Wednesday, July 8, 2015

National Treasures

Just home from a memorable ten-day visit to Oregon to see some family, we are unpacking, dealing with eight-hour jetlag, and generally getting our lives back in order. While unpacking, I admired all of the American treasures we brought home with us – things we can't find easily in Ireland.

S'more S'upplies

One of the most mysterious American treats is the s'more. We get asked about this famous s'nack more than any other, mostly because the ingredients are difficult or impossible to find in Europe.

Graham crackers, Hershey's chocolate, and marshmallows. Ingredients for s'mores
The Holy Trinity
The traditional s'more is an outdoor campfire food. It has three perfectly-balanced ingredients, and while some hipsters try chic variations on the classic trinity, most American s'mores are simple.

Graham crackers sandwich milk chocolate pieces (traditionally Hershey's) and a roasted marshmallow. When trying to explain a graham cracker to an Irish person, I'm often stumped. "They, kinda buttery crackers that taste like...honey?" Needless to say, they aren't on most Irish supermarket shelves, despite having such a British name.

Marshmallows can be found in Irish supermarkets, but they are often sold as candy rather than a baking ingredient. Marshmallow fluff might be in the baking aisle, but large, solid 'mallows will usually be in a package of mixed gummi candy. In a s'more, the marshmallow is traditionally roasted – to the eater's preference of browning or charring – over an open flame, but we'll probably be committing a slight breach of s'more etiquette by cooking the chocolate and marshmallows in the oven or microwave. 

As for Hershey's chocolate, well, let's just say that Cadbury-loving Brits and Irish don't much care for it. I can taste very little difference in the two basic chocolate bars, but Irish people who have tried Hershey's in the States seem to find it too bitter. In fact, when imports of British Cadbury's chocolate were banned in America, there was a run on import candy shops as desperate expats rushed to stock up on the last supply of their favorite sweet.

Mac & Cheese

Nothing new here. Boxes of instant macaroni and cheese are a staple for us when we visit our home country. Suspiciously quick-cooking noodles complement a sauce made of nuclear yellow cheez powder, butter, and milk in this classic American home convenience food. For best effect, serve with hot dogs.

Mac and Cheese
Generic Store Brands are a Plus

Drugs! Drugs! Drugs!

It might be due to heavier drug regulations, or it might be due to a general lack of big box chain stores, but whatever the reason, over-the-counter medicines are much more expensive in Ireland than in the States. Large bottles of basic household medicine cabinet drugs like antacids, pain relievers, and antihistamines are difficult to find and very expensive when available. Savvy Irish travelers to the States usually stock up on ibuprofen for themselves and their family while abroad, "smuggling" in the pills upon their return. They (and we) buy the big, cheap, store brand bottles.

Antacid, Antihistamine, Deodorant, and Contact Lens Solution
Antacid, Antihistamine, Deodorant, and Contact Lens Solution
We also stock up on contact lens solution in America, as it is dizzyingly expensive and not even available at all pharmacies in Ireland. When we first needed solution back in 2013, I had to ask around a thee different pharmacies before someone pulled a small, dusty old bottle off the shelf with an eleven-euro price tag. "Is dis what yeh want?" Since then, we've made it a point to buy it on our return visits – at two dollars per bottle.

Be on the lookout for more about our trip to Oregon, and let me know what treasures you bring back from your home country!


  1. Digestive biscuits are close to Graham crackers work well in smoares

  2. Digestive biscuits are close to Graham crackers work well in smoares

    1. I agree they are the closest we can get here, but you'd have many an American calling "BLASPHEMY!" for using anything but a true graham. :)

  3. That's interesting! I always stock up on buttery Breton biscuits when I go home ;-) As for the medicine, well, it's a lot cheaper in Ireland than in France, mainly because of the pharmacy lobby. In France you can't buy paracetamol in the supermarket, you have to go to the chemist so they do whatever they want with the prices...

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