11 Things I Would Never Buy and 8 Things I Would at Taste of America

Whenever I’m asked about my hobbies, I always say cooking (and reading). I love trying new recipes, cuisines, and tastes. Luckily for me, I have a husband who’s willing to try almost anything (except spicy—he’s not into that). There’s nothing better than mastering a dish, especially when your husband’s from another country and you have finally gotten your tortilla de patatas just right.

The problem about cooking (and eating!) in another country is that sometimes you can’t find what you want. There are certain ingredients that aren’t sold here, at least in your neighborhood supermarket. When I was living in smaller towns—Toledo (2008), Salamanca (2009–2010), or Zamora (2011, 2012)—I noticed this a lot.

I understand the desire for a store that’s just like back home. You know, Trader Joe’s would be nice sometimes. But sometimes I see the products advertised at Taste of America, and I have to admit I would never buy some of those things. Some I would, though. But which ones?

Things I Would Never Buy

Peanut butter in the jar

  1. Peanut butter. Okay, if you don’t have a food processor, I would buy this. However, I do have my nice little food processor, and making your own nut butter couldn’t be easier. The only downside is the clean up.
  2. Mixes. Make your own cake or brownies. Way cheaper, and healthier (not so many chemicals!).
  3. Frosting. Likewise, it’s way too easy to make your own frosting. I have my favorite frosting recipe, and it is amazing! You don’t have to use powdered sugar! Popcorn popped on a white background
  4. Popcorn. There is popcorn here; enough said.
  5. Vegetable dip mix. This is easy enough to do it yourself. I like this recipe, with Greek yogurt and a bunch of spices you already have in your cabinet.
  6. Baking soda and corn starch. Why buy these when they already exist over here, and for a much cheaper price? Look for bicarbonato (baking soda) and maizena (corn starch).
  7. Strawberry syrup. Because no. Because it’s gross? Because I once vomited after eating this.
  8. Guacamole mix. Guys, making great guacamole is not difficult. The only semi-difficult part might be finding cilantro, but I’ve seen it in nearby fruterías, so don’t despair. Pop-Tarts
  9. Pop Tarts. Who knew that one could actually purchase this for the low, low price of €5.60 ($7.28)? These breakfast delicacies bring me back to my middle-school days, when they were my dad’s daily breakfast.
  10. Marshmallows. I don’t have anything against them, and I get why you’d want to buy them, but marshmallows just aren’t my thing.
  11. Yeast. Yes, thank you I would like to pay 10x more yeast!

Things I Would Totally Buy

Pretzels

  1. Pretzels. Yeah, I’ve seen them here, but—to be frank—they suck. I would love to get my hands on some of these pretzels, most notably the Snyder’s Sourdough Hard Pretzels, although the nearly €4 ($5.20) price tag kind of puts me off.
  2. Cheez-Its. These sorts of tasty, cheesy crackers can’t really be found here. The cracker culture is really lacking. I have actually made my own before, and it’s not that difficult, just time consuming, but I think I’d rather do it myself than pay €6.35 for one box!
  3. Maple syrup. Worth it. I do think there are some specialty Spanish shops that will sell it, but the good stuff (a.k.a. not Aunt Jemima’s) is worth forking over some hard-earned cash.
  4. Some cereals. I am a little bit ashamed to admit that I saw this box of Cap’n Crunch and suddenly had the urge to grab a huge bowl of it. Peanut butter, regular … come back to me! Sriracha
  5. Sriracha. I would buy this amazing sauce. Mario might not touch it, but this sauce is so versatile. You can use it on shrimp, in a Bloody Mary, cornbread muffins, on popcorn, in dips … the list goes on and on. But I don’t see this listed at Taste of America. Too bad!
  6. Blow pops. I have this weird love for all things lollipop. Yeah, I’d buy ’em!
  7. Reese’s. There’s nothing like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Although I do make my own desserts that combine the two, Reese’s satisfies a childhood craving. Ranch Dressing
  8. Ranch dressing. Ranch dressing is a gift given to man; we must not waste it.

