciated...as is your humor!
Holly

J.Doe said...

When I was an expat in Italy I loved the food but found myself
craving 'American' food that I never even particularly liked while living in the US. That was wierd. Now that I live in the US and it's all abundantly available I don't eat those products.
But, if you would like I could mail you some cuz I remember those cravings!!
P.S. I really enjoy your blog

Francesca Maggi said...

To anon 2: I just cracked open a fine jar of my very own Hellman's Mayonaisse, purloined in London.
Yes! I realized I forgot it on the list.
Grazie.

To anon 1: Save my money & stay home? And forgo all that Italy has to offer in cuisine? Parish the thought! You guys can keep your gorgeous plastic veggies & supersized portions any day of the week. I'll take rationing brown sugar & Sunsweet prunes over that anytime...!

Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

"Imitation vanilla - bottles here are sold for a family of lilliputians" This made me laugh so loud that I scared my husband! lol

I think it is even worse in Calabria, I've never seen maple syrup and we only have one little bitty jar of peanut butter at one store! ha

I also bring Velveeta cheese for Tex-Mex, canned soups for cooking and Ziploc bags. :-) Oh, yea, and Advil.

Anonymous said...

im with you on the Ghirardelli...

Sara said...

Ok, I am with you on almost everything, but the imitation vanilla. I think you've got to buy the real stuff, both for flavor and to help save the rain forest (supporting the orchid harvesters, etc.). A couple others (besides cream of wheat, mentioned above): Duncan Hines cake mix for quick cakes for kids' parties (Betty Crocker just doesn't compare), and Cheddar cheese - preferrably Cracker Barrel or Cabot, extra sharp of course. Then, non foodstuffs: spray Pam, Hefty ziplock bags, and rubbing alcohol (and if anyone out there can tell me how to get that here, all the better!). And to anonymous who thinks this is all ridiculous, he or she should look at the basic foodstuffs in his cart next time he goes shopping. Be amazed if none of the American stuff - Heinz catsup, Hershey's syrup, etc, - never made it into his kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Living in London, I realized I also had everything in stock...so, asked a friend to bring me back, SARAN WRAP - which any good Expat worth their salt will know...
The British 'cling foil' does not cling very much, but still is better than the Italian version, which only clings to itself.

So, add that to your staples.

Anonymous said...

Living in London, I realized I also had everything in stock...so, asked a friend to bring me back, SARAN WRAP - which any good Expat worth their salt will know...
The British 'cling foil' does not cling very much, but still is better than the Italian version, which only clings to itself.

So, add that to your staples.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! A friend explained the SARAN, and her husband explained it even better. Apparently, there are a select group who like SARAN to support some of their extra-curricular activities!

Michele @ Malaysian Meanders said...

I'm and expat in Malaysia, and I feel your pain. Yes to Bisquick and Brown Sugar. I made my own vanilla extract with Indonesian grown beans and vodka (a la Martha Stewart) but hubby still brought back Adam's Best Double Strength Imitation Vanilla the last time we went home. I'm visiting America this summer, and you can be assured that my return luggage will be heavy with groceries. If you have a chance, I invite you to stop by my blog where I responded to the CNN Go 10 Foods Americans Miss Most article.