I love food. Anyone who spends enough time around me quickly learns that 25-50% of my thought process involves what I’m going to eat next.
Maybe it’s the Italian in me. Maybe it’s that 90% of my best memories involve sitting around a table with people I love, sharing a delicious meal. Regardless of where it comes from, these memories have made me a firm believer that one of the best ways to get to know someone is to sit down with them, share some wonderful food and drink, and interesting conversation.
Coming to Uruguay, the foodie in me was excited at the possibility of all the new flavors I could find to explore. The reality of being here, was surprisingly disappointing.
It’s a South American country! Some of my favorite coffee is from Colombia… I had hoped that I could have better Colombian coffee than I was used to in the States, but no. Turns out, Uruguay has to import most of its food. And even though they share the same continent, I have yet to find any good South American coffee in any grocery store or coffee shop I’ve visited during my time here.
The grocery stores don’t even have the option to purchase beans, and grind them fresh in-store. The United States is by no means a leader in the world of coffee, but I had no idea what a luxury even that was…
I don’t mean to be completely negative. There have been good surprises too. As someone with a milk allergy, finding prepackaged treats that don’t contain some combination of milk, and/ or milk powder, or whey, is like trying to find a needle in a haystack in the US.
Unless, of course, you pay a premium to buy something “vegan.” I have no problem with eggs or meat. But it’s the last resort to food “safety” when I tire of searching and searching through the aisles for something that won’t have ingredients I’m allergic to.
My shock then, and my joy, when I discovered a whole new world in the grocery stores of Montevideo. It’s not rare, but common, for me to find a variety of crackers, cookies, and breads that are free of butter, milk, and any kind of powdered milk. That’s not to say all of them are; at the end of the day, dairy does tend to make food taste better.
But, there have been more than enough things that I have become accustomed to not being able to eat, that I have the pleasure of enjoying while I’m here. It’s such a simple thing… those little wafer cookies that come in all kinds of different flavors. When I was a kid, I used to buy bags of them - they came in little cubes, instead of rectangles, and my favorite flavor rotated between a chocolate hazelnut, or lemon. Now, as an adult, I haven’t been able to eat those in years. There’s milk powder in them.
Not in Uruguay! There’s the rare package that does contain milk powder, but there’s at least 3 other brands that have all kinds of flavors of wafer cookies for me to choose from, that I can eat with full confidence that they won’t make me have an allergic reaction.
It’s become a new favorite afternoon tradition of mine to make a cup of Earl Grey tea, and enjoy a few wafer cookies for a snack. Or as my English boyfriend calls them, my biscuits. August it may be, but it’s winter here, so the hot tea is welcome, and so are the sweet treats I used to love so much.