I was talking with my sister about food (this happens a lot), and we got on the topic of what items Craig and I keep in the house as staples and indulgences. It never ceases to amuse those back home what items we’ve turned to for both a literal and psychological taste of the familiar. Nutella provides both of these benefits.
I never underestimated the power of food before (blasphemous!) and I certainly don’t now.
When I first started grocery shopping in Japan, back during our temporary apartment stay, I was almost reduced to tears on my initial outings to both Japanese and international markets. I love to cook and made the majority of our weekly meals back in Michigan, but I was suddenly overwhelmed by the new sights, smells and, of course, packaging I couldn’t read. Everything I thought I knew about food I started to question because I wasn’t able to (both out of fear and ability) ask for help. It was such a bizarre experience for someone who secretly wishes she could be a competitive eater for a living.
Now that we’ve been here an astonishing eight-and-a-half months, I’ve become very comfortable shopping around town and have learned to conquer my kitchen. But there are certain foods that have become permanent pantry fixtures in our home that we barely ever purchased before, like Pringles (the flavors they have here . . . oh my goodness), Dijon mustard, Kit-Kats (especially green tea) and Ritz Crackers. Last week, I dove for some of that Italian salad dressing mix I grew up on.
And it’s not just food.
While prepping for the move, I had my most expensive Target trip on record, loading up on all the items that kept our house running and our bodies clean and healthy. I became fixated on the word “our” as I packed the cart with “our” toothpaste, “our” laundry detergent” and hell, even “our” toilet cleaner. Why? Because that’s the one we’ve used for years and the last thing I want to do was find replacements for the items I can collect from a store without thinking twice. I even ordered a six-month supply of our favorite hand soap — I’m so not kidding.
It may sound silly, but it was just another aspect of “our” life I was trying to put into boxes and send around the world. I can’t even explain the feeling of ease that came over me when those boxes finally arrived at our new place and I could fill our shelves with all these familiar items.
As I’ve been preparing to head back to the states in December, I’ve been making lists of what to stock up on during the visit, and it’s not as long as I’d imagined. Sure, I will bring back plenty of my preferred deodorant (FACT: Westerners are too sweaty for the Japanese stuff). And I can’t wait to buy a new four-piece sheet set, but I won’t be hoarding soap and dryer sheets through TSA.
As our in-house stock has dwindled, I’ve done what a frazzled me thought impossible — I’ve found new things to replace them with. New things to complete our new home. And it really feels like “ours.”