Monday, November 5, 2012


Living as an expat in Istanbul, I have learned to adapt or go without certain familiar items such as English magazines and pork.

I use my computer and Kindle to read articles and books in English. Sometimes, a friend will pass around an English magazine or old paperback among the group. 

To get my pork fix, I order a domuz pizza now and then or defrost some of the pork stash from our freezer. But I do miss grilled pork chops and BBQ pork. (I grew up in the Midwest so I can't help it.)

But there are certain items I miss from home that I can’t find in Istanbul or these things are much, much cheaper back in America.

During October, I spent 3 weeks in the U.S. visiting family and friends for an early Christmas celebration. It was a hectic trip across seven states and involved planes, trains, automobiles, taxis and the subway, but it was nice to see everyone for a little while at least. This is what happens when you normally only go back once a year to your homeland.

Along the way, I purchased many food items that I miss from home such as inexpensive, but awesomely good Mexican spices from my hometown, as well as a new winter coat and athletic shoes for my gigantic size 40 EU feet. I even had my old Japanese chef knife sharpened when I was in NYC, and it survived all the airports in my checked bag.

I swear the TSA personnel must have a heyday when they look through my suitcases. There’s not a lot of clothes, just a lot of other odd things.
My collection of goodies from my recent U.S. trip.
Other odd items I bring back from America to Turkey:

  • Cookie cutters (Though I love searching in Eminönü for my baking supplies, the selection in the U.S. is much greater).
  • Exotic ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves (I bought these at the Spice Corner, 29th Street and Lexington Avenue in NYC). Can’t wait to create some spicy Asian recipes with these this winter.
  • Grits from Charleston, S.C. (I couldn’t resist this purchase either and plan to make shrimp and grits for my Thanksgiving dinner this year.)
    A variety of pork products and cheese from the U.S.





















  • Pork and foreign cheeses…need I say more. I’m a bit obsessed with pork (as I've mentioned in previous posts) and ate it nearly every day when I was in the U.S. In fact, I ate a little too much because now I need to go on a detox diet for the winter.
  • English magazines and culinary books. Bookstores are a dangerous place for me. I can spend hours browsing through all the titles and reading the covers. The only problem is that books take up a lot of luggage weight.
In NYC, I stopped into Strand Bookstore and found “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz and “Female Nomad andFriends: Breaking Free & Breaking Bread Around the World” by Rita Goldman Gelman. Earlier this summer, I met author Goldman Gelman when she was visiting Istanbul and enjoyed hearing her speak about her travels around the world as a single woman. She spent four months in Turkey. I highly recommend this book and her first one called “Tales of a Female Nomad.” I love reading culinary related materials!

These items are just a sampling of the odd things I bring back from America to Turkey.

If you are an expat, what type of things do you miss from your homeland? Do you “smuggle” odd food items and ingredients like I do?

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16 comments:

Julia Cooke said...

I love this post. We just went to Slovenia and ate pork and good smelly cheese every day! We have even been to Bulgaria to eat pork!!It is great to cross the border and suddenly have a decent choice of cheap ethnic food. Visitors from Finland and England bring us cheese and prosciutto, chorizo etc etc yum yum yum!! I would love to have seen the faces of the people checking your bags. I think you made some great choices!

Moe said...

I just came back last week for 3 wks in the US and brought back fresh cranberries, canned pumpkin and pretty much half of Trader Joe's! I think our suitcase is 90% food stuffs :)

Joy said...

@Julia Cooke, Oh, we just had some yummy smelly cheese in Zurich too. We still have yet to go to Bulgaria. I bet you love having visitors then! :-)

@Moe, happy to hear I am not the only food-crazed traveler! Canned pumpkin is easier than roasting the pumpkin. And I've have great success making cranberry compote with the dried cranberries. Happy eating!

yazarc said...

Would love a fry of sausages and rashers! But the bus journey after the plane ride makes me nervous about bringing them.
I order sweet condensed milk from my Mam. My daughter loves caramel slices and you can't make them without it.

