I've been back in the UK for almost seven years now. It's home. But there are certain creature comforts from the US that I still can't live without. Just those little, inconsequential things that make me happy and that I haven't been able to find a suitable substitute for here in Blighty.
In the past, I would wait until work or personal travel took me back to the US and I would return with entire suitcases full of Americana to try and appease my wretched withdrawal symptoms. But slowly, over the years, I've been able to find black market (ok not really) sources for my stateside dependencies. So now I present to you the things from America that I can't live without.
This stuff, this stuff right here. If you think you've experienced peanut butter, you're wrong. The perfect blend of sweet and salty, ultra-thick, and loaded with peanuts. Which reminds me, be sure to get the SuperChunk version and not the smooth or anything else unless you're some sort of infant. You're not an infant, are you? You can get this on Amazon and I've seen it in Tesco too.
Ask any American expat what they stock up on when back in the US, they will all, without hesitation, say ZipLoc bags. Despite a storied heritage of engineering excellence, the British cannot manufacture a plastic bag any more useful than a wet paper bag. Thank God then for SC Johnson (a family company) and their wonderful, reliable, irreplaceable ZipLoc bag. It's getting to the point now where I have an entire suitcase dedicated to boxes of these bad boys. No kitchen should be without them. The only place I've seen these for sale is Amazon.
"But Alex," I hear you cry "we have this in the UK, it's called Dr Pepper Zero!" No. No, what YOU have is the "Evan Almighty" of diet sodas, a D-list impostor that tries way too hard to be like the original but just ends up making you so angry you could punch a kitten. Dr Pepper Zero...how dare you. No, what I'm introducing you to today is the only soda that comes close to Diet Coke. Not too sweet like its pre-diabetic cousin Dr Pepper Zero, and with enough distance from the original Dr Pepper flavour to actually add something to the conversation, Diet Dr Pepper is so damn good that I've had the gall to ask friends visiting the US to pick me up a bottle in the airport departure lounge. Yes, it's that good. You can get this on Amazon or any American food shop.
Glad Bags...Glad Rags! Ha! I just figured that out as I was typing the title. *sigh* Solid gold. Anyway, few things make me vomit with rage quite like an over-filled bin-liner catastrophically evacuating its contents all over my beslippered feet at 6:15 on a Sunday morning. And I think my rage is justified. I mean seriously, how hard is it to make a bin liner with a shred of structural integrity? Pretty hard, I guess. And so began my quest to find the best and most robust bin-liner ever created by man. Shortcut, I went to TheSweetHome and found out that it's the Glad Tall Kitchen drawstring bag and I bought 500 of them at Target over the summer. Why are they so good? Doesn't matter....they're bin liners, who cares. But this reviewer sums it up best “I could probably fend off a home invasion by deflecting the blows of the enemy’s weapon with the incredible strength these vessels possess.” These are pretty hard to find over here but there are a few version on Amazon.
I have my friend Greg to thank for this one. I've never been a huge fan of iced tea in the past but during my recent "healthy" phase I'd been looking for alternatives to soda. Greg suggested Arizona Iced Tea, in particular the Green Tea version. He had no idea the monster he would end up creating with that suggestion. For this is the sweetest of nectars. It has a tiny bit of sugar in it but the real sweetness comes from honey which balances the slightly bitter green tea absolutely perfectly. The stuff is so, so good. Now I've had this in just about every form it takes; 500ml glass bottles (as pictured above), regular soda size cans, giant 23oz cans (that's over a pint), even powdered. Definitely go with the glass bottles; they're just the right size (the 23oz ones are impossible to finish), they don't have any of the artificial sweeteners that some of the US sizes do, and everyone knows beverages taste best when stored in glass. You can get this on Amazon but I've also seen it at delis and cafes in London.
Let me clear one thing up before I even start; I can make pretty damn good American-style pancakes from scratch. But at 6:45 on a Sunday morning when the kids have asked me to make them pancakes for 600th time, Bisquick is a godsend. Toss 2 eggs and a cup of milk into a measuring jug along with 2 cups of this stuff, jam the immersion blender in there for a while and intermittently huck dollops of it onto a hot pan, and 2 minutes later you have enough pancakes to silence even the whiniest of toddlers. And they taste pretty good! Good enough for me to ignore the "real pancakes, real good" tagline on the front of the box. Grab some boxes on Amazon as I haven't seen it anywhere else.