Sunday, February 27, 2011


Dudes, dudes, dudes.  GUESS WHAT I JUST FOUND!!!

Jiff Peanut Butter
Quaker Oats
Chocolate chips
Sour cream
Newman's Spaghetti Sauce
Gushers ..........  ALL IN ONE PLACE!!!!

You're not impressed.  So you went shopping, you say.  Me too.

Yes, your right. It should not be this big of deal.  BUT I don't think you quite understand what "shopping" entails.  Let me explain.

Having just moved into an apartment (long story, hardly worth telling), my shelf in the kitchen was bare, vacant, empty, and I was hungry. I had lived on Cliff Bars for the past two meals. Obviously, it was time go shopping.

But here's the first rule:  Never buy more groceries than you can comfortably carry uphill for four blocks.

So the first trip was limited to milk, bread, cereal, ravioli, and flour for good measure. I already had peanut butter, so this got me through the rest of the day.

On the following day, I went to a supermarket (and by super I mean enormous) and decided that I needed the rest of everything.  In order to bypass the first rule, I would buy plastic reusable bags and then change Metros three times, walking less while carrying more.  Good plan.

It took two hours.  I'm going to go ahead and make a sweeping generalization when I say you take it for granted that flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla are all in the same aisle in America.  Why would baking soda be in the same aisle as sardines?  It beats me.  Sugar on the bread aisle and flour next to pasta?  Who knows.  And, what's this?  Vanilla only in powder form??  What?  But... I need it to make orange chocolate chip muffins... how can I make muffins without vanilla extract?  I was deeply concerned.  The taste I was craving was at stake.  I knew it existed somewhere, SOMEWHERE.  Somewhere in the past I had seen it (but not bought it... dumb).  (That's the second rule:  if you see it now and you'll need it later, buy it.)

So the next day I went to El Corte Inglés, for as Encarna once commented, if they don't carry it, it doesn't exist.  After an excruciating time spent trying to locate where it should be (and numerous places that it shouldn't), I again found only powdered vanilla.  I was disappointed and was getting desperate.  My muffins were on the line.  Nevertheless, I did locate brown sugar, and that was progress at least.  You see, common products in America may or may not exist here, and if they do, they are probably in a different form (the brown sugar, for example, is much more coarse.  And oatmeal is hit or miss.  Peanut butter here is... well, it's not Jiff).

At home, frustrated and needing my muffins, I Googled vanilla extract in Madrid without much hope.  But lo and behold, what should come up in the top five results, but Taste of America!  What's this?!?  Can it be.... ?  Oh yes, my friends, an entire store devoted to American products and brands.  And where was it?  On the grey line, six stops away from me!  I was on my way in a matter of minutes.

Cans of Quaker Oats greeted me from the window.  Granola bars peeked out from behind them, and chocolate chips lounged at their feet.  It was almost sensory overload... if someone had seen a picture of my face, they might have guessed I was walking through the Sistine Chapel.  It was heavenly.  They even sold measuring cups and spoons.  Fortunately, my wonderful mother had already sent me these, but I did need a muffin pan (also hard to come by).  Did they carry them?  YES!

Now then, just to clarify, I am by no means against Spanish food or products.  I consume both on a regular basis with much gusto.  But when it comes to home-cooking, things get more challenging, and to have everything available in one place... oh, yes, except for vanilla extract.  They were sold out.  It might have been the only time I've resented my fellow Americans here.  Luckily though, I stopped in at a random market on the way back and they just happened to have it, or some imitation of it.  In any case, I decided to risk it, and it worked.

Anyway, once home, cooking was easy in comparison.  I might have heated the oven up while a frying pan was still in there (to save space).  Might have.  It's debatable and unimportant.  The main thing is, I GOT MY MUFFINS!!!!  They were hard-earned and delicious.  Mmmm the things you miss!!!

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