Homesick Foods

marshmallow oaties

By Gabrielle. Image by Katharina.

Well, hello. Here I am waving to you from Oakland, California!!

We made it. We arrived Monday night. My siblings and nephews (Jordan and Jared and Liz and Sara and Henry and Moses) met us at the airport (SFO) with cheers and a welcome sign. So fun!! My kids could not have been happier.

The Aunts hung out with all the kids (and the luggage + bags — 32 pieces total!), while my brother Jared took me and Ben Blair to rent a van. It’s a huge extended cab van that fits all our luggage. It’s kind of hilarious and awesome at the same time. We have felt like our very own tour group driving it around this week.

We got to the house at about 9:00 PM on Monday night. The sun set as we drove from the airport and we listened to a California mix Ralph had burned to a CD. The lights of the city and the bridges were spectacular. We were feeling a particular mix of satisfaction and expectation, of relief and excitement, and of exhaustion but general awe at this move. Everyone was happy.

The best thing we did to make these first couple of days in California smooth? We hired a wonderful assistant here in Oakland, named Jessica, to prep the house for us. We asked her to set up utilities in our name, and make an internet installation appointment. And we knew we’d be exhausted after our 20 hour traveling day and want to collapse immediately, so we asked Jessica to prep the beds, and fill the fridge with food. (Note: the house is currently furnished, but not with our belongings from Colorado. More on that when I introduce the house in a later post.)

When we arrived, the house was ready and welcoming. We spent some time exploring our new digs, brought in the luggage, oohed and aahed over the contents of the refrigerator, climbed into pjs, and fell asleep within minutes.

Long satisfied sigh.

For the grocery list we sent to Jessica, we asked the kids to name the foods they were craving most from America, and added a few basic staples. Friends, it was mostly junk food! But man oh man it was fun to chow down on so many old familiar favorites when we woke up the next day. Which, by the way, happened at about 3:00 AM California time. (Hah! Hello, Jet lag.)

There’s something so powerful and beautiful about familiar food. It felt like a celebration. Want to see what made the list?

– Marshmellow Oaties (These are the fake Lucky Charms you can find at places like Whole Foods, but my kids like them more than the real thing.)
– Cheerios
– Izze sodas in grapefruit, peach, pear, and clementine — bottles, not cans.
– Carrot Juice
– Root beer
– Vanilla Ice Cream
– Chocolate Milk
– Graham Crackers
– Tings
– Smart Puffs
– Creamsicles
– Fudgesicles
– Ice Cream Sandwiches
– Tortilla Chips
– Salsa
– Frozen Corndogs
– Baby Carrots
– Tillamook Cheddar Cheese
– Flour Tortillas
– Hotdogs
– Hot Dog Buns
– Mustard
– Ketchup
– Eggs
– 2% Milk
– Butter
– Nectarines
– Green Seedless Grapes

What do you think? Would any of this make your list (or your child’s list) if you were homesick?

P.S. — The Marshmellow Oaties, corndogs, and creamsicles were gone first!

95 thoughts on “Homesick Foods”

  1. very cute, but I don’t know what half those things are! My return to US trips usually involve pancakes (they’re great in Europe but not the same) and Mexican food!

    1. We went to a local diner on Saturday morning for pancakes and they were divine!

      Somehow, we never made them in France. Crepes just took over, I guess. : )

  2. It is crazy how we miss the junk from America! I never eat pop tarts when I’m living there, but how yummy they are when someone sends them in a package to us! I guess it’s because we can buy the wholesome things overseas for the most part.

    A new chain of American stores opened up here in Portugal. Now we can enjoy chocolate chips, cake mixes, root beer, all sorts of candy (ie: Twizzlers, flavored M&Ms), etc. but at a premium price. Makes you think twice!

    Enjoy your new stash, and don’t feel guilty about it for one moment! So glad your return was peaceful.

  3. Oh the Marshmellow Oaties! I was witness to a spectacular grocery store floor tantrum over those just yesterday :)

    Eating food from your childhood is a magical experience. So evocative and good for the soul. I swear I put on 5 kilos each time we go back to Australia. Most of that is in strawberry doughnuts and licorice.

    1. Licorice indeed! We are visiting home in Australia as part of our once a year pilgramage from Ghana. And twisties…and Mersey Valley cheese (but not together!)

