The Grass is Always Greener…

by Christina Geyer on January 9, 2012 · 51 comments

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You can imagine my surprise when I spotted this in the dairy section of my nearby Real supermarket:

Irish Land grated cheddar cheese Yep, that’s grated cheddar!

Not only that, over Christmas, in the baking aisle, there was real, honest to goodness, vanilla extract (I’m still going to make my own though). Dr Pepper is now available at the same price as other sodas, along with vanilla and cherry Coke. Pepperidge Farms cookies have recently joined the sinfully delicious chocolate-covered Oreos in the cookie aisle. Haagen Daaz and Ben & Jerrys are ever present in the freezer section. Sweet potatoes and Haas avocados are almost always in-stock (Haas avocados even occasionally show up in our tiny, local, village Edeka).

Things have changed a lot in the almost 10 years I’ve been in Germany. I remember when none of these things were around. Blocks of cheddar were hard to come by.

Even with these “advances,” I still long for trips to Italy and France to give me a chance to stock up on French and Italian goodies for my pantry. I’ve always thought that expats in France and Italy have it made, surrounded by amazing cuisines and able to visit gorgeous markets. Then, this winter, two of my favorite expat bloggers, David Lebowitz in Paris and Michelle Fabio in Calabria, Italy, both complained about ingredients they couldn’t come by in their countries. I don’t remember what they were now, but they were all items that I can pick up in the nearest city.

I’m starting to think that, as far as expat life goes, maybe I shouldn’t be so jealous of those folks just over the border. I think I’ve got it pretty good right here. Okay, well, maybe I’ll still be just a little jealous.

Do you miss anything that you can’t get in your area? I want to look into the possibility of growing Key lime and Meyer lemon trees here.

  • Kristy

    I really miss pastry based goods (pies, pasties, sausage rolls) but have learnt to make my own pies because of that, and I never would have done so if I could buy them off the shelf – so that’s a bonus! I’d like to be able to buy chicken thighs from the supermarket, the meat is much more moist than breast fillets, but I’ve never seen them. There are lots of little things, but the supermarkets are getting better all the time over here, and when I go home to Australia now I nearly have heart failure at how madly expensive everything is compared to here – you win some, you lose some!

  • Christina Geyer

    @Kristy: I agree, if I still lived in the US, I wouldn’t be nearly as good a cook, since everything is so easy to buy off the shelf. I’m happy that I can do so much from scratch now. We have chicken thighs in the supermarkets around us though, so maybe it won’t be long until they show up near you too!

  • EJM

    The search for elusive ingredients in Germany is one that can be frustrating if you are stricken by a strong craving – BUT – with time I have found just about everything I have been looking for – except Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Double Acting Baking Powder. Pecans can be found but it small amounts at exorbitant prices, they get imported via suitcase.

    I have found the local Asian Food stores to be wonderlands of ingredients that I need – Corn Syrup (Pecan pie at Thanksgiving), PG Tipps tea bags, Peanut Butter and real brown sugar (although now that I know how to make it don’t feel so panicky it is not around!). On the topic of Molasses, the bio store has it.

    We’ve got chicken thighs, but can’t find ground turkey……

    Will be in London for work next week and will do a stock up. I have become a grocery store tourist wherever I go I take a walk around for things I am missing here in Germany or just local specialties….. sometimes think that is weird but hey, whatever makes you happy right?

  • Christina Geyer

    @EJM: Haha, I’m a grocery store tourist too! There was Hellmans mayo in the grocery store in Croatia, so I stocked up. But now it’s been in my local Real for about the last year. I don’t find pecans that much more expensive here, but they’re pricey at the stores back in Virginia. Maybe it depends where in the US you are.

