My eyes slide sideways, furtively glancing around. Is anyone watching me? Then my hand reaches out and snatches the bottle of Smuckers Carmel Topping. Then another. And another. And I reluctantly stop at four bottles. With trembling hands I quickly back away from the grocery-store aisle, rushing towards the check-out to pay for our liquid contraband.
Wait! Maybe I should buy the remaining six bottles as well?
Back on Isla Mujeres we miserly add the bottles of caramel flavouring to our hoard. Our cache currently includes eight boxes of Twinnings Darjeeling Tea, twelve bottles of Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc wine and six bottles of Paul Newman’s oil and vinegar salad dressing. Amongst our friends the Santa Rita wine from Chile is a highly sought-after commodity. It is a tasty white wine that is relatively inexpensive. Despite our pleadings to the contrary the local Chedraui grocery store manager typically orders one case at a time! Lawrie frequents the grocery store on a regular basis, picking up a few items here and there. Whenever he sees a new order of the Santa Rita he is quick to snatch up a handful of bottles, adding them to our cache.
When you live in a foreign country strange things happen to your personality. Hoarding becomes second nature. Flavours that we crave are sought out, checking with other North Americans to see who has seen a particular item. Where? When? Was there a good stock or was the store about to run out?
At social gatherings our conversations are laced with pithy stories of locating and obtaining flavoured treats. Our visiting relatives look upon us as slightly weird, off-balance perhaps. Obsessive. They made disparaging remarks like: “Do you always talk about food?” We stare at them, defensively muttering: “Maybe. What concern is it of yours?”
We never mention to out-siders our friend who has dozens of Lindt chocolate bars lining the door of her pantry refrigerator. Enough to last the winter season in Mexico.
It’s a deep dark secret.
On the other hand our winter friends understand our needs. They frequently offer to ‘mule’ items to us in Mexico when they return for the season. “What can we bring you?” They ask, fully understanding what it is like to fixate on an item that is over 5000 miles away. October and November become a pre-cursor to Christmas when bags of our favourite salty Dutch licorice arrive, tucked in ones and twos into the suitcases of returning friends.
Hah! Let others scoff at our obsessions. At least someone understands.
As for the location of our secret hoard …… my lips are sealed.