Whenever I travel to another country, I make a point of visiting their grocery stores. I like to peruse the shelves like a local when in reality I am carefully evaluating every non-perishable item that could possibly be smuggled home in my suitcase. More often that not, I come back with these:
Wait a minute, you might be thinking, you can buy this MSG-laden crap in the U.S. And why would anyone settle for a questionably proccessed instant potato-gulash mix when they could make their own, from scratch, using ingredients that do not read like the back of a Doritos bag?
Well, here’s the thing: I don’t buy seasoning mixes for what they contain. I buy them for what they represent: supercharged shortcuts to a country’s quintessential dishes. Time-honored culinary traditions that have been crushed, dehydrated, and stuffed into crinkly little packets that sell for less than 2 euros. And so I hoard them like cheap souvenirs in hopes that once I am at home I will recreate some of the foods and drinks I enjoyed abroad.
Only I never do. All of the above pictured seasonings, purchased during trips to Austria and the Czech Republic in 2012 and 2013, are expired. It’s not that I don’t want to make meatballs, it’s just that it has never occurred to me to make meatballs out of a bag. Even when that bag is bright yellow. And even when it is staring me in the face from behind the nutmeg jar every time I open the cabinet.
Maybe I should just become a collector.