Expat Fantasy Shopping List...

>> Friday, 21 May 2010

Before I start with this, let me get one thing straight; being in Moscow is not - for the Potski family at least - in any way a 'hardship posting'. We chose to move here and our lives, whilst significantly different from back in London, and whilst including more than the occasional curve-ball thrown our way, are good, to the extent that recently when discussing how long we should stay I surprised myself with the length of time I was willing to consider.

So this is not a 'railing at circumstance, oh poor Expat me post'. It's more of a gentle sigh about how accustomed to easy shopping I had become back in the UK. I know, it's all about sustainability and buying what is local, but there's only so many times you can roast beetroot and hunt for another recipe for red cabbage, so here, for your delectation is my Expat Fantasy Supermarket Shopping List.

Golden syrup/black treacle. Even though it's warmed up substantially here (i.e approx 50degC temp difference from the beginning of the year), for some reason I find myself yearning to make gingerbread, proper sticky stuff, and funnily enough these are two refined sugars that the Russians don't seem to buy into...

Weetabix. You can get this here but even I balked at paying £6.00 for a box of 24. This means that any and all visitors from the UK to the Potski household will be expected to stump up - at the very least - a packet of 48 to gain admittance.

Cornflour. They may have it here but not being very good at much more than asking for 500R worth of petrol, how on earth would I know? (Update; since writing this post I found it - hurrah! To anyone wondering why there was woman doing a victory dance in the aisles of Auchan Hypermarket in Moscow last weekend - that was me).

Vanilla Essence. This gold-dust is mentioned in hushed voices by expats throughout the city in the same tone one might use to discuss a sighting of some rare bird or a shy celebrity. Not that there are so many of those - shy ones - here.

Baking powder. At a recent fair coming for the school, Brits were asked if they could bake some scones for UK stand, but, said the ad in the newsletter 'don't worry - we will provide the baking powder!' (The exclamation point was theirs, not mine...)

Decent inexpensive wine. We don't go to the most expensive restaurants (although neither do we go to the cheapest), and yet so far I've not seen a bottle of even a house white or red on the menu for less than £60. And you can't get around that by importing it - there's a tax on that. Note to visitors - in addition to the Weetabix, you will also be expected to provide 2 bottles of wine (your maximum allowance) from duty free. An £8 Rioja will do - and we'll reimburse you in vodka...

Drinkable milk. How can an entire nation manage on the rubbish white stuff you can buy here? It goes off in two days and tastes sour from the moment you open it. There is one brand that is fine - from Finland - but supplies are erratic, to the extent that whenever an Expat is shopping and chances upon it they feel compelled to bulk-buy and fill up their freezer for whenever stocks are low. (This may seem silly but try getting two boys to eat their breakfast on a school day when they won't touch the milk and you'll get my point.)

Organic / free-range produce. I used to buy both, regularly. Now, that's an impossible dream, and I find it best not to think about the provenance of the chicken that we buy. Suffice it to say, I doubt they were happy birds.

Sausages. I dream about Mr Lidgate's cumberlands and chipolatas. How sad is that?

Cheddar. Oh my god, proper cheddar cheese...

And now I think I'd better stop. But if you are, or have been, an expat, tell me: what's on your fantasy shopping list?


TheMadHouse 21 May 2010 at 14:21  

You can make your own vanilla essence. vodka and vanilla, just leave it to stew et voila

Michelloui 21 May 2010 at 14:25  

I have made so many of these lists over the years!!! Fortunately now I can get most ingredients I need in the UK. One that I miss is a molasses that I used in the States, although I can find some decent alternatives (like black strap molasses). I also love gingerbread!!! Mmmmmm.... any time of year.

Can you order things online?

Potty Mummy 21 May 2010 at 14:30  

MH - can you give me the proportions on that? I foresee a blackmarket industry in our kitchen...

Michelle, a fellow-gingerbread lover, hurrah! As for online well, not so much, not yet. The Russian postal system is not what it might be... For the time being I have to rely on the kindness of visitors (oh, and on myself when I go back to the UK soon on my own for a WHOLE WEEKEND!)

nappy valley girl 21 May 2010 at 16:29  

Definitely the sausages - I want the ones from Moen in Clapham.

