Friday, October 15, 2010

October Highlights

Or mediocrelights, really. Not that they're insignificant, they're just not bombastically exciting.

It rained a lot in New York, but I still spent a lot of time walking around outside, especially in the woods across the street from the apartment "village".

I also rediscovered the wonder of egg-less recipes, once again proving that just because you don't have all the "normal" ingredients for baking doesn't mean you can't make something as awesome as scones.

List Expansion

Add to the list of things I'm still not used to: States-style grocery shopping.

I'm still in the mindset of European-style grocery shopping. You generally keep the basic long-lived items around the house (rice, pasta, onions, garlic, spices, flour, porridge, etc.) at all times, but buy breads, fresh produce and meat on an as-needed basis.

Not having a car, bike, or Wheelies makes this type of shopping style incredibly difficult and at times expensive (if you break down and buy something from the Corner Store on campus, which wants people to pay CLOSE TO $5 FOR A JAR OF PICKLES).

Case in point: two weeks ago I took the campus line bus to the grocery store, where I gathered, hunted and duly paid for what seemed like a normal amount of food items. Kind of an "only buy what you can realistically fit into your bag or carry" tactic. Too bad for me, this is an amount of produce that is good for around three days if prepared and eaten normally, or five days if you get REALLY creative. (Flat-bread+soy cream cheese+cucumber+yellow bell pepper = like a cold, veggie pizza, only much, much sadder.) If anything, the lack of standard "North American" food items in Riga and overabundance of seemingly random items honed my skills of combining individual ingredients for edible results, but when all you have in your refrigerator is onions, relish, apricot jam and half a lime, it puts a strain on your abilities.

Maybe my dilemma stems from the fact that I don't understand boxed foods anymore. Those pre-packaged dinners-in-a-jiff that are such a hit in the States. At the campus store, I can buy 20 different kinds of Rice-a-Roni or Hamburger Helper dinners, but I can't find a single box of plain, white rice. I almost didn't find the small box of bullion cubes at the store among the entire aisle of soup cans.

I miss deciding to make something for dinner, stopping by a grocery store on the way home after work that day to pick up the ingredients and just making something. I liked not having to pre-plan my meals days in advance. I liked walking to the Central Market on weekends with only LVL 5 in pocket and coming home with 20lb worth of produce and LVL 1.50 left over for a magazine or newspaper.

Luckily tomorrow is Saturday; I'll have food in my fridge again soon. Tonight I have to make a careful list of what I need and remember to get everything on it. There won't be any quick, running back to the store later that day or the next to pick up something forgotten. I know I need to relearn a few things about being back here, but in a sense I'm afraid to. Because I don't want to forget how it was back in Riga.