  • Kristy

    Grocery tourism is perfectly healthy! The amount of times I’ve come back from the UK with packets of proper bacon in my jacket pockets (to beat Ryanair’s carry-on weight limit) are many …

  • Gabriela Palouda-Jones

    I’m going to experience the reverse. Having to move back to the States in about a month, I’ll be craving German groceries. I’m stocking up now and shipping them. I was able to get US groceries here (Commissary on the Base) but there were only a few items like Bacon, Bagels/Cream Cheese, Hamburgers…..that I craved for. I did have to get used to the smaller chicken pieces here but then I figured out that chickens get less Hormone stuff here = healthier than in the States. I’ll be a big customer at Trader Joe’s in the States, I’m sure. And it’s good to know that there is a French Bakery 10 minutes from where we live and a German Bakery about 30 minutes away.

  • Saskia

    I’ve only been here 7 years, but I also notice a real increase in variety of foods available in regular grocery stores. I am most grateful for the proliferation of Haas avocadoes now available here. I barely survived without them. And cilantro is starting to show up even in regular grocery stores, occasionally. We consume large amounts of it, and it’s tiring to have to make a special trip just to get it. They had pecans at ALDI for a while, but then stopped carrying them. I guess Germans didn’t know what to do with them. Rewe and Edeka both carry decent sugar-free peanut butter, and ground turkey can be found in some larger stores (near Munich, it can be found at Marktkauf, Hit, and a few other places).
    When I first moved here, I was so excited to go to Safeway and Whole Foods on my trips to the US. The last time I went there, I was overwhelmed by the size and variety of those stores. They now give me a headache. I can’t imagine how overwhelming they must be for immigrants from countries with reasonably-sized stores.
    I really do miss being able to go out for good Mexican food all the time, though.

  • Sarah

    This gave me a good chuckle! I have been here for three years now. The first few months I was here I stumbled upon your blogsite Christina. I was and still am subscribed to a blog you wrote about finding food stuffs in Germany. Every now and again I revisit and read all the old posts! My we have come a long way! I have since made it through two pregnancies and a major move. With two small ones I don’t find the time to care, cook, or miss “American” food as much.
    I have a neighbor who is higher up in Martkauff and he says that they are trying every day to bring new foreign items to the shelves.
    I am with you Saskia…. Mexican, Japanese, American Chinese, Vietnamese…. heck even a Papa Ginos pizza!

  • Michelle | Bleeding Espresso

    For me it was sweet potatoes and cranberries, but those things actually can be found in other areas of Italy — I just happen to be in the extremely rural south to make things a bit more challenging 😉 That said, I’m trying to get myself some sweet potatoes so I can grow my own for next Thanksgiving…not sure cranberries will do so well, but I may give them a go as well. Why not? Sometimes you just gotta get creative as an expat, as you well know! But yes, as you said, things have changed *a lot* since when I first arrived (going on nine years ago)…thank goodness! Enjoy that cheddar!

  • Christina Geyer

    @gabriela: I agree, I appreciate the smaller chickens (and turkeys) here. I had to make two turkeys this Thanksgiving, but I find that preferable to the giant genetic mutant US turkeys that are so heavy they have problems standing.

    @saskia: I find I have no desire to go in the center sections of the grocery stores in the US (where it’s mostly processed, prepackaged stuff). I also annoy my relatives by walking through the produce section with them and pointing out everything that is out of season.

    @sarah: Good ethnic restaurants would be nice, but I’ve started learning how to make all the stuff I like and now I find myself getting more and more disappointed when I go out in the US and the meals don’t live up to my expectations anymore.

    @michelle: We have cranberries here in the stores in the fall, but I planted a few bushes, just for fun. We’ll see how they work out next year. Calabria might be too warm for them, but you could definitely grow my coveted lemons and limes 😉

  • Saskia

    Oh yes, out-of-season produce. My in-laws bought some blueberries the other day and I thought I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU BOUGHT BLUEBERRIES IN JANUARY. THEY COME FROM URUGUAY. DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH FUEL IT TOOK TO GET THEM HERE? In the US, I did prefer to buy what was in season, but I think my reasoning had more to do with taste and price than with the environment. Now, it feels like a crime. I love eating food seasonally, and that is definitely something I learned here.

