Food has the ability to invoke memories and strong emotions. And one emotion it invokes is homesickness. Any expat can tell you that. Indeed, when you ask an expat what they miss most, the food from their home country is usually listed prominently.
I remember when I lived in Ireland as a student in the early 1990's that midway through the year I got an insatiable craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken. What made this so odd is that in the United States I rarely ate the stuff. It's really not very good. And yet I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Within a week of returning to the United States I was at the local KFC. I took a couple of bites and couldn't figure out why I had craved it so much. I have not eaten it since then.
Although GLH and I love living in Zürich, lately I have been struggling with some homesickness. It isn't always present, but when it is I feel somewhat paralyzed by it. So I force myself to do something and work through it.
Yesterday afternoon I went to the weekly farmer's market at the Haubtbahnhof. As I passed one of the stalls, I happened to catch something out of the corner of my eye. Not believing what I was seeing, I stopped for a closer look.
There, nestled amongst the very European baked goodies, was a small and unassuming square of chocolate. And it wasn't labelled braunli or brauner or something equally Germanic. No indeed, it had a small sign that stated in clearly American spelling that it was a brownie.
Immediately I started to salivate.
Which is strange, because in the United States I could go for months without wanting a brownie. And I have made brownies myself on perhaps 2 or 3 occasions in my entire life. And yet, just looking at it sitting there created a wave of homesickness so powerful I nearly began to cry.
But I hesitated. Anyone who has ever tried Mexican food in Europe knows that just because it looks like the real thing doesn't mean that it will come anywhere close when tasted. Usually it is a huge disappointment.
But I decided to risk it. I stepped up to the counter, handed over CHF 2,20 for a rather small square and took a bite.
It was not a disappointment!
While perhaps not the best brownie I have ever had (for that you really need the boxed mix from Duncan Hines), it was indeed an authentic brownie.
I quickly whipped out my camera and took a picture...
And then I devoured it.
Ahh. Such chocolately goodness.