In every household there are traditions and moments of great expectation. These times become ritual venues for family bonding. There is a rhythm and significance with these events lost to most outsiders and yet there is laughter, there are tears...
In our house one of these traditions is the arrival of the "Care Package". Regular visitors leaving for NZ from the US are confronted at the GR airport by a wild eyed woman wielding a bulging suitcase and accompanied by a tired looking man in bike pants. Deftly, she pins a list of the said contents to the unsuspecting traveller’s shirt front and departs. The long suffering baggage boy leaves with her, nodding empathetically, dreaming of bush-clad NZ hills, perfect for his masochistic cycling fetish.
And now by popular request - we have one of those lists, with commentary available for all to see:
> Peanut Butter – now I’m a fan of peanut butter, but there are 2 issues here for me: we have it here in NZ! In shops (translation: stores)! I am told by my wife however that it doesn’t taste as good – this is a euphemism for: “it’s not as processed here” which is a recurring culinary theme in our household. The second issue is the brand name of this peanut butter: “Jif”…in New Zealand Jif is an abrasive household cleaner ("cleans and shines without harsh scratching") used for cleaning bathroom surfaces – I’ve tried the Jif and it doesn’t clean as well as the NZ alternative, however the aroma was unique – is anyone else up for peanut butter flavoured householder cleansers? What about roast beef? Or chocolate?
> Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – Speaking of chocolate and peanut butter brings me to this item. This is a peculiarly American phenomenon – this is how the people (mother in laws excluded) get so big over there. You take the 2 most calorific and addictive substances known to man (apart from the garlic aioli at Burger Fuel) and combine them! Instant heart attack! I’m not sure whether to offer thanks for feeding my addiction or run another 10km…actually that’s a lie: I didn’t run the 10km in the first place
> Plastic Bags – for NZ readers I need you to imagine this substance called plastic – its like glass, except its soft and pliable. You can see things through it but not as well as glass. It can be made into bags and is excellent for storing food. Apparently they were on sale.
> French Dressing – I really don’t get this one – Americans, like Kiwis, dislike the french*. So why include multiple bottles of a dressing of french origin in such a package? The answer lies in the question: its not really french. Its actually a deeply ironic jab at the french – no frenchie worth his salt and pepper would label this french dressing – its texture and taste resemble a slightly orange tomato sauce. It tastes great but its major redeeming feature lies in the knowledge that every time you consume this over-processed product you are undermining centuries of arrogant french haute cuisine! (* yes the lower case “f” was intentional)
> Liptons Onion Soup – for NZ readers I need you to imagine this substance called soup…alright, enough of the sarcasm. Apparently onion soup in NZ tastes different. It must be the ozone layer.
> Boxes - Then there’s the array of boxed ingredients – “it tastes better from a box” for those homebaking moments! Bisquick, to make biscuits which are really scones + cake, muffin and brownie mixes!
> Inside Out - My personal favourite is the stovetop stuffing mix – Yes, this is the stuffing that never sees the inside of a bird! For the serious stuffing lover, now you get to eat as much stuffing as you want – how about a little chicken with that stuffing?! Hey, forget the chicken! It’s quicker just to cook the “stuffing”!
> Finally, I would be negligent in not mentioning the clothing items that are so generously supplied for me! Last time for example I received a very well chosen shirt in one of my fave colours, black (black is the new black you know). But I have noticed how many of the items are branded “Michigan” or some variation thereof – maybe its just me, but I can’t help but think its to remind me that I mercilessly uprooted their daughter from her country of birth and whisked her away to a primitive colonial frontier…I wear them a lot anyway!
Care Packages: where would we be without them? Hmmm, a bad line - we wouldn't be in NZ would we?