    I forgot to mention my #1 missed ingredient, which I will continue to request from visiting relatives until they introduce it here: canned pumpkin. I have made pumpkin pies from fresh, but sorry, I really prefer the texture of canned pumpkin. I used to miss the ease of ready-made pie crusts, too, until I got used to homemade ones, which are infinitely better :)

  • sarah

    @Saskia… I was in France for Thanksgiving. They have canned pumpkin. My friend and her husband own a small market and carry it. I know seasonal produce are the best choice, tastier etc, but I still miss going to the store and getting pretty much any ingredient any time… Sundays and late nights included!! I too, have learned to make most of my favorite foods at home… But, sometimes, sometimes, I wish I could just pick up the phone and order some pho tai!!! Tomorrow is my birthday and I can’t wait to bake my boxed Betty Crocker Yellow Cake and ice it with Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Frosting.

  • Rachael D

    I live stateside, but must confess to being a tourist in the grocery store. I love going to the grocery store. I go to a grocer in every country I visit, when I can. I like the potato chip flavors in the UK, the sausage selection in Germany, the price/variety spices in Turkey, etc. We can find a lot of these things in specialty shops. There is an ALDI opening near our house in a week — and I went back to find Christina’s post on ALDI! Looking forward to seeing what they have!

  • Mandy

    I haven´t seen cheddar, but I´m always on the lookout. My wish list includes 90% lean ground beef (and I´d like all the time that I spend ladeling fat off the pan back too), sour cream and onion (or cheddar) potato chips, Kraft squeeze cheese mac and cheese, and Snapple. Diet peach Snapple to be exact. And, since this is a WISH list, I´d like the store that carries all of this to be open on Sundays.

  • Jennifer

    I had to laugh when I saw your picture of the cheddar! :-) Whenever I want to cook tortilla soup or mac n’ cheese, I have to stop by a Real store in order to get that grated cheddar. I haven’t seen it in any other store in Germany yet. I am German but whenever I visit the states (which happens quite often), I really enjoy going to the stores, especially Wholefoods and Sweetbay. Many Germans often say that American food is all unhealthy and artificial but I am convinced that, compared to Germany, you can get a much bigger variety of healthy food in the states. I just love how American stores look because sometimes, German stores make me kind of sad. Especially Lidl and Aldi look so grey and brown to me and I don’t like how you are treated at the checkouts.
    I like to cook American dishes and I just adore Martha Stewart and her recipes. Many of them require ingredients you can only find in the U.S., so whenever I am there, my suitcases are always full of groceries. :-) At least, I am happy that I can get baking soda in Germany to make my beloved pancakes! :-)

  • EM

    I miss:
    -Having my groceries bagged for me
    -Grocery shopping on Sundays (especially now that I work outside of the home)
    -American-style cheeses (for example, Monterey Jack and Colby. I was just back in the States at the holidays and you can get the American and European stuff, even in my very provincial hometown.)
    -More selection of cold cuts. In German-speaking Europe it’s ham, ham, and more ham, for the most part
    -American bakery items. I know I’m in the minority but I dislike the bread in German-speaking Europe
    -Trader Joe’s!
    -The big delis in American grocery stores.

    Seriously I can find all of the European products in even basic American grocery stores but it’s not the same in reverse!

  • Weissdorn

    I’ve been enjoying your blog reading all the things you’ve been going through. Well, after 20 years, I think the first thing I would buy in an American supermarket would be a six-pack of root beer. That’s about it! It’s the only thing I miss here. Well that and maybe corn syrup, but honey is just as good a substitute, if not better.
    Yep! I would drink the six-pack of root beer “an Ex” and probably fall into a sugar comma. LOL!
    I have a secret tip for you: Tegut. ( )
    Tegut is slowly working its way down to the Regensburg area. At the moment they are in the greater Würzburg area.
    Tegut carries sliced cheddar on a regular basis. They also sell Haagen Daz (about 7 Euro a pint), Oreos and other neat stuff like Italian pasta. You can also get plain flavoured clams in a jar for making your own clam chowder, and they have “Zucker-Syrup”, better known as molasses or treacle. They also have a large variety of “Bio-Produkte” including different forms of brown sugar (including the moist kind), and it’s the only supermarket I ever found boxed jello in a different flavour BESIDES “Waldmeister”, “Himbeere” and “Zitrone”. They had peach and strawberry, too! But if you want to make your own jello too, send me a mail, and I’ll give you the recipe.