  4. Having the fridge stocked and the house set-up is such a smart idea for making the new space welcoming for the whole family! For me, I often crave peanut butter when I’m abroad (even though I don’t eat that much of it at home!). It seems many places I’ve traveled do not share my (uniquely American?) obsession with it and it’s either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

    Welcome home, Blair Family!

  5. When we lived in England, I missed American cheeses so much. Our family LOVES Tillamook cheddar, so that would have been on our list for sure. Same with salsa, and I would have added peanut butter as nothing is like peanut butter from the States . . .

    Sounds like you all had a great night back in the US!

    1. It definitely felt like a luxury — but such a worthwhile one! If I hadn’t been able to make room in our budget to hire someone, you can bet I would have been asking favors from my sisters. : )

  6. I’d have to add in Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles for me and my crew! Probably order PIZZA first though and everyday fro a week! Enjoy! – So happy traveling was a success, thanks to your awesome planning I have no doubt!

  7. Welcome home! I’ve enjoyed a few glimpses of the new house on Ralph’s IG ! :) I love this list!! Creamsicles!! – yum. Chips and salsa – oh, yeah.

    I’m wondering what foods you’ll be missing from France – another post, perhaps?

    So brilliant having everything ready and stocked for you! Hope you have a few restful days ahead! :)

    1. Funny .. I was thinking the same thing! My money is on bread and other yummies found in a boulangerie or patisserie … :)

  8. So glad your arrival was smooth and joyful! On to new adventures! So smart, you, to hire someone to prep for your arrival.

  9. Six months after leaving home, my parents sent my favorite sugar candy (SweeTarts) to France at Christmastime.

    Within that time, I had become so accustomed to doing without it and having other wonderful food instead that I didn’t even like it anymore!

    But the milk was another story. I was so happy to have milk in the U.S. that wasn’t UHT milk when I returned home.

    I’m with you on the seedless grapes! That really threw me off in France. Now I have grapes in my garden that are both seeded and seedless. I prefer seedless, but the size of the seeded ones is a great thing, too! I’m using them to make grape juice today.

  10. I totally know how you feel- whenever I come back from Australia the first thing I want to eat is Mexican food (they don’t really ‘do’ Mexican food down there).

    And Tillamook? I know it’s good and all, but isn’t France the land of amazing cheese?! ;)

    Lastly, welcome to Oakland! It’s awesome here; you’re going to love it!

    1. Hah! Isn’t that funny, Emily? We adore French cheese and always kept a variety on hand. But they don’t do cheddar in France! And it’s such a staple in our American diet. We missed it.

  11. We are going to try those Marshmallow Oaties. My kids probably won’t be able to tell the difference either.
    I’ve read your blog for a few months but I must have missed why you left France for Oakland. A new job?
    My husband works in Oakland but we live in San Jose. Maybe one day we will move up there but for the next year at least we are staying in San Jose.
    Welcome back!

  12. Sometimes it can be hard to relate to you mom bloggers who travel the world and hire assistants to do grocery shopping or stuff like that. That was one funny list though.

    1. Me too. I use the posts on Design Mom like reading through Martha Stewart–charming and dreamy.

      I was surprised at butter being on the list! After all I’ve heard about the butter and bread from Normandy, I doubt you’ll find better here! But it’s all about familiarity, no?

      1. The butter and eggs and milk on this shopping list were more about having a few staples in the house than being homesick. I confess, I think the butter, eggs and fresh milk in France are the best in the world!

    2. Hah! I hear you. As I was typing this up, I knew hiring an assistant sounded over-the-top. But the reality is, we’ve always asked for help, even when we couldn’t hire it out. When we moved to New York for graduate school, we asked a group of people from our New York church congregation (who we’d never met) to help us unpack the moving truck. And when we moved to Colorado, Ben Blair’s sister spent a huge amount of time searching out rentals and finding us a place to live.

      We do have family here in the Bay Area, and they’ve helped us a ton! But they have busy lives. With full-time work, young children, and pregnancy, I didn’t want to ask too much. So I decided to look at the budget and see if I could hire out some of these tasks instead. I know that won’t always be the case.

      1. You are so down-to-earth! Even though you are just as amazing as Martha, I find you very easy to relate to. You make me feel like it is totally possible for me to do great things, too. Especially with all the tips I am learning from you. :)

  13. As a native of Berkeley, I am SOOO excited that you’ve settled in Oakland. You and your family will just love it. Can’t wait to hear about your new adventures — both fun and challenging — as you readjust to life in the States. All the best!

