Moving from Houston to Perryville for the summer, I was prepared to miss some features of the city. Surely sushi would be less available, there wouldn’t be a yoga studio to fit my practice, and beer wouldn’t be as cheap as it is at Valhalla. Only a week before I left did I consider how my diet might be interrupted: would they even have avocados in Arkansas? Friends can attest how important these are to my diet. I once mistakenly stored half an avocado in the freezer rather than cover it and put it in the fridge. It was a frozen, stringy disaster, and it was all I could talk about for a day. So I decided to call groceries in the area in anticipation. They shot me down.
But upon arrival I found that the nearest grocery did carry avocados. However they paled in comparison to the robust, ripe, cheap wonders that I had been enjoying from Fiesta for years. In this way they taunted me; it would have been better to have none at all. And this same grocery didn’t carry block Parmesan cheese, brie cheese, fresh spinach, grapefruit, or alcohol. In no particular order those are my staples. To say the least this has been a point of dissatisfaction for the last six weeks. In Houston I could walk the three blocks to Fiesta and browse the cheap but tasty produce and then pour over the beer or wine selection. There was no planning involved in acquiring my favorite things. In Big Star’s defense they are located in a dry county, so the sale of alcohol is outside of their power, but I’m still upset. I had never considered how deeply attached I was to the regularity of my food system.
I can get these items outside of town. But these groceries are outside a 30min+ driving radius, meaning beyond biking distance. I miss the ease of acquiring my own food. And each of these groceries still has their own deficiencies. Who carries beer but not wine? Where is the tortilla selection? Why are these avocados expensive? Why are these avocados expensive? If there is bag spinach, why not fresh spinach? Where is the Ben & Jerry’s selection? Why do dry counties exist? Reflecting on traveling abroad, Bill Bryson writes:
You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile effort to recapture the comforts that you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.
– “Neither Here Nor There” by Bill Bryson, pg 242-3
When I first read that quote, I scoffed at such amateur travelers. How silly not to embrace and fully experience a new culture. But now I wonder, is my reaction any different? Yes, assimilating may require more effort, but am I somehow being stubborn in holding onto these Houston comforts?
I am guilty of “expending vast quantities of time and money” to achieve these comforts. Most importantly I’ve looked into planting an avocado tree and making Parmesan cheese, both long term endeavors. As for beer, years ago my witty father once remarked, “I’d rather have an American beer dog than a Portuguese water dog. It would obviously be well trained and adept in fetching beers.” Well, we’re not allowed to keep pets on the ranch, so instead I’m considering making a kegerator. Advantages include less resource use, readily available beer, and cheaper in the long run. A win-win-win situation.