  • Tom

    What is wrong with the colour of that Cheddar?!? It’s orange! It looks just like Red Leicester 😀

    If you want some real British Isles Cheddar, then…..

    Tegut sells it in slices (like Weissdorn wrote).
    Karstadt sells it in lovely big blocks.
    Lidl sells it whenever they have an English week (along with pretty good salt and vinegar crisps).

    @EJM you’re right about the Asian stores. Fantastic for an amazing number of things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get in Germany.

    Quick Q: Does anyone know a good place to buy sugar-free goods? In England it’s no problem, but here in Germany everything has sugar in it. Crab sticks, mayo. Have a look.

    I’m enjoying your blog :)

    Cheer Tom

  • Marianne

    I got really excited when I saw the picture of the shredded cheddar cheese!! I sure hope it makes its way soon to my little town! I miss the cheddar, as well as American brown sugar for my baking & I miss the organic and bulk food stores from the states too.

    You have a great blog here, thanks for sharing so much!

  • Steven

    I miss tater tots. A lot.

    Also, I haven’t been able to find a simple can of black beans anywhere. The ones I have found are packed in a chili sauce (hilariously labeled on the can as a ‘chilly sauce.’) – it’s just not the same. Black beans and rice is one of my favorite quick-and-easy foods, but without good black beans, it’s a near impossibility.

    (I’ve been here for just over two months, so I’m just getting started.)

  • Saskia

    @EM, do you really think you can get everything European in a small-town US grocery store? No, of course you can’t. It’s just that there’s nothing you’re really missing. Things have gotten better in the US as far as variety over the past 30 years or so, but what European cheeses can you really get in a mainstream US store? Brie – American brie. And if you think that’s the same as French brie, try baking it – it doesn’t melt. And what about Boursault, can you find that? What about raw milk camembert? You can’t find it. Holunderblutensirup? Can’t find it. I’m sure Europeans are frustrated in mainstream American stores, too.

    @Steven, try Turkish markets for canned beans. If you can’t find canned black beans, get dried ones and get a pressure cooker. The dried beans are cheaper and taste better. Yes, it takes some time too cook them, but with a pressure cooker it’s really not too bad.

  • Zack Cunningham

    I have to second the comment on root beer. I’m an expat living in Scotland, and you can find most American things here, but root beer is not one of them. I’m not even much of a soda drinker, but it’s always interesting how much you want something you can’t have.


  • Christina Geyer

    It’s funny. I hated root beer until I moved to Germany. Now I miss it.

    @Steven: When I had a tater tot craving, I ate Rösti. I prefer Rösti to tater tots now. And preferably try them at a good Swiss restaurant.

    @EM: I can second Saskia. My family lives in the metro DC area, where you would think you can get most anything, and I have problems recreating German recipes for them. Soßen Lebkuchen isn’t there for example, so I have to bring it over if I want to make a Rheinischer Sauerbraten (a pretty standard German dish). It’s just that you don’t miss the German stuff when you are just walking through the store, it’s when you try to cook German food that you see that a lot of stuff isn’t available.

    I also find wine outrageously expensive in the US. I cook a lot with wine here and over there you don’t find anything under $6 a bottle usually, which makes cooking with wine quite a bit more expensive. The butcher at an expensive grocery store also couldn’t order a Kalbshaxe for me when I wanted to make that. He could only get veal shank steaks. Not quite the same thing.

    I prefer bagging my own groceries too. In the US, they always pack the bags too light and I leave the store with a gazillion plastic bags.

  • Steven

    @Christina, I don’t know about Rösti… I don’t really like hash browns, but I love tater tots. I think the key is that Rösti looks like it will require a fork, but tater tots can be dipped into a sauce with your fingers. :)

  • EM

    I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree.

