I have a confession. Pringles, is my overseas secret lover. Yes, it is true. Home in the States I spurn the brightly colored cylinders of potato snack chips refusing to so much as recognize their existence on my way down the store aisle to other, healthier foods. But as soon as the wheels touch down in a developing nation I greedily wrap my hands around this strange and familiar processed food, popping off the lid, peeling back the seal, and digging my hand down for a taste of something deliciously familiar.
Confession Number Two: my overseas lust for junk food is not limited to Pringles. On a hot and dusty road in Africa a green glass bottled Sprite quenches my thirst like no bottle of water can. And a package of wafer cookies with cream in the middle might be the finest dessert I have for weeks. American cheese, well lets just say in desperate times- such as after an overnight bus on treacherous roads in Vietnam- a fried egg with bread and a piece of processed cheese can taste downright luxurious.
This lust for Pringles and its junk food cohorts is often driven by hunger- a late night in a cheap guesthouse with a growling belly or a stop for a pee at a remote gas station and often the only food recognizable and surely safe is this familiar canister in Sour Cream and Onion. But it is more than desperation- at some points I actually seek out these foods because they are a taste of familiar in strange lands and I like them.
As of today, four weeks into an Asia and Africa summer tour, here is a short list of foods I never ever eat at home that here I have eagerly and happily taken down:
Happy Mix (a dry and overly salted Zambian version of Chex Mix)
Fried potatoes, in every form
I am a fickle lover. Come September and the end of the summer world tour I will say goodbye to Pringles and all his questionably nutritious friends. Don’t call, don’t write, I’ll say. But if those brightly colored packages bursting with salt and sugar could wink I think they would, knowing that I’ll be back. I can only stay away from the call of travel, and Pringles, for so long.