On the challenge of grocery shopping in a different country

I love to cook and I am always curious to discover new flavor, fruits, vegetables and cooking techniques. This passion for culinary discovery came in handy a lot when I relocated from France to Germany and then from Germany to US before coming back to Germany again as finding your favorite products is not easy in a different language and items are often not at all available. Food is the first topic of complaint of expats everywhere, it is also the first challenge they need to master directly after arriving.

Basic items vary in quality, shape, size and composition from one country to the other.

American have a sweet taste and nearly toast bread sold there contains high content of corn syrup. In Germany I am always confused by the choices of Yogurt, buttermilk, whipping cream, Sour Cream or Quark and when to use the one or the other for each recipe.

With different supply chain system and different climate the product is altered to fit local requirements.

In US the distance are so challenging that most of the food is altered to guarantee longer shelf life. For instance fresh milk; which mostly comes from Wisconsin; has over a month before expiry. In Europe or in India, milk turns bad after 1 to 2 weeks. Similarly American ready made puff pastry there is only sold frozen and in set of two round shaped dough. In Europe, one buys it fresh; In Germany they sell one long rectangular sheet to bake strudel, in France they are round to bake quiche or extra fresh a small square to roll yourself.

Muscadines grapes

Depending on the location, different vegetables are basic go to items. In North Carolina I discovered a few fruits and vegetables I had never seen before like muscadines grapes, okra or collard green. In Germany I learned about a new delicious type of cabbage, I had never heard of anywhere else: Kohlrabi a.k.a. German turnip.

Kohlrabi aka German turnip

If one wants to eat everywhere like in its home country, it can quickly become very costly.

In the US real good cheese is available in specialty shops for the cost of one arm or leg. After one visit to the local Supermarket, I decided to eat only cheddar for the rest of our stay. Eating a french style cheese plate daily with a selection of fresh cheeses would have cost 5 time the price in Europe and anyway they are not allowed to sell raw milk cheese.

The joy of trying out new food and discovering new favorites.

In the 15 month I spent in US, I have discovered a love for Louisiana Gumbo and crawfish Étouffé that I would never have suspected. We tried to cook fried green tomatoes and tasted our first fried oysters, Cuban sandwich and the true southern barbecue. I learned to love Okkra in Bhindi Masala and experimented with green collard. In Germany I have become a fan of Spätzle and Maultaschen. At the end of the day, french cuisine will always make me feel at home wherever I am. I still bring boxes of duck confit, duck magret, pâté, ravioles and wine whenever I go to France or ask friends and relatives to bring me some when they come to visit.

I could live a full life without tasting gumbo but it’s such a thrilling feeling to discover a new flavor, texture or cooking technique and taste the full potential another culture has to offer. At the end of the day what is the point of relocating to another country if it is to live just like at home. That being said it’s time to eat my quiche for dinner… what’s on the menu for you tonight?

My dinner, with the puff pastry sheet cut to form a round…

3 thoughts on “On the challenge of grocery shopping in a different country

  1. Introducing Best Indian Food Blog. Travelling all rural remote Indian villages and cities since 1999 to discover, research, cook and taste every Indian food, yes every, i.e. Regional, Aboriginal, Traditional, Historical, .Modern and Fusion foods. Discovered 72,593 Indian dishes, tasted 9,741 dishes, cooked 7,925 dishes and is on. Claimed to be the world’s largest food collection. Presently engaged to make © WORLD’S LARGEST FOOD BLOG® along with © BEST INDIAN FOOD BLOG®. You are invited to be a part of Food Blogging History. You are welcome!

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    1. Thanks for the tip, you have a very large selection of indian dishes on your blog and I‘ll definitely try a dish or two. I love your concept of writing a simplified recipe vs. the usual long description. It saves so much time! Just be aware that outside of India some ingredients can be called differently (Atta = whole flour wheat and maida = all purpose flour). In most western country we only use Atta and one has to go to a few specialty store before finding Atta, I tried to make chapati with maida once and it was not a success!

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