    Yes, honestly I am able to find every European ingredient I need/want in the States (based on the experiences I’ve recently had in the midsized Midwestern town where I’m from. Even my Dh has commented on all of the European products and things that one didn’t find ten years ago. I’m not talking about specialty shops, either– for example, cheses in a cheese store– but basic places such as Hy-Vee (a regular grocery chain found in several Midwestern states), Trader Joe’s, and even the grocery sections of Super Target and Super Wal-Mart (and it’s not like Wal-Mart is some highbrown place!) And on this last visit we were actually making some specific recipes that we make in Europe for my family in the States so yes, in a few cases we were indeed looking for European ingredients.

    @Saskia– seriously the store had all kinds of European cheeses. Even my DH was impressed. (One example was Emmenthaler. I didn’t write a list of all of them.) And I’m not comparing big-city U.S. to small town German-speaking Europe, rather normal grocery stores in midsized Midwestern towns to stores in largish European cities (Vienna, Munich, etc.)

    I think there have been grocery store improvements in both places but they are much more pronounced in the States.

    Also with the EU I would have expected more variety over here from other EU countries. I have found so many of the things that I miss in UK grocery stores, for example, and the things aren’t to be found here.

    Oh and while we’re at it Hy-Vee not only bags your groceries but you can even drive up to pick them up. So convenient when shopping with kids that you can just concentrate on your kids and paying, not having to deal with the groceries! I use any plastic bags as trash bags– but you can also bring your own bags and they will pack your stuff into them. Many stores were also selling reusable bags– and not just grocery stores.

  • Christina Geyer

    @tom: Sorry, forgot to write you in my last comment. All of the stores around here have diabetic sections with no-sugar products. If you want more variety, I don’t have any other ideas. Maybe asking around if there’s a specialty store in your area?

    @steven: I have had Rösti that were made in smaller patties that could be picked up. But I think the chef would have a heart attack if you dared dip them in ketchup 😉 I think maybe if you get desperate though, you could get a Rösti ready mix at the store and make your own tater tots using it.

    @EM: German grocery stores could certainly still improve diversity-wise. That must be one awesome grocery store you guys have, or you have an extremely European community living in the area. Even the humongous, fancy schmancy Wegmanns in the DC area don’t have every European product 😉

  • EM

    One more thing (and I do find the debate interesting here on this topic)– yes, there are things you can make yourself and of course many homemade things are healthy and all- that said, it assumes that one has a lot of time. I don’t mean this in a critical way– but many of us don’t always have that time. I had more time to try to replicate things, bake from scratch, etc. before returning to the workforce outside of the home– but I don’t always have that time now. And like so many things in this part of the world the assumption is made that there is always a parent at home. I don’t want to have to, say, take rosti mix and try to replicate tater tots (great– now I’m hankering for tater tot casserole!)– But I’d rather be able to go to my freezer section and just buy a package of tater tots that are ready to pop into the oven.

  • Rita

    ah, living in another country can be a bitch! But I dislike some kinds of globalization even more. The loss of character some items suffer when they leave borders and follow the world-market-domination american strategies…Anyway, I miss dried cod, real chouriça, not the Spanish kind but the Portuguese kind, pastéis de nata (and no, I don’t feel like calling them what the English speaking people do; their name is pastéis de nata; learn it); and Portuguese red wine, mainly the one from Alentejo but also the one from Douro. Oh, and goat cheese. Portuguese goat cheese, also from Alentejo. The smelly, salty, dry kind. Sooo good! Really miss it. But, at the same time, I’m glad these things haven’t lost their personalities yet. I like the feeling that I can only find them there, back home, where they belong and mean something. Of course that, in my case, I can make all of those things myself, so yay for travelling with my local knowledge in the bag!

