I never met a chocolate I didn’t like. – Deanna Troi, Star Trek: the Next Generation
Unlike Counselor Troi, I am not a chocoholic. There are a great many chocolates I have met that I do not like. In fact, milk chocolate is really the only kind that I truly do enjoy. If you give me white chocolate, I will smile and thank you for the gesture, but inside I will die a little. Fortunately for me, the vast majority of sweets and treats revolve around milk chocolate, and that is as true in the UK as it is in America.
That being said, all chocolates are not created equal. I found this out the hard way about a week after I arrived in Wales.
Paul and I are both fans of Kit-Kats, ’cause, really, what’s there not to like? They have the perfect amount of chocolate, no nuts, crispy wafers and they’re easily shared, unlike other candy bars. So when he bought one at the grocery store while we were out and about in Newtown, I readily accepted the piece he offered me, eager to taste a sweet piece of my homeland.
No. No, it doesn’t. And it isn’t. Although it didn’t taste bad by any means, it just didn’t taste right. I was expecting comforting, familiar sweetness. What I got was just slightly off from that, enough to be immediately noticeable, but not enough to really describe. When I handed the half-eaten piece back to my husband (not unlike a three year old), I tried to articulate exactly what was wrong, but words, my old faithful friends, failed me.
Because it wasn’t just that my favorite candy tasted unfamiliar. It was that everything was unfamiliar. My nose was running constantly from the sudden change in weather (Florida to Wales overnight is not a small adjustment), I missed being barefoot (I even wear socks to sleep), I hated the McDonald’s hamburger we had the day before (not enough grease), I didn’t have a working phone, I was two weeks behind on my TV shows (another post for another day), I missed my parents, I missed my brother, I missed my friends, I even missed driving. Hell, I missed being on the right side of the road.
The enormity of what I had done by moving to the UK crashed down on me, and although I wouldn’t have changed a thing if a genie had offered me three wishes right then, when Paul jumped out of the car to run into the post office, I broke down in the parking lot.
Because I always have a notebook and paper with me, I started writing down exactly what I was feeling. I didn’t save the paper, but I remember that it read in big block letters, “NOTHING TASTES LIKE WHAT IT’S SUPPOSED TO TASTE LIKE!!!” Maybe it was staring at that paper, maybe it was the fact that I was acting like a child, maybe it was Paul’s sympathetic smile when he returned and noticed I was upset, but I came to a realization that day.
Of course things are going to be unfamiliar. I am not in America. And even though my country’s foods and words and entertainment have invaded most of the planet, when you cross the Atlantic or the Pacific, you cannot expect that it’ll be like going to the World Showcase at EPCOT. Things are going to be different, but that is not a reason to cry; it is an opportunity to experience something new.
Soon after the Kit-Kat Meldown, Paul introduced me to Penguins (chocolate-covered chocolate cookies with chocolate creme filling). Then custard creams. Then bourbon cremes. Since I had no expectations of how these things were supposed to taste, I loved them immediately. I can’t say the same for everything I’ve tried…I will never be a fan of Jaffa Cakes…but I am finding new favorites to replace the old ones that I can’t readily buy.
Still, every now and then, it’s really nice to have a moment of the familiar in a strange land. That is where having very good friends comes in handy. After hearing about my meltdown, two of those friends, Dennis and Kristine sent me a care package from California to get me through my displacement blues.
Of course, immediately upon receiving the package, I tore into a Kit-Kat, only barely remembering in time to offer Paul a piece. It tasted like sweet, sweet, American sugar; I actually almost felt a little high off it. As for Paul, he finished his piece, but told me (politely, because he’s British) that he preferred the UK version. When I asked if it tasted different, he had to grudgingly agree that I had been right all along, and my meltdown wasn’t totally unjustified.