Which products would you buy?

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34 comments

  1. Maybe this is just my experience living in Spain, but I’ve never understood the concern over peanut butter; I haven’t had any trouble finding it in this Andalucían town of ~35,000 (Úbeda). Carrefour, Mercadona, and Masymas have all stocked it throughout the year, both smooth and crunchy varieties. But regardless, you’re right—it’s so much healthier if you make it on your own without all those crazy chemicals and hydrogenated oils. Guacamole mix (or guac-in-a-jar) is simply revolting to this Texan :P like you said, it’s so easy to make! I like that you linked to recipes throughout this post to show how you don’t need to buy stuff. :)

    And OMIGOSH sriracha sauce!!!!!!!!! That and sambal oelek (garlic chili paste made by the same company) were precious cargo in my suitcase over here.

    1. Yes, I’ve seen peanut butter in so many places, including Zamora. Now, it’s not good stuff, not natural or anything like that, but it is PB.

      Garlic chili paste? Right up my alley.

  2. Two things I would NOT buy at Taste of America: Sriracha (because I see it at every other chino, I can only assume its cheaper elsewhere) and instant oatmeal (because its like 9€)

  3. What oil do you use for your peanut butter, I have not been able to find peanut (Corte Inglés?) and I can not make it with olive, vegetable sounds wrong too, is it?

    My list (even though I no longer live near one):
    Goldfish
    Pretzel (especially sourdough)
    Twizzlers (for the DH)
    Refried beans
    Jalapeños
    Black bean salsa (which I should probably make my own)

    PS did you know about yummy planet (.es) they deliver, I am thinking of trying them. I am not affiliated, just fascinated.

    1. I don’t use oil. I just buy roasted peanuts and if you let the processor run long enough, it should be sufficient. With less oily nuts (i.e., pecans), it generally takes longer, but it works out. I have used vegetable oil with pecans in the past, but never any oil with peanuts!

      I have made homemade refried beans, too! You can use the dried ones or just regular beans and they are soooooo good!

      I’ve heard the name Yummy Planet … but never ordered anything!

  4. I used to get sriracha and other lovely tasty things in a lot of markets in Lavapiés. They also almost always have very fresh and very cheap cilantro and other leafy goods!

  5. agree on Cheez-its, just had a shipment delivered by a friend visiting!!! And also – Car Park Chinese Restaurant, in the market next door has Hot Cock Sauce (Sriracha) for cheap. Also they have Mae-Ploy sweet chili sauce, cant live without that.

    Also for creative folks, EASY recipe for Pad Thai sauce: Peanut butter, Soy Sauce, Ketchup, Minced garlic, Sriracha to your liking. Sounds disgusting, but its DELISH.

  6. This cracked me up as I just got back from Taste of America next to the American School in Pozuelo! In my bag…. Popcorn kernels (only the Americans can seem to produce kernels that pop properly. How can you stand the stuff sold in Spanish shops??), bagels, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (keeps my fridge and cat litter box fresh, if you must know.), Cheerios (British version – my kids prefer and it’s cheaper than US one), Hershey’s Chocolate Chips, Maple Syrup. Like you, I avoid so much of the other JUNK! Ridiculously expensive JUNK!
    Happy to see they are selling Pez Easter egg dying kits now after I begged them last year. :)

  7. Regarding peanut butter…

    1. I find non-Americans hate it because they “tried it once and it was terrible”–the problem is that they bought it locally (in Germany or Sweden or wherever) and the stuff we get here in the U.S. is not the same as what’s typically sold as “American peanut butter” in other countries.

    2. I tried some of the “all natural” peanut butter once (no sugar, no preservatives, etc. etc.), it was terrible. The very best peanut butter I’ve ever had is Jif and it’s what I always buy (Peter Pan chunky is good, too, and on rare occasion I’ll get it if I feel like a chunky peanut butter).

