Whether we realize it or not, in addition to luggage, most travelers carry a part of their homeland with them when they venture abroad.
Serious travelers want to experience the local culture – food, art, music and history. But we don’t totally re-invent ourselves in foreign countries. Habits from home cling to us, and these habits, by definition, are difficult to give up. For me, one of these habits is a good cup of coffee in the morning … with cream. Not milk, but light cream … or as it’s called in America – half & half.
So on most of our trips outside the US, one of the first orders of business is finding coffee cream. Not the healthiest of habits I know, but there you are.
Sounds simple enough – right? Cream comes from milk, which comes from cows, and everybody has cows. Following this logical path through the grassy meadow leads to the conclusion that every country should have cream. But, as I’ve learned the hard way, there are lots of different types of cream, many of which don’t belong in my coffee. When you don’t speak (or read) the language, the tough bit is figuring out which type of cream is the right one.
One simple strategy for finding cream, that I’ve had to abandon, is looking at the label and packaging. For instance, this photo was taken in Kyiv, and the bottle on the right looks conspicuously like milk. The closeup shows a few cows, grazing peacefully in an idyllic meadow. The bottle has the classic milk-bottle shape, and contains a white liquid. It’s gotta be milk right? Wrong-a-mundo – it’s yogurt. As it turned out, the unique pyramid package on the left is actually milk, but not cream.
With all these product and language differences, I’ve had my share of mishaps. One classic blunder, which produced gales of laughter from Terri, was when I poured Alfredo sauce into my coffee in Florence. After this embarrassing episode, I vowed to taste the cream BEFORE adding it to my coffee. I’ve bought milk, sour cream, Crème fraîche, yogurt, whipping cream … and that tasty Alfredo sauce; thinking each would be perfect for my cuppa joe.
After a few weeks in Germany, I have it figured out. Sahne means cream, and the trick is to buy 10% – 15% fat. Any more makes it whipping cream. Venturing too far from plain sahne, gets me in trouble. I bought “Coffee Cream” but it was sweetened (like condensed milk).
One trick I’ve learned is to make my own half & half. The simple formula is half milk and half cream (usually whipping cream). This concoction cuts the percentage of fat, and Mr. Artery thanks me every time I do it.
So with trial and error, and some international improvisation, I usually get there. But it isn’t always pretty.
Are there products you use at home that are difficult to find abroad? What’s your Holy Grail? The girls are dying to hear.
Photo Credit: 1. Jean Carlo Emer