Joy said...

@yazarc, Happy you can still get your condensed milk! :-) When I buy perishables items, I either buy it at last minute or freeze. Then, I package the cool items into resealable plastic bags and place into a travel cooler bag. My cold items from the US were still cold and relatively frozen after the 10.5 hour flight and 1 hour trek from the airport.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

hahaha....i love seeing your stash. i always smuggled food back from my trips abroad! i love those charleston grits. shrimp and grits is one of my favorite meals. you would go crazy in this city. there are homemade sausage stores everywhere!

BacktoBodrum said...

I bring Marigold bouillon powder, vanilla extract and lots of sausages and gammon joints. I've always wondered what grits are - I thought they were for breakfast.

Joy said...

@Joyce, thanks for your comments! My hubby had grits with all kinds of seafood topped with a lobster cream sauce. Talk about decadent!

@BacktoBodrum, gammon joints??? I had never heard of these. Maybe they are similar to an American ham hock? Grits are such a southern staple served with eggs for breakfast, side dish or a main dish with something else. Kinda like a creamy corn dish. Delicious!

Katia said...

Great Post, Joy ! Randomly found your blog searching for hot yoga in Istanbul.
I came back to Istanbul from the US over the weekend myself and have brought organic Marple syrup (it costs fortune here ), william& sonoma spices and cooking magazines as well... If I ran into your list earlier would definitely stock up on pork and more spices...
I was pigging put on prosciutto, in Eataly NYC, crusty bacon pieces for brunches ...Ummmm def will miss that ...

Katia

Alyson said...

We bring sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, Texas salsa, Mexican vanilla, hot dogs around the 4th of july and crunchy peanut butter. At Christmas last year, we literally had a suitcase full of only our contraband!

Joy said...

@Katia, Welcome! I also bring back maple syrup sometimes. Most spices I can find here in Istanbul, but it's the exotic spices and hot peppers that I buy in the US. Enjoy your eating memories!

@Alyson, guess there's quite a few of us that bring back foodie things from our homeland. I also bring back NY sharp cheddar cheese and sometimes the English cheddar when we've visited London or had friends come over here. The Turkish creamy PB works well for baking but my hubby loves the creamy Skippy. :-)

Kim, Living to Seas the Moment said...

I'm not an expat or even an expat's wife but moving from the mid west to the deep South, I have found many of my favorites are not available here. I always bring back our favorite bbq sauce and some seasonings that are made in OK. When someone comes to visit, they always bring us a gallon of the sauce! I love that you are going to make shrimp and grits. I have tried it once and liked it but really, I wanted to LOVE it. Be sure to post your spin on this dish so I can try it at home. Charleston...what a great city! I road trip over every chance I get. Those Hello Kitty cookie cutters are adorable!

Joy said...

@Kim, One can always relate when one moves away to new location & misses familiar things. When I 1st moved to NYC, I missed Nebraska beef (probably always will) despite the wonderful restaurants in NYC.

Charleston was such a fun city! Very charming and full of such good food. Eat some raw oysters for me.

Erica (Irene) said...

Love this post.....I too love pork but after being married with a Turk for 25 years I have learned not to eat pork. Must admit when he is not home my daughter and I have ribs or pork chops, he doesn't care if we eat it at home but for respect we don't.
....this post is funny I have to show this to my husband, he laughs when we go to Turkey why my suitcase is full of food goodies.
....his sister always requests Chocolate Chip cookies and pancake mix (those in a box where you only add water) and pancake syrup.
Don't remember that spice store in NYC b/c I use to live at 34th St. and Lexington for a few years.
Glad you had an awesome time and brought home some goodies.

Meg said...

I love that you went to Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC!

Joy said...

@Erica (Irene), sounds like there's quite a few of us that bring back food items from the US or our travels back to Turkey!! Hope your hubby enjoys this post too.

@Meg, I love Murray's! Just ate some of the Manchego cheese last night. Yum!

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