Same But Different

Since moving here, I’ve had to find a few food alternatives for some of my recipes, because certain ingredients just aren’t available here, or at least not easily available. I’m usually fine with this, but there are a few ingredients of which I just can’t help but prefer the American version. Today has been a study in adjusting and not adjusting.

First off, this morning I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Merian was coming over to help me with some tax-office stuff — more about that later — so I figured the least I could do was offer some homemade cookies to accompany her coffee. That said, you can’t really buy chocolate chips here. All sorts of other chocolate stuff, but not the semi-sweet morsels so common in the US. No big deal, though. This is an easy cooking dilemma to fix. Just get some of the lekker (tasty) chocolate bars they sell here and chop them up! I went with the dark chocolate with bits of orange that I had on hand. I like a small square for my dessert in the evening. The cookies turned out quite well and Merian seemed to really enjoy them. Just as well. It meant I could send off the bulk of the batch with her so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat them all.

My second round of cooking today represents the other end of the ingredient spectrum. A good ol’ pot of chili is easy enough to make, even here, but I’ve discovered that the Dutch chili powder doesn’t taste at all like the stuff I’m used to in the US. On one hand, it’s not that big a deal; you still get a nice bowl of food. On the other hand, sometimes I just really want that specific chili flavor that I know so well. I had my mum send me some last year, but I’ve used up the last of it today. Sadly, I don’t think I really had enough to properly flavor it, particularly since I used a can of the “chili” kidney beans they sell here. They’re already seasoned and I think they were a bit more powerful than my small bit of Harris Teeter-brand chili powder could handle. Oh well, another jar of chili powder should be winging its way to me soon enough.

Generally, I try to just adjust to not having certain items and just get used to what I do have on hand. I enjoy finding alternatives or hunting down harder-to-find ingredients here in town. I even make my own ranch dressing these days and have gotten used to the slight taste differences in the peanut butter and the Coke. Since this is my home now, I don’t want to be one of those annoying expats always whinging about how things are different/not as good here. So I adjust. But if I can get chili powder sent to me regularly, I’ll be a very happy expat. Surely, I’m allowed to miss one little thing. šŸ˜‰

8 thoughts on “Same But Different

  1. Fellow American here, and I know EXACTLY what you mean. I just had to mock up my own dry ranch dressing mix this weekend — no Hidden Valley Ranch to be found. Adapting isn’t too bad, but sometimes you miss the exact taste of what you’d get in the States.

    • I have a couple of packets of the dry ranch seasoning that I’m saving for a special occasion. Not sure what that is, though. But at least I’ll have it when I really need it. I made a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving last year, using the infamous canned pumpkin from Libby’s, but I’ll probably not do that again, because the cost of that one can was insane! The special import stores really charge a lot!

  2. Is it just me or is the ‘chili poeder’ here just ground chilies? It seems like chili powder in the US is a mixture of a few different things usually. I’ve been bringing back 1/4 lb bags when I go home for a visit *L*

    • Indeed it is! I finally checked the ingredient listings and the ingredient listing here is quite simple: chilipoeder. My US stuff contains chili pepper, cumin, oregano, salt and garlic (with a bit of silicon dioxide to make it free-flowing). Maybe I’ll try making up my own batch to tide me over until my package arrives.

  3. Mmm… those cookies look delicious!
    I’ve also been looking for chocolate chips – I found them last year in a Lidl supermarket, they normally have products from different parts of the world. Also you may find them in the Xenos shop, the food section. Another alternative is to look in the shops where they sell American food products in Amsterdam and Den Haag.
    about the chili powder – why don’t you try using those Indonesian paste sauces, like Sambal Oelek, or Sambal Brandal… For my “empanadas” and for my pasta sauces I sometimes use these, for they are a lot stronger in taste than the simple chili powder.
    In any case, it is fun to try different ingredients and eventually, coming up with new dishes, isn’t it?

    • I’ve seen chocolate chips a few places, I think, but not places I go frequently, so I never get around to buying them. Fortunately, I’m pretty happy using the chocolate bars in this way. This is a fun and tasty alternative that I’m more than happy with!

      It’s not so much the strength of the chili powder as the specific taste that I miss. I’m going to try looking for recipes for chili powder blends so I can make my own, since the ingredients themselves are easy enough to find. But I’ll have to look into those pastes. I love herbs and spices and trying new blends. Incorporating new finds into old favorites opens up whole new flavors!

  4. Girl, if you want me to mail you some ranch dressing, I will!

    Love your blog, I have a feeling that I am going to learn a lot about living overseas from it which is good because I need to broaden my horizons. šŸ˜€

    • Heh. I’m getting pretty used to my version of the stuff now, but thanks for the offer. If I get desperate and have a real craving for the stuff, I’ll let you know.

      I’m glad you commented; I knew you’d started a blog but wasn’t sure about the address. You’re going into my RSS feed right away! I love that Baxter has his own Christmas stocking. šŸ˜‰

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