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    1. Sooo you like hydrogenated oils then! My mom is all about Peter Pan, and you look at the ingredients list, and it’s a lot of junk. No judgment, though, because I too like my junk food.

  8. I hear you on the maple syrup (not Aunt Jemima’s, that stuff is awful!) and the Reese’s pieces. I don’t understand how Spanish people can just make do with honey (which I don’t even really like all that much). Honey is not a substitute for maple syrup!

    I also feel I was the only American kid in the 90s who grew up without Pop Tarts. We just never bought them. People go nuts over them and I don’t get the huge deal!

    1. I suppose they make do because they just don’t know what they’re missing! Mario loves maple syrup, though.

      I never liked Pop-Tarts. My mom would buy them, though, since my dad ate them.

  9. As far as things that are actually shipable, furikake flakes and enchilada sauce…I really miss fresh chiles that are actually picante!

  10. I agree I agree I agree! To add to the things I wouldn’t buy from The American Store:
    – a bag of pecans for 20 Euros (WHAT! I like pecans but geeeeez I’ll just buy walnuts for some things.)
    – Chocolate chips. To substitute these I simply break up a dark chocolate bar, usually the kind specifically for baking. The very best one I’ve tried in Spain would have to be Valor brand, but Nestle also works and is a bit cheaper.I just can’t justify paying so much for a bag of chocolate chips when I know I can chop up a chocolate bar!!

  11. Taste of America is just way too expensive. I’d always kill for some Cheez-Its, but no way am I paying €6.35 for them! The Cherry Coke is only I think 80 cents there, which is the cheapest I’ve seen anywhere, although I think it’s the British version that’s not exactly the same.

  12. Enjoyed the post a lot Kaley especially since I only recently came across a Taste of American here in Alcalá. I try to avoid most “packety” things – in fact the cup cakes I made for Halloween from a mix were absolutely bogging! (Glasgow word). I´ve been hearing about flavoured syrups recently – what´s in them that´s so bad? All told, gimme Spanish food any day!

  13. I do miss reasonably priced maple syrup. I promised my roommates American-style brunch for a second week in a row (green tea pancakes and baked French toast might not have been the most typical examples, but they were none the wiser), which led to a wild goose chase for maple syrup when my regular specialty shop was out. €12 later and I am over trying to bring America to the Iberian Peninsula!

  14. Posts like this make me so grateful that I have the commissary on the Navy base in Rota (my own little American grocery store, with regular prices)! If not, I would have people shipping over tortilla chips and salsa (I refuse to pay $7 a jar in town for Old El Paso), Old Bay because I’m a Maryland girl, the granola bars that I love, maple syrup, natural peanut butter, and salad dressing. I still miss things that just can’t be found here or mailed – like blue crabs, fresh bagels, sweet corn on the cob, and certain types of booze!

  15. So I commented, but wordpress made me log in, and then my comment disappeared, so I hope I’m not double commenting! Anyway, joyofbaking.com has a fantastic reece’s peanut butter cup recipe that I’ve had a lot of success with, any time I make them, I always get asked for the recipe :) http://www.joyofbaking.com/candy/PeanutButterCups.html Everything I’ve ever made from that website has turned out fantastically actually :) Enjoy!

  16. So so true! I finally made it to Taste of America, having built it up as some kind of food mecca in my mind, and was thoroughly disappointed. I left with 1 bag of bagels. I literally cannot understand why anyone would spend an insane amount of money on products which are readily available here in normal, everyday supermarkets. Popcorn! Yeast! Marshmallows! And what even is guacamole mix?

  17. What a great post, haha! Pop tarts! Awesome.

    Makes me think about the foods I missed while living in France… and right now, nothing is coming to mind. But it was France, after all! I miss the food from there, though!

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