It's really hard to get decent lamb here, so we never have roast lamb. And while you can get free range and organic meat in Whole Foods, it isn't widely available in other supermarkets.....

We can get Weetabix, although it's fairly expensive (as is everything now with the pound doing a nosedive). Ditto Marmite. No Shreddies, although we have found an alternative that looks the same. And no Petit Filous yogurts for the boys.

I'm really glad to hear that you're starting to enjoy Moscow now....

Expat mum 21 May 2010 at 16:59  

Sausages. That reminds me - the British guy is selling bona fide English Sausages at the farmer
s market tomorrow. Oh happy day.

Freedom Offshore 21 May 2010 at 17:01  

Good micro-brew beer. Being in Latin America, we do have an ok selection of beer. All of which taste exactly the same.

If you want to pay for it, there are a few imported German beers around.

Oh, but how I long for a Pacific Northwest Micro-brew!

Anonymous,  21 May 2010 at 17:18  

Sausages!!!!! The poor substitute we get in Singapore is not worthy of the name.

And I'm in full agreement on the wine front. Bottles that cost £6 in Waitrose are over £20 in the supermarket. And they wouldn't let me bring in any duty free from Malaysia. Damn sin taxes....

Potty Mummy 21 May 2010 at 17:35  

NVG - roast lamb! Oh, ROAST LAMB! Another t add to the list...

EPM, I'm waiting with bated breath to find out if they're any good - you will post on it, won't you?

Freedom, thanks for visiting and commenting and I see your Pacific North West Micro Brew and raise you a Pimms (although, I am a girl, so I guess I would say something like that...)

Mud, please tell me you didn't end up having to dump some wine at the border? Please?

Chic Mama 21 May 2010 at 20:25  

Oh now I am feeling sorry for you, although I got stuck at the price of the weetabix for a while...my son used to eat six in one sitting, yours would be bars of gold!

Jennifer 21 May 2010 at 20:40  

Clare...Clare Clare!!! Don't you know about Warren's Sausages?!?!??!?!?! www.sausages.ru. They deliver.

mothership 22 May 2010 at 06:06  

marmite. marmite. marmite. decent tea. caramac. I can actually buy marmite here although it's shocking what they charge, but golden syrup is hard to come by and I yearn for sweeties I never even ATE when I was in England.
NVG. they have Weetabix at Trader Joe's and it's fairly reasonably priced - don't they have one of those in Long Island yet? Also they often have NZ lamb (not that I ever eat it but I've heard it's quite nice).
When I come to the UK I always bring an empty bag and it's full of contraband choccies and tins of odd things when I come home. I always find the new clothes I buy in London get quite tight for a few weeks after I get back. Can't think why..

Eclipse,  22 May 2010 at 08:17  

Hi from Finland...

I found this place the other day... it looks like it has everything except the fresh stuff http://www.britishcornershop.co.uk

I know what you mean about sausages, if anyone goes to england they are always tasked with bringing back proper sausages. Really not a fan of the floury giant things they claim to be sausages here!

Eclipse,  22 May 2010 at 08:19  

I meant to say that the link I left you will deliver anywhere, its a bit pricy but still cheaper than flying back home to stock up!

Calif Lorna 22 May 2010 at 16:32  

I'm amazed you can't get vanilla essence. That seems like it would be basic. Here in California (this sounds like I'm rubbing it in but I'm not honestly!) we get all sorts of different vanilla essences. I'm slowly working my way through them all to see which is the best one. We're trying a Mexican one at the moment.

Maybe I need to send you a vanilla essence package :)

Potty Mummy 22 May 2010 at 19:44  

CM, thanks - although I don't want pity, just a suitcase full of Cloudy Bay...

Jennifer, thankyou. You are a godsend...

Mothership, I'm back in London for a flying visit shortly and I too will be taking an empty suitcase!

Eclipse, thanks for visiting and commenting and I will check that out asap!

