Today is a great day, because 1) the box shipped from San Francisco in late July finally arrived today, and 2) I bought some delicious smoked salmon, smoked blue marlin, and smoked pork.
As any expat will tell you, there are certain things they enjoyed in their home country that they simply cannot find in their new country. Other things can be found, but it’s not so easy to find them.
For example, every morning I make a protein shake that includes 10 ingredients. The ingredients were specified by my nutritionist, and the eating plan that we developed together over the last two years, while difficult at times to follow, has had tremendously positive effects on my health, so I am committed to continuing it. Two of the ingredients in the shake are almond milk and almond butter. Initially I thought I could not get either in the Philippines. However, I have found one chain of stores (Healthy Options) that carries the same two brands of almond milk that I am used to from the US. They also carry almond butter, but only one brand, and I don’t happen to like the taste of that particular almond butter. So the box that arrived today included about 8 jars of almond butter, as well as many supplements. The supplements, most of which go into my morning shake, I can only buy from my nutritionist, so those I need to ship.
Shipping to the Philippines can be very inexpensive. I use a company called LBC, which ships to and from the Philippines in locations all over the world. To ship a standard 24″ x 18″ x 18″ box from the San Francisco Bay Area to an address in Luzon (for example, in Cavite or Batangas), costs $55, regardless of weight, and takes about 5 weeks. The box goes on a ship, that’s why it takes 5 weeks. Sea freight is much cheaper than air freight, and has less restrictions on what can be shipped. For example, I cannot ship my supplements air freight. Only supplements that are “widely available” can be sent air freight, and these are not widely available, as they are not sold in stores. Who knows why, I assume this is a peculiarity of Philippine customs laws.
However, some things will not keep for 5 weeks. Things like vegetables. I still have not found parsnips here, and only rarely do I find beets. I am not going to ship fresh parsnips and beets from the US. And smoked salmon, which we Jewish people affectionately call lox.
So I was very happy to meet, at an expat gathering here in Tagaytay, an expat from Belgium, Gaspart, who handed me his card, which advertised his cold smoked delicacies. I had met him about 3 weeks ago, and finally emailed him yesterday. Well, today I drove to his house, where he let me taste about 8 different smoked fish and meat delicacies. I ended up buying about a half kilogram each of the three I liked best. The prices were about the same as what I’d pay for similar quality in the US, perhaps a bit less – about $20 a pound. But I would have bought some even if the prices were higher, because I had thought these things were simply not available here.
One of my fondest memories of childhood is Sunday morning breakfast, when we’d have bagels with cream cheese and lox, and sometimes also smoked whitefish, sturgeon, or sable, or creamed herring. I can no longer eat the bagels, the cream cheese, or the sour cream that the creamed herring is made with, but I can eat smoked fish or meat. And Gaspart’s smoked delicacies do not seem to be made with sugar (“lots of sugar” would be the Filipino definition of “delicacy”). He takes a European approach that emphasizes using very few high quality, natural ingredients.
I’ve also been unable to find fresh turkeys here. Few people here eat turkey, and so far all I’ve found is frozen turkeys. I’ve cooked turkey with great success, but I frankly don’t want to get involved in defrosting a turkey. It takes a week to do it properly, without risking illness. While my new friend did not have smoked turkey today, he does regularly procure fresh turkeys to smoke, so he agreed that when I want to cook a turkey he could get me a fresh one.
So, as I said, it’s a great day. About to become even greater, as I’m now headed to the kitchen for some dinner!