When I saw my friend Yinzerella’s post about her foray into the Foodie Pen Pal program I decided to follow her lead. Although having seen what she’s willing to eat, I don’t make it a habit to follow blindly along behind her or I’ll find myself eating a seafood Jell-O mousse concoction while wearing a mustard yellow polyester pantsuit.
I got matched up with Sarah, a mom from Kansas, and we swapped emails and I immediately liked her because we had similar tastes. She likes salty and sweet, and her son is a junk food freak. That pretty much sums up my pantry. So, I really wanted to be clever about this whole thing. Only when I went to the store, I panicked. It’s a rare moment when I get stage fright in a food emporium. It was like a first date and I’d forgotten to shave my legs. (No, really, I forgot.) Suddenly I was panicked that she’d think I was weird, had awful taste in food, and absolutely no imagination. And I was pretty sure she was imaging a nice girl with shaved legs shopping thoughtfully for a clever box of treats to send to her. Instead she got me. Argh! How could going to the store to shop for food I like be so damn complicated?
I was also hungry, Voracious Ravenousitis hungry, and like Samantha during her lost weekend, I started pulling stuff off the shelves into my basket. I thought “Oh, I like those, I bet Sarah will too…” and “mmmmm…. those are good too… I wonder if she has a Trader Joe’s near her? Would it be mean to get her addicted to something she can’t find locally?” And next thing I know I’ve got an enormous pile of totally unrelated items and several bottles of wine in my basket. This Pen Pal thing was definitely making me edgy and desperate for a giant glass of wine to settle my nerves and to try with the cheese and crackers I just bought. Trying to narrow it down to just a few items and keep within the $15 limit was a definite challenge. Binging and budgets don’t go together well. More about what I sent Sara in a minute…
Shortly after I posted my package to Sara I got a shiny red box in the mail from my Pen Pal Haylee from Utah. First thing out of the bag told me that she was psychic because she intuited my borderline pathological love of anything covered in cheese dust. No, seriously. I would snort this stuff if I could. She sent me Chicago Mix popcorn which is a magical mix of cheese dust popcorn and toffee popcorn. WHAT?!!! I know, right? Awesomeness. She also surprised me with a nifty new treat from the evil geniuses at Keebler. White chocolate covered, peanut butter filled, pretzel bites. My husband I devoured the little snack packs with relish. She was also kind enough to include two Utah Truffles that I’m hoarding in a place my husband will never find to treat myself to when he’s not looking. He needs to get his own Foodie Pen Pal, this isn’t a team sport in our house.
Let me just say that Haylee totally gets me, which is probably freaking her out a little right about now.
I decided to go with a few core favourites: Sea Salt Caramels, Mesquite Smoked Seasoned Almonds (addicting like crack), Hob Nob Biscuits which I became addicted to at university in London. For her son, I decided to share with him my weird taste in candy. Wait? What? You’re surprised I have weird taste? Where have you been? I like candy that I have to work at chewing. I really, really love stale Red Vines, but I thought that might be a little weirder than total strangers might be willing to work with, so I went with Wine Gums and Haribo Mega Roulettes. They are both gummy candies that I also discovered at university. They not quite as tough on your dental work as Jujubes, but they aren’t nearly as soft as gummy bears. They do a nice job of getting stuck in your teeth, and if you eat the whole bag in one sitting your jaw muscles will hurt. It’s really kinda awesome when your jaw is so tired from shoving a lot of chewy candy in your mouth. You know it is.
Because I’m a baker at heart, I included Trader Joe’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups and my favourite recipe for cookies that goes with them. Basically I’ve bastardized the old Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe replacing all the sugars with dark, dark, dark brown sugar and doubling the vanilla. Toss the peanut butter cups in, bake, and binge. They are especially awesome if you put them in the freezer and eat them frozen. Trust me. Sounds crazy, but seriously the taste is excellent.
The last little treasure I included was a small jar with a sample of my favourite salt in the world. In my house we call it Magic Salt because the smallest amount makes everything taste better. You’d be amazed what it can do to a Lean Cuisine meal. It’s an expensive Italian salt, Vignalta, that I was given as a gift years ago and would have blown my Foodie Pen Pal budget to send a whole bottle, but it was a treat I had to share with a fellow salt lover.
Next month, I’m going to shop with a plan, and have lunch first. So I don’t wind up embarrassing myself and everyone else shopping at the store by muttering to myself insanely while pulling all kinds of items off the shelf and screaming for Dr. Bombay.