There's a whole category of missed things that go into the 'culture shock' column. Things like unlimited tap water at restaurants, establishments that stay open past 6:00pm or on Sundays, coffee in large paper cups. These things you learn to live without. You realize that tap water in Europe is actually kind of gross, Sundays can be really relaxing without the excuse to run errands, and all you really need is one small cup of strong European espresso instead of a vente of watered down coffee.
And then there's the category of things you miss that just linger in the back of your mind. You wake up one morning and think 'Today? Today I just want Taco Bell' (strange, but true). You don't constantly yearn for these memories of home, but every once in a while Europe has nothing to offer you if it can't give you your cheap Mexican food fix.
This is exactly my relationship with peanut butter and jelly. When I was in elementary school, I ate this sandwich every. day. It's ingrained in my nostalgic memory as a comfort food, something that reminds me of home when I'm especially homesick.
But let me tell you, this crazy concept of peanut butter? on bread? with jelly??? doesn't exist here in Europe. During my last week of teaching in France, I decided to introduce my students to the wonderful world of pb&j. This, I said, is more American than McDonalds and cowboys combined.
They looked at me like I was insane.
And then I told them what they would be eating. They looked at me like I should be committed. I had every reaction - some, in love (c'est trop bonne!), some, disgusted, and the majority, intrigued.
I've weened myself off of this good ol' American standard. Gone are the days of eating a peanut butter sandwich everyday. More recently I average about one every six months. But the other day, I had that moment. That moment when all I wanted was creamy peanut butter, mushy bread, and strawberry jam, smushed together. And I realized that maybe, in the land of artisanal cheeses and gastronomique delicacies, sometimes all you need is a taste of home.