1. You will try to cling to your old way of cooking and snacking.
Coming from North America (and the UK for that matter), many of the brands you are accustomed to will be available. Instead of screwing up an entire meal because you tried a different tomato sauce, you’ll search high and low for that brand you know, theoretically, to “save time.” If you lived in any other country, you’d probably have to learn to live without or change the way you cook, but since you’ve seen the brands you are familiar with and know they are here, somewhere:
2. You will make multiple trips during the week.
This is not because you are getting delicious fresh ingredients like in Europe, or because it’s a pedestrian-oriented city where you can’t carry much, but because each store carries different items on your weekly list. You might add a trip to the farmers market, and of course one to the liquor store. Many times, you’ll even add in an extra stop for a “comfort” item from home, like Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Can you live without them? Of course. But the convenience factor combined with nostalgia for home are really quite motivational, so you will hunt them down, even if it means going to a store you wouldn’t normally visit. Of course, you might make that special trip and the goldfish won’t be there. So then:
3. You’ll make multiple stops for one item.
Grocery stores will carry a product pretty regularly, and then POOF! It disappears for weeks at a time, only to reappear when you aren’t looking for it anymore. Take it from me, under no circumstances should you shop for a dinner party on the day of the party, or even the day before. Start early. Seeing cake frosting every time you grocery shop does not mean it will be available at any of the four stores in your area on the day of your party. (Can you tell this happened to me? It wasn’t just the frosting for my son’s birthday cake, but also several key ingredients for appetizers and dinner. Disaster!) When you do find the cake frosting?
4. You will stockpile your favorite finds.
I guarantee everyone’s pantries in Dubai look like it’s Y2K. The euphoria you feel when you finally find those black beans you use to make your favorite avocado salad is quickly followed by a hoarder’s mentality. You may never see them again! Quick! Put 10 cans in your basket! (this of course leads to #3 for everyone else because I’ve just bought them all up.) When you’re finished buying an obscene amount of your favorite old standbys:
5. You’ll try different things.
Okay, you can’t be totally boring and stuck in your old ways. All kinds of spices and other items are easily available here for Indian, Thai and Middle Eastern cooking. And they’re cheap! You’ll get inspired to jump on the internet and start experimenting with recipes you may not normally try. And you’ll probably google the names of a few of the fruits and veggies you’ve never seen and try to figure out how to eat them.
Yes, I really miss the days of going to HEB once a week, where I could get everything I needed in one stop, and do it blindfolded because it was in the same spot every time. But despite my often high level of frustration with the very time-consuming task of grocery shopping, at times I stop and look around and realize how cool it can be. (And how much worse it could be.) The multicultural aspect is really quite fun. The other day, I bought some Halloween pumpkins that were right next to a Diwali display.
Then I bought some freshly made zaatar bread at the bakery.
And then I walked on over to the ice-cream aisle and picked up some Blue-Bell ice-cream. That’s right! Straight from little ol’ Brenham, Texas. It may not be available in all 50 states in the U.S., but I can get it in Dubai. Strangely enough, there does seem to be a pretty steady supply (at one store to which I make special trips for it). For an added treat that will surely make any Texan smile, they even have the “Southern Blackberry Cobbler” and “Southern Hospitality” flavors available.
When I’m tearing my hair out over the lack of aborio rice in all of Dubai, I try to think back to my steady supply of Bluebell.