If you've ever traveled, you know that one of the most exciting things to see in foreign places is the food selection. A country's most famous dishes are often the hallmark of its culture. Peking Duck probably tastes better if eaten in Peking. Tacos are best eaten on the streets of Tijuana* (for those brave enough to try them), and Pisco Sours are positively delightful (albeit strong and completely dangerous) in Chile.
I just noticed that the three foods I just mentioned are quite likely to give a person diarrhea. Or perhaps just me. Oops.
But this isn't really my point.
What I want to talk more specifically about is a country's "native" snack foods. I find this infinitely more interesting than restaurant fare, especially now living in another country. Chips, cookies, candies, sodas. This is my area of study. Walking into a supermarket in Chile to me is like walking into a treasure trove of cultural relics. I feel like an anthropologist from the future, scanning the aisles of a long since forgotten civilization. Except that I am very much not alone. Stores in Santiago are usually teeming with people at every hour of the day. But you at least you understand where my head is at.
Each time I visit, which seems to be somewhat frequently, I try to choose something somewhat exotic. A box of foreign cereal on Monday, a package of foreign yogurt on Tuesday, a Bag-O-Olives on Wednesday. Just looking at the labels on soda cans gets me going. With everything written in Spanish, it's like a game of Grocery Roulette - "Will this strange looking marmalde kill me, or eliminate my body odor?"** The real fun is in not knowing.
Although, amongst all the funny looking pre-packaged goodies, I have noticed one huge void - both the subject of this entry and the path by which I shall become a gazillionaire - and that is: The Oreo Cookie.
America, you may be surprised to hear this, but no, there are no Oreo cookies here in Chile. If they are here, they are at least hard to find. Why? I have NO idea! Why is this blessed little cookie, this tiny black and white gift from God not present in this country? It's cheap enough to make, it's got to be cheap enough to ship, and I'm sure it would be cheap enough to buy on any one of a million street vendor's carts. But alas, it is nowhere to be found.
Upon noticing this today - it takes longer to notice what is NOT there, versus what IS there - I felt almost moved to find the phone number for Nabisco Foods, call their CEO, and demand an answer for this horrible infraction. Do they not know that South America exists? Or are they choosing to ignore its presence and miss out on this incredible investment opportunity?
What's your DEAL, Makers of the Oreo?
If teaching English doesn't work out, I'm not going to worry too much. The simple, and most obvious remedy is to have my family ship me a box full of single wrapped Oreos. I will then walk the sidewalks of Santiago passing out my little galletas (guess what that means) raising awareness about this mass-made marvel of a confection. Surely once every super market manager has tasted for himself the irreplacable flavor of the Oreo, crowds will rush to their stores faster than you can say "Yummy." Hell, knowing the odd way things work around here, they'll probably quit their jobs and open up a chain of stores featuring the following merchandise: Oreos.
With the Chilean population newly addicted to Oreo cookies, I will offer up this exciting business opportunity to Nabisco to the tune of a hundred million dollars, and I will be crazy rich. And you will feel stupid for not doing this yourself.
Of course this is only one of a hundred different business opportunities I've scouted out. Others include: A Clothing Store for Women Over 5 Feet Tall, A Shoe Store For Women With Large Feet, A 24-Hour Plumbing Service, A Pernament Hair Removal Salon, and Champagne. If I gave it more time, I'm sure the list would be longer. But that's the idea.
So, if you're stuck in your bomb-shelter back at home, waiting out the awfulness of the U.S. economy, consider a continental shift. Come to Chile, and get rich quick.
And bring me a case of Oreos.
*This is likely untrue, seeing as Tijuana is a complete shit hole. I bet the tacos are probably good in all of Mexico.
**Let it be known I absolutely never have body odor.