Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Staple Comfort Foods

This post is in no way a formal solicitation for family, friends, or strangers to send any of the items listed below. However, if you were to do so, there would certainly be no complaints.

Like any college freshman, the self-respecting expat enjoys the occasional care package stocked full of comfort items from home. Thankfully, we're fortunate enough that people have either mailed packages to us (we're pretty sure they've all arrived since Lindsay Luth went postal) or have had friends from work that have used their second piece of checked luggage as a de facto care package. While the specific contents of those packages obviously vary, we've been able to maintain a basic stock of some very specific and familiar staple items. Some of the items you can actually find here, but either they seem price prohibitive (imported food is extremely expensive, like $6 for a pack of El Paso flour tortillas) or aren't quite the exact same. In no particular order, here's a list of the staple items we try and maintain and have been able to do so with the help of family and friends.

Kraft Mac 'n Cheese
It's the wife's "I haven't felt well but am feeling better but still claim to be sick and just need something familiar" food. It can actually be found in the stores but costs about $3 - $4 per box, which just seems too much when it's consumed more frequently than the initial reason stated.

For a coffee producing country, whole bean coffee is extraordinarily difficult to find in Gurgaon. Maybe it has something to do with the India's love affair with tea. Coffee hasn't been an issue as I imported 15 pounds of whole bean coffee from a friend's coffee shop, Coffee Please, in Madeira, Ohio. We're still working our way through the first 5 pound bag. Even though we've increased our coffee consumption at home as of late, I'm thinking it pulls us through until at least the summer of 2011.

Crystal Light
The filtered water is entirely safe to drink but for some reason it seems safer with a packet of Crystal Light, preferably a packet of Cranberry Apple Crystal Light. I thought we had a comically large supply of this, including the "to go" packs I take to work. That supply is dwindling and will be a major part of the restocking operation when we go home in October. No substitute currently exists though there are single serving packets of Gatorade to pour into water.

"Real World" Chocolate
The chocolate in India deserves its own post (and I'll run out of topics at some point and actually post it), but suffice to say that it's not nearly as sweet. It's the climate's fault. American chocolate (or as I've heard it called, chocolate from the "real world") melts at a much lower temperature than Indian chocolate. As a result, chocolate should only be brought over in carry-on baggage or shipped during winter months.

Lawry's Fajita/Taco Seasoning Packets
Though it insults some people to use seasoning packets, the reality is that you can produce fairly close to the same chicken-based Mexican food here as long as you have the seasoning packets, which unfortunately, you can't find in stores and helps explain why there are no decent Mexican restaurants here even though Indians seem to like Mexican when they eat the award winning (no joke) Mexican restaurant in town, TGI Friday's. Quick word of advice: If there are any budding restauranteurs out there in Delhi, find a way to open a slightly below average Mexican restaurant and charge whatever you want. You will make money.

Graham Crackers
A fairly basic snack that we've been unable to find here. These also aren't exactly the easiest items to transport so they are, perhaps, more of delicacy than one would traditionally think. In addition, we've yet to find anything close to resembling a substitute, so the mystique only grows.

Peanut Butter
The all American item most widely quoted as the item to bring or that people miss is actually available at grocery stores here. The price is steep, around $5 for a 16 ounce jar, but it's Skippy, which is good enough (I'm a Jif man, but beggars can't be choosers). With a substitute that readily available and a price that is expensive but not THAT expensive, it will be one of the first items cut from the list when we come back in October if baggage weight becomes an issue.

Oats and Chocolate Fiber One Bars
Not only do these bars make a delicious treat, they also contain actual chocolate chips from the "real world" so you get a little bit of that chocolate fix as well. Plus, fiber is good right? We have four large boxes from Costco (30 bars each) in the cabinet but it's safe to assume we go through 1 - 1.5 boxes per month (I eat one at work each day) so a restock is in order. The only substitutable item here are imported granola bars; not worth the price for an item that isn't as good.

Heinz Ketchup
I was quite excited when I saw Heinz ketchup in the grocery store. I was less excited when I tasted the substance inside the Heinz ketchup bottle. I was very relieved when our shipping crate arrived and I had three large bottles of Heinz from the pre-departure Costco run which should be more than enough to take me through the end of next year.

Jack Links Turkey Jerky
The mother-in-law sent a care package with some jerky and I had forgotten how delightful it was. I'm not a huge consumer or jerky at home, but any time you can have meat as a snack, you'd have to consider it a  good time. I'm fairly careful to request turkey jerky because (1) it's "healthier" and (2) I'm not sure if there are laws against importing packaged beef products.


  1. Oh do we ever "get" this post! I've heard though (news flash!!) that there are Honey Maid Graham Crackers at Modern Bazaar ... heading there tomorrow to try to find them! (Our kids eat them in milk EVERY morning!)

  2. I feel a little bit special that my 'favorite items' delivery may have prompted this post!

  3. Delhibound, thanks for the tip on the graham crackers....I may hope the wife doesn't read your comment and surprise her; I mean, who needs jewelry for a birthday or anniversary when you get graham crackers?

    Tracy, your delivery absolutely prompted the post and I could have literally sat here with the bag, pulled an item out, and listed it for this post. Pretty much the perfect package. Also, since I figured I had raved about the IPA nonstop on Facebook that it was time to do justice to the other items.

  4. No Happy Joe's Taco Pizza?!?

  5. RJ, too tough to keep in it's preferred state. Happy Joe's will be my first stop back in the Quad Cities. Likely before my parent's house.

  6. Gmail your address. Been meaning to put a 'care package' together for you, just need to know where to send it.