Monday, July 12, 2010

Smuggling processed cheese into New Zealand

Kia Ora everyone! Jake and I are happy to be back in Kiwiland after an incredibly busy and fun couple of weeks visiting folks back in the States. In between the barbecues and baseball games and baby-holding, we found a few minutes to stock up on a few grocery items we can't find here in New Zealand.

A few of the items we smuggled back to NZ in our suitcase:
  • Crystal Light -- a powdered low-calorie soft drink mix.
  • Barbecue rubs -- a proud tradition from Kansas City.
  • Montreal Steak seasoning -- excellent on hamburgers and steak.
  • Velveeta -- If you're unfamiliar with this product, it's a gooey yellow processed cheese that you melt in slow cooker with mince and capsicum -- excellent with salted/unflavoured tortilla chips. By the way New Zealanders don't trust any cheese that's yellow.
  • Seasonings for fajitas, enchiladas and tacos -- you can find some of these here but they taste a bit different than the American-style Mexican flavours we're used to.
  • Peanut Butter M&Ms -- can't find these anywhere in NZ that I've found. I shared some with my workmates today and they received mixed reviews, including a comment from my boss ("Are you trying to kill me?") who is apparently allergic to peanuts.
  • Multivitamins -- these are certainly available here but cheaper in the U.S.
  • PowerBar sports gels -- flavoured goo that will help Jake run his next marathon in Melbourne this October.
Of course I'm joking about smuggling this stuff into the country. We declared it on our customs form and all was approved because it's been packaged and poses no threat to NZ's environment.

New Zealand is very careful about what travelers bring here, as it has had its share of struggles with introduced and invasive species over the years. For example, NZ used to be a haven for birds of all kinds, including many that were land-based like our beloved Kiwi, but stoats (little weasley ferret-looking rascals) and other pests have all but annihilated many of those populations.

Also, a microscopic organism nicknamed Didymo has caused several South Island rivers to be covered in what is described as "rock snot." To date, there's no way to clean it up and folks are required to check, clean and dry all equipment (boats, boots, camping gear, etc) when visiting waterways to prevent its spread. Problems like this are why the NZ Customs folks ask whether you have hiking boots in your checked bag or if you've visited a farm in the past 30 days.

We've learned a lot about conservation on our travels throughout this country and are amazed to learn just how much this land has changed in the last couple hundred years. It really helps us appreciate how fragile our earth is, even if our American appetites still crave a little processed cheese food from time to time.


Phil said...

Nothing like those small tasty morsels to remind one of home. The Montreal sauce and peanutbutter M&Ms sound delicious. No mention of Crisco? Whenever I talk with Americans here, the one thing they seem to miss most of all is Crisco. I'm not actually sure what it really is or does.

Anonymous said...

Glad you guys had a good time...missed your posts while you were 'gone.'

-Seattle reader

jamie said...

Phil - I'm familiar with Crisco but have no idea how to cook with it. Apparently it's shortening that comes in a big can. Very important to American culture, but I'd have to ask one of my grandmas for details. They are great cooks, and unfortunately I have not inherited their talent.

Anonymous - Thanks! We certainly missed posting.

Anonymous said...

I should have signed my name...not anonymous :)

Anyway, great posts.