The Expat Dad

This will sound crazy, but one of my fondest childhood memories is my grandma giving me money and a note to go buy her cigarettes from the gas station.  Why?  Because there was always a few bucks leftover for me to buy a treat for my troubles. My go-to was the Hostess cherry pie. I can honestly say my mouth is watering just remembering that first bite. Looking inside to see those red, gooey cherries oozing out.  Mmmm….(drooling) Now, if I was just buying my grandma cigarettes, I would’ve forgotten the whole thing, but these food-anchored memories create a cherished space in our minds, safe and eager to be replayed.

I remember splitting the third Ho Ho with my best friend, Adam, before a backyard baseball game. Demolishing a box of Little Debbie’s brownies with my friends while we played Golden Eye in Todd’s basement. The times my Mom and I split an entire box of Nutty Buddies. (Pro tip: They taste even better if you freeze them first.) I remember Tostino’s Pizza rolls before band practice. I could rattle off a million more, but I think the point is clear. Food-anchored memories stick.  

Jump to 2016 and my wife and I have moved to New Zealand. We arrived under the assumption our favorite foods from the US would be here. I mean, why not?  New Zealand is a fellow first-world, former-British colony. Why wouldn’t they?  Right?  Wrong…. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Hostess or Little Debbie product during the entire four years we’ve lived here. Even the US fast food places aren’t quite the same. KFC, Subway, and Pizza Hut are actually worse than in the States.  

Don’t get me wrong. New Zealanders have their own tasty treats, but when I bite into a Swiss Roll and it doesn't taste like a Ho Ho, my inner child shoots it a dirty look. The Cookie Times are good, but they’re no Chips Ahoy. On a scale of Angel Food to Pound Cake, New Zealand cakes lean more towards Pound Cake density. And the New Zealand Lolly Cake, which I haven’t tried yet, is something else entirely. (Confession: I do prefer a New Zealand Lamington over a Hostess Snowball any day of the week.) I’m not trying to say this is all one way. I bet a New Zealander visiting America would have similar feelings about US snacks.. Our childhood sweets are a mirror reflecting back on good times. What could ever replace my beloved Hostess cherry pie? Not a damn thing... (still drooling).

Now it’s 2020, I’m nearly forty with a newborn baby daughter, and we’re still living down here in Middle Earth (Wellington), New Zealand. It’s peaceful, relaxed, and we’ve settled in nicely.  After several experiments with the local flavors, we know what we like, what to avoid, and what to import from home. (Thank you Comfort Eats!!!). This begs the question. What will our daughter prefer?  Thanks to her dual citizenship, she’ll get to enjoy both American and New Zealand foods. Will she like Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce or Culley’s? Will she dip her fries in Heinz ketchup or Rocket Sauce with Aoli.  Will she like beetroot relish on a burger?! I admit, these are not Earth-shattering considerations; I’m just curious. Our daughter is the product of two born-and-raised, red-blooded, Midwestern Americans. What percentage of taste is innate and what part is native? Only time will tell.

(If you’re a child of immigrant parents, what’s been your experience? Let me know in the comments. And please, share your favorite treats. I’m always down for experimenting with cultural delicacies of the sugary persuasion.)


  • Lydia Esparza

    I Loved it can’t wait for the next one!! Now you can show a picture of the delicious sweets!! Mmmm!! You made me hungry! Lol !!!

  • Kim Pongpaet

    Loved it! Looking forward to what’s next 😊

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