About a year and a half ago, I confessed my love for your food. After months of stuffing my face with Scottish pastries, my stomach began to long for the sweet treats of home. I yearned for the processed, sugary goodness of hazelnut coffee creamer and other delicacies, promising that if I could taste them one more time, I would never take them for granted again.
When I returned home, I gratefully ate and drank everything that I missed. I attempted to truly appreciate the foods my country offered, whether stereotypically American or not. Over the course of about a year, I enjoyed all the flavors of home.
And now America, once again I find myself thousands of miles away from you and I once again long for your food. For two months, I consumed rice, sometimes noodles, and various vegetable dishes. Some days I happily ate this concoctions, while other days I only ate to keep myself from being hungry. While I am truly grateful for the opportunity to eat each day, and even more thankful to be in a volunteer program where my meals are provided for me, I must admit, I miss the food from back home.
I miss coffee. While each morning I sweat over a hot cup, it is a sad instant packet mixture consistently of sugar, powered milk, and a mere “18%” coffee – What does that even mean? I long for the strong roasts of home, powerful enough to give me energy even after the most sleepless nights. The thought of getting to mix a little hazelnut creamer in my coffee again is almost enough to make me want to go home this instant… Yes, I addiction and need for it is that strong.
I miss cheese. Yes, this lactose intolerant traveler longs for something cheesy. It is true, back home I tried my best to stay away from all things cheddar and delicious. However, after two months without even the chance to slip up, I find myself drooling over pictures of pizza, feeling false hunger at the thought of cheese toast! I cannot even begin to describe what I would do for a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Of course, if I really wanted something I could go for a meal out and order it… But the sheer lack of anything cheesy available on a day to day, while good for my allergy, creates a desperation for it that I have never known before.
I miss pancakes. True, I did not eat pancakes all the time back home. However anyone who knows me will attest to my love for them. I am always down for a run to IHOP, whether for breakfast, a snack, lunch, dinner, after dinner… There is no wrong time to enjoy a stack of buttermilk pancakes. Real, fluffy, buttery pancakes. While there is nothing wrong with a crepe, calling it a pancake is a cruel lie.
I miss carbs that are not white rice. Sweet potatoes, pasta, regular potatoes, bagels, oatmeal… The list goes on and on. Back home, I survive on a diet that consists mainly of sweet potatoes and oatmeal. The sudden removal of them from my life definitely gave me withdrawal syndromes. I dream about eating oatmeal, I have wild fantasies about finding sweet potatoes at a market and buying all of them… Such a weird thing to miss I know, but I miss it all the same.
So much of my cravings and my newfound revulsion towards rice derives from the nature of my time here. Being in a volunteer program with a rotating schedule of set meals has created repetition and monotony. Though at home I typically eat the same thing everyday, it is much easier to do this when they are my favorite foods rather than ones with unknown vegetables and mystery meats.
The flavors of Cambodia are ones I am grateful to have had the opportunity to taste. I have truly enjoyed sipping on Mango smoothies and sweating over curries. While I have not yet experienced the joy of eating anything that was wrapped in a banana leaf as promised by my grandmother, I know that when that day comes, I will be thankful for it as well.
However, I still long for the smells and tastes of food from home. Months still stand between me and you, America, but know that when I return, I will return hungry and ready to eat.
The Hungry Travelsmith