Food in the U.S.A.

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This feels good. This feels right. Oh my god, this is good... I feel my muscles relax, I'm slowly sinking deeper into my chair and my breathing gets darker. The Jazz music seems so remote now. Deep sensual lust is surrounding every cell of my body.

I just had had dinner. A simple one, at home. Three tomatoes and half a loaf of Mozarella (di Buffalo). Some virgin olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, and some basil and pepper. Plus half a loaf of a multi-seed bread. Makes for a perfect dinner for one, and so delicious.

If there wasn't this nagging feeling that something was wrong. I just must not think of it. I must forget that it cost about $25 (*).

When I decided to leave Switzerland and move to the U.S., friends told me I would be fine. With your salary as a software developer, they told me, and these cheap costs of living in the U.S., you will live in luxury. So they spoke, and so I believed. Until I learned the truth. In Boston, to be specific. It is true, the cost of living can be low. I can live outside of Boston, and for little money I can live a comfortable life. I can buy soft white bread, colorful drinks and spare rips quite cheaply.

It's just that I don't want to. I enjoy good food, and I don't want to miss it.

So what does the discriminating mind do? It searches for alternatives to his local supermarket. And quickly finds them, after all, he is not alone in his search for decent food. Boston offers a good selection of high-quality food stores, small and large, that offer most of what you could reasonably expect to be produced in the U.S. or imported from other countries.

These food stores are also where frustration first turns into sparks of hope and relief and then quite quickly into outrage. The prices are horrendous. Let's take a look at my bill from today. Seven good quality tomatoes cost $9. Hmm...

Half-a-liter of Aceto Balsamico: $25. This vinegar isn't bad, but it certainly isn't high-end. This quality didn't cost one-fourth as much in Switzerland.

On to the cheese. On the label for the Gruyere it says "delicious with pears and apples." Ok, I assume I don't pay for this advice so I can safely ignore this impudence. Here it is: one kilogram costs $20. The Swiss dump this stuff on the world market, because they have too much of it.

Here some three year old Gouda, one kilogram costs $30. Ha! Hahaha... Gulp.

I guess it will be some time until I repeat this dinner.

Dirk Riehle

Boston, July 2000

(*) So you don't believe me, eh? Let's see. I bought this stuff at the local Bread and Circus. Seven quality tomatoes cost $9. One loaf of Mozarella di Buffalo costs $8. A small bottle of good quality virgin olive costs about $8. Aceto Balsamico (balsamic vinegar) is more tricky of course: I buy half-a-liter for $25. Forget the basil and pepper. Add a loaf of multi-seed bread for $4. You get the idea. Gives you about $25, where "about" is good enough for this story.

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