  14. Cheerios, vanilla ice cream and green seedless grapes would definitely make my list. Congratulations on your move, and I’m looking forward to your series of posts about living in Oakland and the Bay Area!

  15. When I lived abroad, I missed Cheerios, bagels and peanut butter!

    You have moved to another beautiful, fascinating part of the world.

  16. I SO truly value your honesty and openness about the help you received in this process. It is important for others to see that its ok to hire people when you can or to ask family and friends for support. Too often people can make it seem like they are completely going it alone and doing it so fabulously.

  17. Hiring an assistant! What a brilliant idea! I’m curious how you went about hiring this Jessica you speak of. Craigslist ad? Friend of a friend? Some cool website?
    When we’ve lived overseas the only American potato chips that we could get were Pringles (because of the way they are packaged) so I would always head straight to the chip aisle and get a giant bag of Lays. :)

    Fun post! Looking forward to seeing the Oakland house!


    p.s. Haters gonna hate. Don’t let people bagging on you about hiring someone get ya down. Do what you need to do for your family. I’m sure you already knew that…but just reminding you. Luxuries are simply ill-understood priorities.

    1. Not being able to relate has nothing to do with hate. Every blogger should know that. I am happy for every single pleasant thing that is happening in the life of family Blair.

      1. I feel the need to second that since I applaud your honesty, I’m sure several of us had the thought of “it would be nice (to be able to…)”
        No harm in that! I feel I could plan really well but certain things are costly. When I traveled with my sister she sent boxes of kids’ toys, snacks, etc. ahead to the hotel and it was a pleasure to have it all there in advance and not have to lug it all along with a baby and older toddler and our mother! It was a “Why didn’t I think of that!?” moment that as a helping aunt I so appreciated:)

        “Luxuries are simply ill-understood priorities” – ?

        1. Nah, I didn’t see Anja’s comment as hate, far from it. Design Mom and Anje were both honest, and I didn’t notice any insult in either’s words. Plenty of people whose lives are plenty different from mine still get my support, encouragement–and maybe even curiosity. I can admire and wonder at the same time.

          1. I didn’t mind Anja’s comment at all. I just responded to it above.

            A huge thanks to Design Mom Readers for keeping the comment section active and civil. I so appreciate it!

    2. Whoops, put this the wrong place.

      Erin July 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm
      Nah, I didn’t see Anja’s comment as hate, far from it. Design Mom and Anje were both honest, and I didn’t notice any insult in either’s words. Plenty of people whose lives are plenty different from mine still get my support, encouragement–and maybe even curiosity. I can admire and wonder at the same time.

    3. Hi Jo! We hired Jessica on my sister’s recommendation. But if I hadn’t had a sister here, I think I would have put a notice on Twitter or Facebook (or even my blog).

      And you’re sweet to worry about haters — I do get crummy emails once in awhile — but happily, I think the responses to this post have been quite lovely.

  18. Welcome back to the USA! Lived in Oakland for 15 years–you will LOVE it! I was there in June for a visit and long to return from the East Coast. Can’t wait to see more about the new house–lots of neat styles of homes there. Good luck in the future!

    The assistant was brillant–your whole family must have been totally exhausted when you arrive. a priority to me may seem like a luxury to someone else. You go, Blairs!

  19. I remember our first week back from living in Britain many years ago. We were AMAZED that there were 24 hour grocery stores. My mom used to go to the store at 8pm, just because she could!

  20. did you include butter?! too funny.
    what a great idea to hire an assistant to get the house prep for your family’s arrival. where did that idea come from? i can’t really see how else you would have done it! brilliant!

    1. Butter does look funny on that list! The butter was mostly so we would have something to cook the eggs in. We had to includes a few staples among all the junk food : )

  21. I was so surprised, envious and impressed that you had hired an assistant to help set up your house! Would I have ever have thought of that!? Also curious as to how you found someone. Brilliant idea!! (I’m still sad that you’re not still in France:( but it seems that your family is happy to be back in the USA and that’s all that matters isn’t it?!)

    1. I was lucky! I asked my sister for a recommendation, and she knew the perfect person for the job. If I hadn’t had my sister to ask, I would have inquired on Twitter and Facebook. Or maybe even put out a Craigs List notice.

