Saturday, February 16, 2008

The blue box blues

When mama wants to please me
she's only got to cheese me!
I got the blues ...

A minor crisis has struck our household in the form of what appears to be a country-wide shortage of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Yes, the marginally nutritional, unnaturally orange, yet unfailingly comforting and homey pasta dinner in the blue box. Can't find it anywhere—not even at the big warehouse club down the highway. I open the kitchen cupboard and see that empty spot where the mac and cheese normally resides, and feel a pang of despair. In a country with extremely little in the way of frozen or pre-prepared food, we've come to rely on Kraft mac and cheese for an easy Sunday supper or a snack to fill hungry bellies.

Here's the thing: One can never count on anything imported from the US to be in stock. A month ago I needed a basic antibiotic and was told at the pharmacy that it was unavailable and I wouldn’t find it in any pharmacy in Costa Rica. I asked for a substitute and got one, no problem. (A side note: you don’t need a prescription for many drugs in CR, including antibiotics.)

Another example … When we first moved here, I bought a couple of cans of Campbell's tomato soup, because it's my favorite and Lauren loves it, too. It costs twice as much as at home, but it was a splurge we were willing to make.

Next trip back to the store ... no Campbell's tomato. Cream of mushroom, chicken noodle, a stray can of Manhattan clam chowder, sure. But no tomato.

We tried other kinds of tomato soup, but nothing fit the bill. I was disappointed until—several months later—there they were! Four cans of tomato soup wrapped in familiar red and white labels. Not to be fooled again, I bought all four cans. This last week there was an impressive stock of the stuff. Why? I have no idea. Sometimes stores carry a lot of a certain import and then it will disappear off the shelves for weeks to months at a time.

Sadly, the mac and cheese has vanished. We buy it in bulk at Pricesmart, and all four of us stood dumbfounded and stared at the shelves last Saturday when we realized there was no mac and cheese. What's the deal? Are the Americans hording all the mac and cheese, creating increased demand for the stuff and causing this shortage here in Central America? (And if so—hey, knock it off!)

We'll play the waiting game, and at some point I expect we'll stock our makeshift food storage room with a case or so of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Until then ... we've got the blue box blues.

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