  • Yelli

    @EM I can completely understand the time constraints of a busy working mom. I am too a busy working Mom (and throw in there a toddler who has NEVER slept through the night) My problem with processed food like tater tots is that they rarely seem to have potatoes in them! I would expect food like tater tots to have potatoes and oil but the tater tots I usually find have 3X the amt of ingredients in them. So, even though it may take more time, I try as hard as I can to find time to make things and buy frozen things that have limited, “real” ingredients, which are harder to find and more expensive but worth it for us.

    I will also say that after moving back to the US after living in Germany for some time, I was surprised to find more items that I was sure I would be unable to find here. Of course, there are MANY items I have been unable to find but cheeses (as you mentioned before) like Gouda seem more common than when I left the US. There are even Fresh n Easy grocery stores near me which are actually Tesco’s! Spotted Dick is no longer unobtainable. :)

  • Christina Geyer

    For all you tater tot fans:

    They freeze well too, so if you have room in your freezer, and some time or a couple of helpful kids, I bet this would be a fun weekend project.

    Regarding homemade versus processed stuff. Yes, sometimes homemade takes time, but there are a lot of homemade things that don’t take time that much more time. You just have to look for recipes that are quick, easy and tasty.

    I have a homemade red wine and tomato sauce that takes exactly the amount of time that it takes a pot of water to boil, then cook spaghetti. So about 15 minutes. It’s delicious, healthy, and the kids love it. Ditto my 2 minute Caesar salad dressing, and making oatmeal from scratch takes 5 minutes. Sure it’s more than heating up instant oatmeal for 30 seconds in the microwave, but seriously, it’s only 5 minutes. It’s also easy to buy a slow cooker, start it in the morning, and come home to a delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal.

    I’ve even gotten together with other moms and made huge batches of food to freeze and split between us. Of course, this assumes room for an extra freezer somewhere, which not everyone has.

    Home-cooking quickly does take some time and organization at first, which can be a major bummer, but the more you do it, the easier and quicker it becomes.

  • EM

    One more (and apologies if I’ve hijacked the thread.) I think there’s a difference between cooking only from boxes and bags and cooking everything from scratch. For example, I found canned pumpkin at one of the import stores here and I will use it to make pumpkin risotto today (but without having to cut pumpkins and make it into puree.) Half of the can will be for the risotto and the other half for pumpkin bread. So it’s not that I am against cooking– just that sometimes shortcuts make it a bit faster. And I find there are fewer of these “shortcuts” available here. Personally I’d rather spend the time reading books wiht my kids (or reading something for myself) or going to a museum or for a walk or something than processing pumpkin.

    And one more thing I miss is extensive food labeling. There are some food allergies in our household and I find allergy info is much easier to come by on American and British food packaging than here. (One member has an allergy so severe that it requires an ER visit if she comes in contact with said product, hence why it’s so important for me.) I also like the clear V labels on vegetarian products that the Brits have.

  • Bobby

    When I lived in China for a few years, I missed: whole grain cereal, fresh milk, organic peanut butter, Earl Grey tea, and..a whole load of other stuff! The food over there is just so utterly different. On the other hand, it’s easy enough in such a different culture to just completely change one’s diet, and try to (eventually) forget about the things that you miss..

  • Alex

    Hello! I am a recent transplant to Germany, Regensburg specifically, and have just stumbled onto your blog, which I am enjoying! I don’t mind the foodstuffs I can’t find much yet. I think as far as hamburger or other ground meats go, my suggestion would be to pick out your meat and ask your butcher to grind it….and I like this idea because I know exactly what is going into my ground meat. No recalls from some big agriculture company because they put something in that spoiled or had some awful life threatening bacteria in it! I also can choose a cut of meat with exactly the amount of fat striations in it that I want.
    As for cheddar cheese, just by the English or Irish versions, sure its white, but it doesn’t taste too much different, though I will admit it isn’t your super sharp cheddar that can be so yummy.
    I do miss sweet potatoes after awhile. But! there are so many wonderful other foods to be embraced, that its ok! I do wish I could get an economical, easy source of Baking Soda. I lived in Northern Ireland for awhile and enjoyed making soda breads…and I am an American Southerner and miss making biscuits! But I find it in little amounts in packets in the grocery stores…still I would like to have a big ole box of Arm & Hammer to use for cooking and cleaning and deodorizing!

