When the Familiar is Frightening
“I can’t decide!” That was my cry every time I tried to buy cold cereal after returning to the States. In our African posting, there were seldom any cereals available at our small grocery. Early years in Asia were not much better, but at least we could get a couple different kinds. With few choices for several years, this dazzling array was overwhelming: sweetened, unsweetened, oats, rice, corn, or wheat, in a box or bag, plain, with or without fruit or nuts. “It’s too much!” I lamented. The cereal section was a whole aisle long, top to bottom.
One friend we visited on furlough asked me to help her make spaghetti. “Takes about 30 minutes,” she said. “Not where I came from,” I thought. It couldn’t be done. I envisioned thawing the meat as I cooked it, while cutting garlic, onions, and tomatoes to be sauteed. It would take almost half an hour to get the noodles cooked and we’d still have salad and garlic bread to make. She asked me to prepare the salad while she popped the meat in the microwave to thaw and cook, opened a can of sauce to warm in a pot, and buttered the bread with garlic butter from the refrigerator! We only had to set the table while the noodles cooked. No meal could be made that quickly with ingredients available overseas. I encountered these differences again and again. This was my home country, for crying out loud. Why did I feel so uneasy with the ease?