Friday, May 8, 2015

Peanut, Peanut Butter

This morning I fulfilled the usual family breakfast orders. A bowl of Sultana Bran for Indy (Raisin Bran to those of you ten time zones away), cheesy scrambled eggs for Stylish, and a slice of peanut butter toast for me. I noticed the peanut butter was getting pretty low, so I looked in the pantry for another jar. No peanut butter. I started to hyperventilate, then I had a heart attack and died.

Not really. But I could have. This is a disaster; I was sure I had one more jar. In fact, I'm going to go check again right now.

I'm back. No peanut butter. "Amy," I hear you saying, "stop being so dramatic. Get off your keister and go buy some more." Well, smarty pants, I can't. Because there isn't any. There is no more peanut butter on this island. And who knows when more will arrive?

Any right-minded person departing the cosy environs of North America quickly learns two things. One: always carry a credit card and your passport; those two items will cover almost all situations. Two: take your own peanut butter. Because the unsweetened yucky weirdness that other countries will sell you under the peanut butter name is inedible. I am pretty sure it is flavoured with the tears of the damned. The only sensible thing to do is to buy Kraft Smooth in bulk and hide it in your luggage when you leave home. Really, one has no choice. For the past four years, whenever my parents visited us, they brought peanut butter and bags of decent Darjeeling. Always. And I did my utmost to stretch those items until their next visit.

In our current location, there are two grocery stores. And they stock food. Some of it is local, some from Australia. But going to the grocery store here is rather like buying a mystery grab bag at the carnival. You have absolutely no idea what will be inside. Some days/weeks/months, there is no coffee. Sometimes onions are nowhere to be seen. I have never found a tin of kidney beans in this place, and long-time readers will understand how hard that is for me. Spices, cooking oil, and even milk can be simply missing from the shelves. And don't even get me started on fresh fruit and vegetables. When something fresh comes into the little store down the street - a space smaller than my living room - frantic texts race through the community: "Snow peas in the deli!!!" "Carrots back in!!!" "BROCCOLI!!!" We are vitamin addicts yearning for a fix.

How to cope? Anyone who goes to Australia, be it for business or pleasure, normally takes a small, precious wishlist. And once in a while, the Powers That Be organize a communal shop called The Woolies Order, named for the Woolworths chain of grocery stores. The idea is simple. We, the hungry, order our food online, have it delivered to a certain depot, it gets repackaged, tossed onto a container ship, and sent up here. Ten weeks later we pay the duty and receive the goods. As efficient home delivery as one will find in PNG. Clearly you can't buy perishables or anything that will melt (like chocolate), but still. Better than nothing.

I missed the September Woolies order by mere days. But, no problem; wasn't I a seasoned provisioner? I scoffed at the need to import little treats from Oz. By the time the January order rolled around, I was low on Easi-yo packets and still craving beans. But the long lag time meant the order would arrive just before we were supposed to move away, so there wasn't any point. I looked enviously at my friends who had stashed a bag or two of salt & vinegar chips, or granola bars for lunch boxes. Or those darn beans. But I had a fresh supply of peanut butter from Canada. I could tough it out.

But now the peanut butter is gone. Even the weird Buddy's peanut butter. And I haven't seen any for sale in weeks. We've extended our stay. Now what?

The next Woolie's order is supposed to go out at the end of May. When I'll be back on Papillon with Erik and the girls, moving the boat to Australia. So I will miss it for the third time. I guess I'll just have to stuff my suitcase with tiny jars of Australian PB on the way home and hope the local stores decide to re-up on peanut butter in my absence.

I suppose I could try eating something different for breakfast. No, that's crazy talk. I'll find another way.


Dena Pawling said...

So this post is dated tomorrow. Did I win in court? Did I win the lottery?

Are you moving to Oz, or just visiting? Definitely if you're just visiting, bring back a case of peanut butter lol.

It must be difficult to have such trouble finding staples that most of us consider "normal". My father-in-law lived in hicktown, off a gravel and dirt road, and he had four freezers and two refrigerators in his garage, and a pantry that occupied an entire room. It was an hour drive over winding mountain roads just to get to the nearest "corner market" and two hours to the nearest "supermarket". Even his nearest neighbor was half a mile away. So he went to the store once a month for the big shopping trip, and he made a smaller trip at the mid-point. I think I'm too much of a spoiled city girl to tolerate that for too long. You have great fortitude and a great attitude!

PS - is the yucky stuff sold on your island that pretends to be peanut butter as awful as I've read that Vegemite is?

Amy Schaefer said...

Dena, nothing is more appalling than Vegemite. Nothing even comes close.

We are actually in Papua New Guinea. Technically, we're on sabbatical, but Erik fell off the wagon and went back to work temporarily. A triply-extended temporarily, but temporarily all the same. We hope to get back on track by the end of the year.

Next time I pass through Australia, you better believe I'll be working a list!

Anonymous said...

Dad has just finished his breakfast of peanut butter toast. Like you, he needs his daily fix. Actually, I was planning on making my famous Oatmeal Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares for Mother's Day; they too make a delicious breakfast pick me up.

If you need me to ship some PB & tea to Australia for you to pick up when you sail Papillon there just let me know.
Love Mom

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, vegemite is pretty bad, almost as bad as "Buckleys". I worked with an Aussie and he always had that vegemite product as I wouldn't really call it a food product! Looks like your mom is going to come through for you!Karen and I now have a new home and we are out in the "sticks" but we have 6 grocery stores within a 20 minute drive which is actually better than we had before, now that I think about it!Sounds like you have to do a lot of planning ahead for things. Maybe you could "borrow" some PB from those nice neighbours of yours! Cheers! John & Karen M.

Amber said...

Hahahaha! You have no idea how comforting it is to hear you (on your island in the S Pacific) complain about same things we do (on our island in the N Pacific)! Most recently, we had a cheese shortage- there were classes being held in people's homes on how to make your own mozzarella and ricotta.
I try to think of grocery shopping as an adventure and living out of the world like this as glorified camping and sometimes it helps.
I'd offer to mail you PB, but we're out here too!
Cheers, Amber at