Lorna, like EPM with her Chicago sausage supplier, now you're just showing off...

planb 22 May 2010 at 21:41  

When I was in Moscow it was marmite and earl grey tea.... In Scotland, ridiculously, it's a decent sausage. But that may be because we were spoiled in London by having the best sausages in the universe (according to Michael Winner - clearly he's a tosser but he knows about sausages) about five minutes away...

Baking stuff is weird though. In France it's impossible to get baking powder and SR flour. And while a tarte au fraises is all very well, it's not a birthday cake is it? Oh, and you have to hunt for sugar that's not in those stupid little cubes too. Fifty nine different brands of cubes, no caster....

planb 22 May 2010 at 21:42  

ps but like Lorna says - you're now easy to buy for if I get you in the next Secret Post Club!

planb 22 May 2010 at 21:43  

pps and i was sad enough to look up the vanilla essence recipe: http://madaboutherbs.org/how-to-make-your-own-vanilla-essence/

The Expatresse 22 May 2010 at 21:51  

Big fan of the Warren's sausages.

In Moscow, I got baking powder in those little Dr. Oetker packets . . . yellow packets in the section of the grocery where you find flour and baking soda. Sedmoi has it.

As for wine . . . there is no cheap wine. That's why I drank so much vodka while there.

Anonymous,  23 May 2010 at 08:44  

I missed sausages, peanut butter and all English cheeses when I was in Moscow. I used to make my own peanut butter, although you could buy it, just not anywhere near me. I also ate my own weight in cheese the year I came back.

Russian's play quite fast and loose with flours and baking powder and such. You could try using the generic blini flour in place of self raising as it's the same idea, it's just that they don't use it for baking, and I've found that that seems to work instead of plain and baking powder if I don't have access to baking powder too.

Also, they don't have vanilla essence, but they do have vanilla sugar. Would that work?

Muddling Along Mummy 25 May 2010 at 12:06  

This reminds me of trips out to my parents with a suitcase full of requested items (decent bread was always one) - if you ask nicely if I have another business trip to Moscow at the new job I'll bring a care package for you

Anonymous,  27 May 2010 at 16:57  

st posted a large parcel of Cadbury's mini eggs to my brother who lives in a very hot country. Hope they don't melt!

Anonymous,  27 May 2010 at 16:59  

Oops - looks like the first bit of my previous message went awol. Or abroad. It should have said "I've just posted..."

hpretty 28 May 2010 at 12:09  

It's funny, apart from cheese and wine, my list would be totally different from yours. actually writing that i really can't be sure. i bet i'd miss all sorts of things i didn't expect. Even still my current fantasy list would have chocolate, wine, marmite, good bread. hmmm. do they have baked beans over there?!


Potty Mummy 29 May 2010 at 12:00  

Plan B, actually Earl Grey is now widely available. Marmite? Not so sure - but I'm in the 'hate it' camp, I'm afraid... And thanks for the Vanilla Essence recipe (although I must admit to cheating and getting a bottle brought over by a recent visitor!)

Expatresse, thanks for the baking powder tip (I had already discovered Dr Oetker's vanilla sugar - funnily enough) and for the additional recommendation for Warren's Sausages. Now I HAVE to try them.

Solnusha - blini flour? Thanks for that. And I would love to make my own peanut butter (my mum used to when I was a little girl) but sadly both boys have nut allergies so that's out of bounds...

MAM, thanks for the offer and the thought - will keep you posted if the cravings get too much!

GPM - make mine a Green & Black's please... higher cocoa content - less likely to melt...

Henrietta, actually they DO have baked beans. In fact, they have most things if you look hard enough in the right places, so your list might be different to the one you imagine, you're right...

katbat 30 May 2010 at 06:49  

great post! Just found your blog! Warrens does pretty good sausages - I found them recently and stocked the freezer - liked the thai chicken ones. I get baking powder - like expatresse said - seems to work - it is called разрыхлител теста sometimes they say mecma just to throw you off. oh good cheap wine, cocoa powder (although a friend found some at a chocolate shop here), steak! google how to make vanilla- I think you can use vodka or bourbon - thinking of trying it! take care!

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