Back in the 90’s, just few years after the end of the Cold War, the difference of salaries and costs of living on East and West of Europe were so important that a price of subway ticket was considered as expensive for someone from ex-Soviet bloc. Though I had obtained a scholarship for my studies in a French College, each time I travelled for school break to Slovakia, I would bring back to France bags full of food and non-food items (of course, it would include some sweets from my childhood like “Horalky” or “Študentská pečať”). Many years later, the content of my bags reduced and changed, as I could travel by plane and was also limited by weight. I would bring mostly some souvenirs ‘Made in Slovakia’ for my friends, gifts I received from my family, and food that I’ve been really missing abroad (such as “Bryndza” – special sheep cheese, and “Becherovka” – herb based schnapps).
Much later, with the birth of my daughter, I would mostly bring CD’s with lullabies and little songs, books, and DVD with cartoons in Slovak language. If my family was visiting me in France during Christmas or Easter time, they would also bring some decorations (hand painted eggs, gingerbreads or beeswax candles) and also, some products to cook typical recipes for those special moments. Once, I even asked to bring me a special earthen cask to prepare my own sauerkraut, so I would never miss this ingredient so important in the Slovak kitchen. But unfortunately, when we moved to our New Yorker apartment, this item was left behind, it was not ideal to have fermenting cabbage literally in the kitchen/living room.
During our last summer break, we made a very long trip, visiting all three countries that represent our ‘Home’ countries: Slovakia, France and Mauritius (over 32.000 km all together). Following picture testifies that what we brought back with us, was decent to hold an international mini fair! So, if you are wondering what we have been missing since we moved to the US, here are some examples:
- Special laundry sheets that make your life easier because you don’t have to worry mixing clothes of different colors
- Baking Powder and chocolate Nestle (French expats in US would agree that Hershey’s is not the best substitute for a perfect “Moelleux au chocolat”: French molten chocolate cake)
- Cosmetics like Chanel, Clarins, and Occitane (all available in US but pricier)
- Tea “Mariage Frère”
- Foie gras and some duck terrines
- Different sweets like “Têtes brulées” and “Malabar”, and comic books for our daughter
- Mixtures of different spices to cook typical Mauritian recipes like Daube, Carry, etc.
- Pickled chilis from Reunion and Rodrigues Islands
- “Eau de Mélisse” and “Alcool de Menthe”: alternative to meds for digestive problems, travel sickness, stress, fatigue, and so on
- Fried salt fish (that we love so much)
- Some spices and Hungarian paste in tube called “Porkolt” (for cooking a sort of beef stew)
- Some more candies 🙂
- Swiss toothbrushes Curaprox
- Special cook utensil for “Koblihy” (Czech style of donuts)
Luckily we don’t have to wait until our next vacation, if we want to cook our traditional meals. In fact, in New York City, we have a couple of French, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian or Indian stores, where we can buy many products and there are online shops too. If you want to find addresses of stores related to your home country that are situated in your neighborhood, try out KITnDO platform. You can also add places you know if they are missing there, so that others can discover them too.
Please, share with us what is on your shopping list for your next trip to the country(ies) you are connected to? What are you missing the most (besides family and friends of course)?
Written by Martina Hornakova