    Mostly I just wanted to say hey y’all!

  • Steven

    @Alex- Hi neighbor! Welcome to Regensburg!

  • Kristy

    @Alex – Welcome to Germany! You can find Arm & Hammer in most supermarkets in the tiny “imported” foods section. It’s in the same box as the US and costs less than 2 Euro. We’ve even got it in our Rewe in tiny Radolfzell, so I reckon you’ll be able to find it. Good luck!

  • mandy

    Welcome to DE Alex! Here in Bamberg, we have sweet potatoes, though they are not always near the potato section, you may want to look for them in random spots around the veggie section. Ditto that Arm & Hammer is readily available. For imported food selection, I go to Real, ours has Italy, US, UK, Greece, Chinese, Japanese, and a few other specific sections.

  • Sarah

    Natron… is a suitable substitution for baking soda… it is found in a box near the baking section. You can also find back pulvur… about the same as baking powder… you will probably have to play around with the amounts a little to get the same results as the products you are used to.

  • Alex

    Thanks for the welcome and the suggestions everyone! I am going to look for the Baking Soda next time I am at the grocery store! Once I start baking again, meaning once I have gotten baking implements that my partner’s kitchen totally lacks, I will have to share the goodies!
    It is great to have found this blog and all of the people commenting, it is very comforting to ‘hear’ all of your voices!

  • Dana

    I can’t tell you how jealous I am of that big bag of cheddar cheese – shredded, no less! Our town is so small, cheddar cheese is non-existant.

  • Rachael D.

    Ugh. In terms of grass being greener, I’ve always been curious about Aldi. I tried to shop at Aldi last week but was only partially successful. I borrowed a quarter for the cart (I never carry change and didn’t know I needed to.) I had a fairly full cart, had brought my own bags, but didn’t discover until trying to pay that they don’t take credit cards (just debit, cash, and food stamps). I don’t use a debit card, which meant I couldn’t BUY the groceries. With the meager $5 in my wallet, I bought hazelnut spread and crackers. Will be more prepared next time. Wondered as I shopped how universal the items were in the store, as I didn’t see anything particularly international or different from my usual store… looked like American style goods only in a basic store with no frills, which was fine by me. I didn’t check for cheddar! Will be more successful with my next shop — bringing enough cash to actually BUY the groceries. Ugh! :) Does anyone know how varied with items are across regions for Aldi?

  • Christina Geyer

    @rachael: Now you’ve had a German shopping experience! That’s how the Aldis are here. I have no experience with the ones in the US. Here the Aldis in the north are the same and the ones in the south are the same. Here, a lot of the Aldi stuff is name brand stuff in Aldi packaging. There are bi-weekly specials too that are usually pretty good.

  • Alex

    Does anyone know if I can get corn meal here (Regensburg)? Not polenta meal, but actual cornmeal so that this southern belle transplant can make cornbread?! I miss corn bread. I made good spicy chili recently, with pinto beans(wachter bohne I think? quail beans?) cooked from dried, since I prefer them to kidney beans. But I definitely missed serving it with warm buttery cornbread as I traditionally serve it. And I couldn’t find good sharp cheddar either, to grate over it, I have seen cheddar, but it is always mild, which is yummy, but doesn’t stand up to the hot chili the way a sharp cheddar will. I think we substituted a strong swiss cheese that I can’t remember the name of. It worked, it just didn’t melt into the chili as easy. Anyway, I used to cheat in the states and make cornbread from Jiffy mixes, but I do know how to make cornbread from corn meal and white flour, if I can find the regular grind of corn meal for it. Any suggestions?

  • Sarah

    I don’t know where you are… but up here in the Northwest at Edeka you can find Maismehl. I love making my jalepenjo cornbread.

  • Expatriate CPA

    Yay for finding the food you want!

