It’s funny what you miss about home when you’re in a foreign country.
For me, it’s usually some type of food, which is interesting in itself, since I’m not really a foodie. But there is something about a favorite food that makes things right with the world.
Years ago, when I spent a semester studying in the Alps region of France, it was peanut butter. Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods, and as a vegetarian who is predominantly vegan (ice cream is the only real exception), it is one of my staple sources of protein. At the time, peanut butter was virtually impossible to find in France, and I ended up having incredible cravings for it. It was so bad that my dad actually shipped some to me, but it didn’t get there until after I had returned to the States. It was a very long semester!
Lately I’ve been craving Kalamata olives.
In the region of Guatemala where my house is, they have the black cocktail olives and green olives. I don’t care for black cocktail olives and, while green olives are okay, they don’t hold a candle to Kalamata olives in my opinion.
This past week I had to go to New York for some business. I was able to surprise my mom and other family members with a visit and I spent time with a good friend…all of which were wonderful. But my first real “happy moment” occurred when I landed in Houston. I had a few hours to kill in the airport and went over to the food court to get lunch. I ordered a Mediterranean vegetable wrap which came with Kalamata olives and I savored every single one.
I think the things that we miss when we are away from home remind us of happy memories or make us feel like we’re connected to our home, friends and family. Peanut butter is definitely a comfort food for me, and my semester in France was the first time I had traveled internationally. I loved being in France, but it was also my first experience in another culture. Peanut butter would have helped me stay connected to something familiar.
Kalamata olives, besides being yummy, remind me of both my very enjoyable trip to Greece and the countless times I have enjoyed going out for lunch and dinner with friends and family. I usually order a salad, and Greek salad is one of my favorites. And my mom and I share a love not only for Greek salad but also for dolmas, the Greek grape leaves stuffed with rice.
So imagine my surprise yesterday when I was in Guatemala City and discovered an authentic Greek restaurant a few blocks from my hotel. They had dolmas and Greek salad, with plenty of Kalamata olives. I’ve already made friends with the daughter of the owner (they are Greek) and know I will stop by next time I’m in the city to get olives and my happy memory fix.
And maybe I’ll ask them where they get them…or if I can buy a couple jars from them…so that I can carry that happy memory with me in the jungle.