Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Now London is complete*

Now I can buy Lucky Charms cereal, Jif peanut butter, Dr. Pepper, and Orville Redenbachers popcorn - all right here in Covent Garden, less than 10 minutes walking distance from my flat!

I was walking from Covent Garden to Southbank for dinner the other night with a couple of friends and we walked by this bright colourful store called CyberCandy that caught my attention. But we were in a bit of a hurry and I couldn't stop to go in, so I made a mental note of it. I saw their website address lit up in red neon lights at the back of the store, and when I got home I checked it out.

I can't explain the joy it brought me. You have to see for yourself.

Now some of you will get it, others will think I'm insane, or obese - of which I am neither! Let me explain. I spent good chunks of my childhood in the States - where we would spend three months of the year in California. Those were the days when Kuwait didn't have much, snack-wise, other than what you'd find in the baqalas. Don't get me wrong - I loved that stuff growing up, and I still do. But anyone who has been to one of those huge American supermarkets - especially in California - can imagine the joyous wonder that would hit whenever we'd arrive for the start of our three months of pure bliss. Everything was bright and colourful - everything looked, smelled, and tasted magical - and all was delightfully packaged and presented on the shelves in endless rows. Consumerism to the max - and as a kid, you just wanted to wallow in it! Anyway, it was our one chance in the year to really indulge - we'd been good for nine months and this was our reward. My Mom would let my sisters and I pile up our shopping cart with Lucky Charms, New York Seltzers, Doritos and dip, muenster cheese (with sourdough bread, one of our summer breakfast favourites), Wonder bread, Entenmanns mini powdered donuts, beef jerky, oatmeal raisin cookies, Louis Rich turkey, Oscar Mayer hotdogs, the whole range of Hostess cakes, Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, Stove Top stuffing, Popsicles (the original brand), etc. Not that we'd pig out on a regular basis. My parents let us indulge a bit, but we still ate healthy meals and would have these goodies as our snacks. My Mom would unload all the different munchies into large air-tight containers and keep them in the cupboard so they would stay fresh for quite some time. I guess you have to know my family, know my Mom, and know our home to understand the warm, happy feeling I get whenever I think of those big white containers in the cupboard above the counter. It wasn't simply about the food - it was what it all represented. The start of our magical escape from reality that those summers were for our family. The carefree days of childhood summer ecstasy: picnics with friends in the park, boogie-boarding through the enormous waves at Laguna Beach, the Sawdust Art Festival, bike riding, late-night beach bonfires with s'mores, Magic Mountain, endless movies, South Coast Plaza, etc. Life really was "magically delicious!"

Anyway, I went to college on the east coast and although all those edible delights of my childhood were now at my fingertips on a daily basis, it didn't really mean as much to me anymore. And of course, now even Kuwait has some of the munchies we once had to wait all year to get (some, but not as much as you'd think). So I guess the things you delight in as a child, you take for granted - or no longer see the value in - as an adult. Of couse not. Now we know what beef jerky actually is. Now we know how artificial Hostess cupcakes are - and that Twinkies are downright frightening. Now we watch our weight and no longer have the metabolism of childhood to burn off all the calories from a Ding Dong.

But I'll be perfectly honest. I still love munchies once in a while. And nobody knows how to make munchies quite like they do it in the States. I'm talking munchies here, not actual "food". When it comes to real food - I'm actually a bit of a snob. I buy French cheese and Italian meats and fresh-baked bread and organic vegetables, and the only thing that comes out of a jar in my fridge is Dijon mustard. But when I want to get down and dirty with some so-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-yummy comfort food, American munchies all the way (except, of course, when it comes to chocolate bars). And yes, yes I know, I know - that's why their kids are getting ever more unhealthy and obese. But if having these products on the shelves means careless parents are gonna stuff their children with junk 24/7, that's their problem, not mine. I like to indulge in moderation - as a once-in-a-while treat. So to me: Froot Loops = good, Duncan Hines = great, peanut butter and jelly = amazing!

And now knowing that I can get all this if I want it, right here in London...well it makes me feel like a kid in California all over again! I guess that's the point really. It all reminds me of my childhood. I know that if I tasted some of this stuff for the first time as an adult, I'd probably gag (again, I'm thinking about those crazy Twinkies). In fact, I went to the CyberCandy store the next day and while I literally felt like a kid in a candy store (although their stock wasn't as extensive as the website), I left empty-handed and haven't ordered anything off their website. But just knowing it's there whenever I may want it is good enough for me.

Incidentally, and perhaps conveniently, I happened to join a new gym this week, so all is safe (fat-wise).

Side note: One thing I found strange is that on the CyberCandy site they have Big Red gum listed under German products?! Remember Big Red? I had forgotten it existed until just now, and yet I remember the song from the commercial so well. "So kiss a little longer, stay close a little longer, pull tight a little longer, longer with Big Red, that Big Red freshness lasts right through it, your fresh breath goes on and on, while you chew it, say goodbye a little longer, make it last a little longer, give your breath long-lasting freshness...with Big Red!" (I know my sisters are singing along right now. Next - Juicy Fruit!)

P.S. Raine: check it out - my nightmare! The smell! I'm feeling dizzy and sick just thinking about it.

* Except, of course, for the fact that my P and family are not here! But, you know, superficially speaking!