  • Saylee

    Hello There,

    I am just on the other side of the fence.
    I am a German (now American) who moved to the U.S. almost ten years ago. One thing I still haven’t been able to find is Quark.
    Just cream cheese.

  • Andrew

    We miss graham crackers and grape jelly. Our local Rewe has a block of Irish cheddar in their cheese section and I shred it myself, which is nice, but expensive.
    Thankfully we don’t really bake much, so missing ingredients isn’t such a big deal. It is annoying that the amount of chicken at the store seems limited. Turkey is sometimes an ok substitute. Often when there is chicken, there is only one cut so you take what they give you. All in all, not bad, but is annoying after a long week.

  • Sarah

    @Andrew… I am with ya on the grape jelly… going to try to make some myself in the fall… Regarding Graham crackers… It is a poor substitute but Lebinz makes Kekse that work for smores n stuff… Here we don’t have such a problem with chicken… at Edeka, Lidl, and Aldi they have chicken breasts almost always. Chicken wings and legs can be found most of the time… but I still find chicken thighs elusive.

  • rosemary

    Well, I dont know half the things you’re all talking about – (grape jelly, tater tots, root beer??) but I can identify with a lot of what you’re saying – Irish living in Berlin for 10 years. The first years I definitely missed crisps (potato chips) and chocolate, hot mustard, chutneys and relishes and decent black tea – and cheddar – which can be pale or orange in Ireland!! I love German bread but also miss the Irish soda bread and decent soft white unsliced pans. But I’ve also noticed a huge increase in what I would call British/Irish products here in the last few years – heinz beans lol, ketchup, UK style cheesecake the Lidl/Aldi English weeks, much bigger variety in potato chips -not just those paprika ones but still none are as good as Irish Taytos… :-( and cheddar seems to be appearing everywhere recently – started off with rubbery slices of Kerrygold that were only good melted on toast but now Kaisers (Tengelmann – dont know if they are nationwide) in Berlin has a pretty decent older cheddar, which is more expensive than other hard cheeses but cheaper than it would cost in Ireland. Old Amsterdamer is a pretty good alternative if you cant find cheddar. Sweet potatoes can also be found in quite a few places – supermarkets, and Turkish grocers but Ive been told by an American friend that theyre nothing like as good as what you get in the US. I am not into processed food except in emergencies so dont miss that side of things at all – except for Bird’s eye potato waffles 😉 and am very surprised about what Tom says above re. sugar – when I first started comparing German/UK/Irish products and tried to work out what the difference was between things with the same name (mainly sauces) the conclusion I came to was that the UK stuff had WAY more sugar in them than the German, always top of the list. But completely sugar-free – only as diabetic food on both sides of the English channel. The big thing that I now miss and still havent been able to find a decent version of is mayonnaise – I find most German mayos disgusting, they all have an off, fake, sacchrin, oily aftertaste, which I havent been able to identify – have scanned the ingredients and all sounds fine, but its not. The only one thats ok is Thomy – but only ever in tiny jars and way more expensive than the others. I find it odd as mayo is used a lot here but they seem to be more into the salad cream/miracle whip kind. I would do anything for a shop that sells Hellmanns….. and deccent crackers (I think biscuits in US?)
    Have really enjoyed browsing your blog, hope you will post again from time to time but till then, all the best in this funny ex-pat world of ours!

  • rosemary

    I didnt realise my “comment” was so long till I saw it posted! oops!

  • Sarah

    Cheap why do you keep posting the same things without contributing? I get an email every time you write the same thing. If you want to continue praising the author of this article which I think is a good idea, please stop doing on this thread. Go to the homepage. I want to hear what new ideas people have so I continue to subscribe, but if you keep posting these awkward statements I am going to have to unsubscribe.

  • Christina Geyer

    Sorry, Sarah! Cheap is a spammer that seems to be good at getting around the spam filters. I’ve changed the settings to make the spam filter more aggressive. It’s a hard line between making it easy for real people to comment and keeping the spam off the blog. I hope you won’t get bothered by any more spam comments.

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