March 30, 2015

Drum roll please….

It’s time for…........THE FOOD BLOG! Hurray!

The time has come to talk about some of the food highs/lows of my stay so far. Let’s dive in with the lows....

Things that do not exist in New Zealand:
I’ve checked in every local supermarket I could find, to no avail. Plantains, as far as I can tell, just aren't sold here. During the beginning of March I was craving tostones (friend plantains) like no other, too. It was a rough time…

Ah tostones...
-Graham crackers-
I’m not going to lie, I freaked out a little bit when I heard that graham crackers aren't sold in New Zealand. Graham cracker crust is one of my favorite things, regardless of the type of pie it’s holding. What do they use for crust? How do kiwis make s’mores? :(

-Cookie dough ice cream-
Cookie dough, in general, is not made in NZ like it is in the US (i.e., in super convenient pre-made tubes that you can buy to eat your feelings and maybe bake into cookies…if any dough makes it to the oven), but it’s also just not put in ice cream. I was told that there was a company once that made cookie dough ice cream and marketed it as “manly ice cream” …but I’ve yet to find it on the shelves. The closest cookie dough ice cream substitute I've found was this ice cream bar:

It was a bit like the Chocolate Eclair ice cream bars that are sold in the US, but tasted enough like actual cookie dough ice cream to do the trick. Don’t get me wrong the ice cream here is DELICIOUS, but the range of flavours usually includes mint chip, vanilla, hokey pokey, cookies ‘n cream, and/or various fruity flavours, only. 

Hokey pokey ice cream, with the honey comb bits!

NZ/US Differences:
Kiwis (and probably everywhere in the world but the US…heh) are on point with their portion sizes, but sometimes surprising with their prices. I realise the prices are probably higher, too, because I’m living in a “big” city and because NZ is an island nation, but still, prices were something to get used to.

I went to McDonalds the other day because I was told I had to try their burgers at some point, since they “actually taste like burgers” rather than the "is this meat...?" burgers you get in the US McDonalds. The burger actually wasn't half bad...but you could tell it was still fast-food. Anyway, the cashier rang my order up as a medium combo and I immediately panicked, knowing there was no way I was going to finish that much food. When my order came….it was the same size as a US small. Just enough. 

Items in the US that you can get for super cheap are sometimes unexpectedly expensive here, too, and vice versa.Take that burger combo, for example. In the US that combo would've costed $8-9.00, if that, but here that same combo was $10.50.

Or take Coke, for example.

In the US your average vending machine/convenience store Coke is 20 fl. oz, which is equal to 591 ml, and costs maybe $1.50-2.00. Here, the average convenience store Coke comes in 200 or 400 ml sizes. The 200 ml bottles are usually $2, the 400 ml bottles are $4-$4.50. So, in the US, the standard is 3x the amount of Coke for the price of a small NZ Coke bottle.
(Fun side note: NZ Coke “Zero” does, in fact, have calories :O)

Or, for another example, coffee.

A “small” coffee in the US, say at Dunkin’ Donuts, is 10ish fl. oz. The small is about the same size here, sometimes less, but will cost you $3-4.50. In the US a small coffee would cost you barely half that. Honestly, it's totally worth it though, because NZ coffee is AMAZING. I've only had coffee out a few times because it's so expensive, but every mocha I get is just the right balance of coffee/chocolatey flavour. Even the insta-coffee here is amazing, which is saying something. 

Regular sized mug, small NZ coffee.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also a few things here that are really cheap compared to their price in the US. Take dates (the fruit ;) ), for example. I love dates, but in the US they’re SO expensive. Here you can get a medium-sized bag of dates for less than $3.00, whereas in the US the same size bag would probably cost $10-15.00.

Food highlights (other than those I've previously blogged about):
-Condensed milk…in a tube-
This really needs no description; whoever invented this was a genius. Condensed milk only comes in cans in the US, and I almost never use to whole thing. Condensed milk in a tube reduces all that waste.
-Cookie dough-Pretzel-
I don't think this is unique to NZ, but it was still amazing. The cookie dough was wrapped in, and baked with, the pretzel so that you got salty and sweet all in one delicious bite. Nom. 

Only half the pretzel made it to the photo...
-Tim Tam Slam-
Tim Tam Slam: the art of drinking a hot beverage through a Tim Tam biscuit after biting it at both ends. Have napkins on hand, because the biscuit immediately melts into a gooey, super yum chocolate morsel. 

After biting at both ends, these rectangular biscuits work like straws.
Life-changing experiences:
I know this heading might seem dramatic, but this is no joke. After eating the following foods here I will never be able to look at them the same way again.

Going to my first sushi bar was life-changing. Instead of buying a roll of 8 small pieces like in the US you chose the sushi per-piece, and the pieces are HUGE. There were so many interesting, different flavours, too. Plus, the soy sauce comes in an adorable fish shaped packet! What more could you ask for.

So cute!

-Red bean frappuccino-
Ever since I heard that Starbucks sells red bean frappuccinos in some countries I've wanted to try one....and here, in NZ of all places, I found a place that sells them. It was soooo good and just the right balance of refreshing and savoury, as red bean flavoured items usually are. Behold:

Finally, one custom that I've definitely enjoyed here is "tea time", aka a time to take a step back, relax, and have a snack. For almost all the IFSA Butler trips we've been given snacks, tea/coffee, biscuits, or other treats in between meals, and for Uni orientation we were given the same "tea time" before we started the day. Even some touristy activities like hiking, kayaking, etc all come with a "tea time" break if you hire a guide to go with you. This is certainly something I could get used to. It's nice to be constantly on the go and exploring, but rarely in the US (at least in my experience) do we take the time to just sit back, relax, and have a morning/afternoon beverage and biscuit. It's really refreshing.

Anyway, that's all for now! I'm sure this won't be my last food blog. Have a great week, you reader you!

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