A few weeks ago, I had my first taste… and I was hooked.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The cravings were powerful. Almost daily, I’d find myself going back for more. But alas, the supply had run out. I asked everyone I met if they knew where I could score some. I was jonesing something awful.
Then yesterday morning, my phone rang.
It was my dealer.
“I got some product”, she said. “It’s 45 for the good stuff and 35 for the regular”.
I quickly got my wallet and hopped on my motorbike.
Within 10 minutes, I was the gleeful owner of two kis and couldn’t wait to get home for my fix.
My asparagus fix, of course. What were YOU thinking?
Moving to a foreign country leads to the inevitable cravings. No matter how good the food is where you are, ask any long-time traveler what their food craving is, and the answers will likely surprise you. You sometimes surprise yourself. Foods that you never really ate all that much of when you were back home, all of a sudden have the lure of crack. For me, it’s things that remind me of Costco. And home. But mostly Costco.
Like ready-made mini-quiches. Yummmm. And salmon. I could eat whole slabs of salmon. And cheese. Always cheese.
It’s not that these things aren’t available here in Vietnam. (Well… sometimes they aren’t.) But when they are available, they cost an arm and a leg. My local supermarket has salmon. But it’s $5 for an unappetizing, frozen two-bite piece. When I was last at Costco, a whole side of fresh salmon was about $18.
Then there’s the cheese. Splurging just to buy a tiny bit almost makes it worse. I find myself rationing it out like a desert island survivor. (Yah! I finished a blog post today! I think I’ll reward myself with a nibble of cheese… Woo hoo! A new episode of Modern Family on Hulu? Bust out the cheese!) It’s pathetic. I’ll admit it.
The other day, I went to a shop downtown that specializes in selling imported goods. Ostensibly, I was there to buy some Thai green curry paste, but lingered around the frozen bagel section and trailed my fingers ever so lightly along the tubs of cream cheese. Then I saw it. A bag of dried cherries, cranberries and almonds. I had to conscientiously stifle my Pavlovian drooling and had a lump in my throat when I checked the price tag. $20. Ouch. For a bag of glorified trail mix. Really?
I sadly put it back on the shelf. “It will be mine. Oh, yes. It will be mine”, I whispered to myself in a steely voice.
That’s why I was so excited when a few weeks ago, I saw asparagus at the local market for only $2 for a half kilo bunch. I had never seen asparagus sold in Vietnam before, even though it’s supposedly grown somewhere in the hill country. Yes, it made my pee and sweat reek (you should have seen the oh-my-God-what-is-that-unearthly-smell looks I was getting from my tennis league…) but I didn’t care. It was delicious.
Day after day, I’d wander past the stall to the point where the seller just shook her head when she saw me, forlorn yet hopeful. “People in this market don’t know how to eat this”, she told me. “It’s too expensive. We hardly ever have any”. A dozen other vegetable sellers echoed her. They hadn’t even heard of asparagus before. Like EVER. I even google imaged asparagus to show them what it was. “Nope. Never seen it”, came the inevitable reply.
So I did what anyone in need of a good fix does. I gave my phone number to a dealer. “I’ll call you when we get some in”, she said.
I’ve been happily eating asparagus for days. Blanched and in a salad. Grilled with a little olive oil. Stir-fried with beef.
Which led me to buy all the stir-fry ingredients pre-prepared at the same local market. It’s not Costco mini-quiches, but I’ll take it.
100g of finely diced shallots and garlic for 20 cents. Vietnamese garlic is tiny compared to regular garlic. All the home cooks swear that it tastes much better, but my clumsy non-chef fingers take forever to peel shallots and garlic. Veto.
Pre-cut assorted vegetables: carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and string beans. Half kilo for $0.70
I mean, who has time to chop broccoli?
Pre-sliced beef. 200 grams for $2.00. 15 minutes later, the stir-fry was ready. Life was good again.
If loving asparagus is a sin, then I’s be guilty.