  22. Before I came back from China my mom asked me what I wanted as a welcome home dinner and I told her a baked potato with lots of sour cream! I missed potatoes so much while I was in Beijing.

    Another interesting thing about moving back from abroad is your ability to critique foreign food here in the U.S. My family went to a Chinese restaurant a few weeks after I got back and I had a lot of fun telling them all how authentic/inauthentic certain dishes were.

  23. I love the idea of a favorite foods/ homesick impromptu party when waking up from jet lag! That is a fun way to go about it.

  24. So good to know you landed and are settling in! It’s funny…even though we never met and I don’t even live in France, it’s a little sad knowing your family has left Europe (for now at least)! You need to visit our islands next time you’re in France!

  25. Welcome to the Bay Area! My hubby works in Oakland, though we live in Mtn. View. Coincidentally, I was at SFO Monday night picking up my parents from their 2-week French vacation. I enjoy your posts and can’t wait to read about your now-local-to-me excursions!

  26. You are one smart woman, I absolutely love the idea of hiring someone to make that transition easier! I really appreciate the great ideas you give of making family life that much easier – especially when it’s something I never ever would have thought of but makes things that much better. Welcome home (although the US is not my home) – I loved that list, too!

  27. Well, maybe after 16 years abroad I am out of touch, but the Assistant (I’m thinking that’s a family job?) and junk food through me for a loop. I hardly recognise any of the food and am kind of glad my kids don’t know about the ones I do, but they have never lived in the USA. Summer holidays alone give me enough grief with junk food. Moving is like ‘stomach surgery’ as my military friends say ( but I feel equates to C-sections) “never easy, recovery harder each time”. I wish you luck on this adventure.

  28. Welcome to the Bay Area. I love it here. Be sure to get some good coffee. Blue Bottle, Ritual, Sightglass…

    As far as things to crave, it would be mexican food for me. Guac and chips.

  29. When we moved back to the US all I wanted were cheerios and cheddar goldfish! My daughter didn’t remember life in the states, so she’s still pining after her German Joghurt Reiswaffeln – vanilla yogurt covered rice cakes. So delicious! Come to think of it, I miss them, too, along with good (and cheap!) muesli and real licorice.

  30. Welcome to your new home!
    When we moved from Los Altos Hills (my husband worked in Silicon Valley) to NY, we did the same thing – we had someone stock our fridge, turn on the heat (a must in Nov!), and the lights (we arrived at 11 pm). I’m so glad that you have Jessica to help your family!
    I’m happy to here that you have arrived! I admit to being envious that you are in the Bay Area. I miss it! Enjoy!

  31. I lived in France for a year & although te food was AMAZING the first American food I wanted was Cheezits. I missed snacks!

  32. Another thumbs up for Tillamook Cheese. I’m a Portland girl who lived on the East Coast for 10 years and always had trouble finding it (except for restaurants). Now are back and I love seeing it everywhere! If your family ever makes a trip up the Oregon Coast, you will have to tour the Tillamook Cheese factory. So much fun with amazing ice cream treats as well. And lots of free cheese samples ;-)

  33. We had a similar experience when we moved back from Zurich last year. We arrived home late at night but by 3 am all the kiddos were up and at um becuase of the time change. So off to Walmart where we let our girls pick out whatever they wanted to fill our empty fridge. Cold cereal and chips and salsa made our list too. And also I remember them picking out an assortment of cheap trinkets and new pjs. How we had missed the convienvce of cheap familiar stuff. We ate cafe rio twice that day too :) best of luck in central CA

  34. Welcome back! I love this list of food you included. Marshmallow Mateys (the Malt-o-Meal brand) are a staple in our home, so I understand why those would be the first to go! Did you bring any food back that you would have missed? Nutella, perhaps?

    1. We brought home a few bags of our favorite candy to share, but airline luggage weight limits meant we couldn’t bring much. We are already making a list of favorites to bring home on the next trip to France — when we’re not quite so overloaded with baggage.

  35. Welcome back to the States! I’m always happy to read about food of any kind, but my favorite part was that Ralph made a California mix tape. Brilliant!

  36. Oh wow! I’M sad your time in France has ended, but excited for your new adventure. What a truly amazing opportunity to spend that time there. It was so fun to follow you along! And I love that you hired some help to set things up for you in Oakland, some times it is so worth it to have hired help!

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