How to Make American Comfort Food Abroad
There will come a time in your semester when you are craving some food from home. No matter how many new dishes you try and love from your host country, sometimes nothing beats homemade comfort food. You might think “oh no problem, I’m sure I’ll never get tired of the pasta in Italy or the bread in Spain… and if I do I’ll just go to the local supermarket and buy the ingredients for my favorite meal from home. Food can’t be that different, right?” While our PAs had varying success in finding the right ingredients, they did share some good stories about cooking their favorite foods from home while studying abroad.
Of course, we still recommend trying as many ~new foods~ as possible. You’re going to be in the location that knows how to make their special dishes the best – take advantage of that! Just know that there is no need to worry, you can always make some good American (modified) comfort food for those days when you’re feeling homesick, or just really craving a Philly cheesesteak.
Breakfast (or for when you’re not actually craving food from home because you’re too busy eating pasta in Rome…)
Our Peer Advisor and resident caffeine fiend, Hannah, took full advantage of the right to drink espresso and eat a pastry for breakfast every day while studying abroad in Rome. Her brother, however, had a different take on things:
“One week while my brother was visiting for Thanksgiving, I did break and eat something that the two of us had been missing. Even though my brother loves to travel, he is very stubborn and stuck in his ways. The first day he was in Rome he ordered a caffe, or espresso, and he couldn’t believe how small the cup of coffee was… so he ordered four to make up for the size. This was a recurring theme during his trip, and, needless to say, he was over caffeinated for most of the week. Eventually he adjusted to most of the cultural differences in Italy, but one thing he could not get used to was the lack of American breakfast in Rome.
In Italy, most people eat a small pastry or cookie in the morning with a shot of espresso and that’s it. My brother on the other hand was used to eating three eggs, some sort of breakfast meat, and yogurt all before 9 am. He eats a lot, so he complained about breakfast nearly all week. One morning he went to see the sunrise over Villa Borghese while I slept in, and on the way back I guess he decided he was fed up with it and stopped at the grocery store. That morning I woke up to an egg sandwich on ciabatta bread with guanciale, pecorino cheese, and a red chili flake relish. While it was the fanciest breakfast sandwich I had ever eaten, the ingredients were all that he could find in the local Carrefour, so he made do. Even though I wasn’t missing American breakfast like he had been, it was so nice to finally have some version of American food while abroad and share a slice of home with my brother!”
A typical Italian breakfast
Dinner (for when you miss eating the last meal of the day with your family)
Peer Advisor Emma shared a wholesome story about wanting to be in two places at once:
“About halfway through the semester I was talking to my Nana on the phone. It was around midnight in Italy, but in the U.S. it was dinner time. We talked about how she was about to cook her staple recipe, chicken cutlets, and that two of my aunts were going to come over. I really hadn’t noticed any feelings of homesickness or missing certain foods until she had mentioned that. Even though I was thoroughly enjoying myself abroad, part of me wanted to be in my living room with my Nana and aunts gossiping and eating greasy chicken cutlets. I decided to cook chicken cutlets with my Nana on the phone and facetime my aunts when they arrived. Even though we were thousands of miles apart, we were able to have a meal together. My roommates weren’t totally thrilled that I was making a mess in the kitchen at midnight, but they understood. Just the little things like that made me feel a whole lot better.”
Snacks (for when you just can’t stop thinking about a certain candy or salty snack)
I personally had a tough time adjusting to the differences in food and eating times between here and Oviedo, Spain, so when my birthday present/care package from home arrived halfway through the semester, it was the perfect time to take comfort in some of my favorite foods (can anyone say peanut butter??). Of course I had to pay to pick up the package at the post office, but it was worth it to open up the box and know that my parents had taken the time to send some love across the ocean.
My snack package – truly an assortment of foods
Special Occasions (or for when it feels weird not to eat a traditional meal on a holiday)
A couple of our Peer Advisors reflected on celebrating events abroad:
Jenna revisits her Parisian Easter dinner, complete with a special dessert!
“I had been abroad for a few months already by the time Easter came around, and while it is not only an American holiday or event, it was the first one we were spending away from our families. A group of friends and I decided to cook a big Easter dinner to share to celebrate the holiday. Some traditions we weren’t able to recreate, like dyeing eggs, but we had a good time! After dinner, we made personal chocolate melting cakes!”
Jenna’s friends before their Parisian Easter dinner.
Personal melting chocolate cakes!
Tom’s pick-me-up story about sharing Christmas traditions with study abroad friends in Taiwan:
“For Christmas me and a bunch of my foreign friends came over to my apartment for a Christmas dinner potluck. We were all from different countries, so it was such a fun way to experience other cultures and get over Christmas homesickness together. Plus, I was the only one with a kitchen, so I was responsible for hosting the event. As a good host, I made sure to do meal prep ahead of time. I made homemade pierogi, a Polish Christmas Classic. This meal is great because it is something that you can boil, set in the fridge, and fry up quick for a crowd. This was key in my tiny kitchen! Plus, with only 6 ingredients, it can be made on any corner of God’s green earth. Not only did it help me celebrate with my classmates, but helped me feel closer to my culture back home, too!”
As you can see, the experiences vary by location, but everyone has stories to share about their own American food abroad – you probably will too! We’d love to hear other folks’ comfort food stories in the comments below.