It’s that time of year again. Summer returns, and with it the expat exodus begins. Many will soon undertake the annual pilgrimage to the lands from whence they came. We will not. We have not been back to the States since we moved to Germany four summers ago. Because I know that our time here is limited, I have chosen not to make the long trip back every year in favor of exploring all that Europe has to offer. I never regret the decision to stay, and we’ve had some remarkable adventures along the way. However, now and again, I do miss something from home. Seeing all of these planned trips back home got me thinking about what I did miss about the States. Other than family, I realized that most of them relate to food. So here are the top five things I miss from the US:
1. Sweet corn. Summer is just not summer without it. You can grill all you like, but it’s just not a barbecue without ears of fresh, buttery sweetcorn. Golden, bursting with flavor, straight from the cob, sweet as sunshine corn. Roasted, grilled, steamed or boiled, smothered in butter or spritzed with lemon, I love sweetcorn. Germany does not do sweetcorn. Sure, they sell “sweetcorn”. The stalls in the farmer’s market may be lined with exorbitantly overpriced cobs of corn. It looks like sweetcorn, but don’t let the appearance fool you. The only resemblance that Zuckermais bears to American sweetcorn is in shape and color. It tastes like cow corn. And yes, I have eaten cow corn.
2. Salsa. Fresh homemade salsa. Mouth-watering salsa verde. The fresh cilantro I need to make my own salsa, with fresh jalapeños and tomatillos. I would go on, but the thought of fresh salsa is making both my mouth and my eyes water. (My husband assures me that we can in fact find fresh cilantro here, under the name coriander. While I have come across it in the American Commissary on base, I have only rarely seen it in the German grocery stores where I do the majority of my shopping.)
3. A meat counter that offers anything other than pork. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy pork and ham, but every day? No, thank you very much. While there are the occasional turkey cutlets and chicken breasts thrown in, most of the meat in the local Metzgerei oinked at one time. I miss cold cuts that are not salami, bologna, ham, or a mix of everything left in the kitchen held together with aspic. I miss chicken and turkey and roast beef.
4. Baggers at the grocery store. The checkout line in the German grocery store is a contest, one that I never win. I race to unload and reload my cart before the cashier finishes scanning my items. She is always at least one step ahead of me. Once she finishes, I am expected to pay and leave immediately, before the next customer’s items cross the checkout line. This never happens. My inability to quickly reload my cart is the cause of many a hold-up in the German grocery store. And many a discontented grumble from the rest of the patrons.
5. Screens. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again here. The thing I absolutely miss the most from the US are window screens. It’s not something I ever paid attention to before I moved here, but as I sit here with a fly swatter in hand stealthily tracking flies, mosquitos and bees all summer, it is the one thing I will never overlook again.
What do you miss most when you are away from home?