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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what food would you have to have smuggled to you if you didn’t have access to it?

smuggling KFC into Gaza

Fascinating story in The New York Times this week. It starts off like this:

GAZA CITY — The French fries arrive soggy, the chicken having long since lost its crunch. A 12-piece bucket goes for about $27 here — more than twice the $11.50 it costs just across the border in Egypt.

And for fast-food delivery, it is anything but fast: it took more than four hours for the KFC meals to arrive here on a recent afternoon from the franchise where they were cooked in El Arish, Egypt, a journey that involved two taxis, an international border, a smuggling tunnel and a young entrepreneur coordinating it all from a small shop here called Yamama — Arabic for pigeon.

“It’s our right to enjoy that taste the other people all over the world enjoy,” said the entrepreneur, Khalil Efrangi, 31, who started Yamama a few years ago with a fleet of motorbikes ferrying food from Gaza restaurants, the first such delivery service here.

People in Gaza can’t get KFC — and a lot of other brand-name fast food, or iPads, or a lot of other consumer goods that much of the rest of the world takes for granted — because of bullshit politics that keep the city under seige. Someone later in the article likens the attitudes of Gazans to a prison mentality, in that almost anything from the outside comes with a certain cachet simply because it is from the outside.

Even given that, however, it’s still hard to imagine that someone would be so desperate for KFC that they’d pay more than twice as much to get it cold and soggy… and it’s not like there’s any way you can revive that stuff onces it’s past its prime.

And yet, people crave their KFC.

The question for this weekend is:

What food would you have to have smuggled to you if you didn’t have access to it?

I’ve got people shipping me packets of Splenda from the U.S., since the stuff you get in the U.K. is different and not as good (in my opinion), but smuggling isn’t involved. And I could do without it if I had to. I’m not sure I could do without the tea it goes into, however. That would have to be smuggled in to me in my tea-less prison as a sanity-saving measure.


(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Isabelle May

    Jazz Apples.

  • Kenny

    Irn Bru and Wham bars. The former is a type of soda unique to Scotland and some (enlightened) places in England. The latter is a candy bar hard to find anywhere but online.

  • beccity98

    Chocolate. Definitely. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in California, KFC’s don’t have french fries. They have potato wedges, which are already kind of soggy, but are supposed to be. But When I was a kid, I was surprised to learn that the MacDonald’s here doesn’t sell top ramen like they did in Hawaii.
    Hey, could that be a question of the weekend? What fast food menu items are only sold in your area? (Although unless you have left your area, it’s hard to know.) I heard the Jamba Juice in Hawaii sells guava-based smoothies.

  • Isobel_A

    Those Irn Bru chewy bars are pretty damn good, too.

  • Isobel_A

    L@P. It’s a NZ soft drink and it’s yum – I miss it. I think we need a Kiwi (& Aussie, to make it viable) version of those Savannah shops in London with all the South African bits. Except the Kiwi/Aussie one will sell L&P, Bluebird chips, chocolate fish, TimTams and bacon and egg pies. Mmmmm.

    Also, if I’m anywhere but the UK I become a stereotype and miss Marmite.

  • Bluejay

    If I didn’t have access to it at least once a year when I visit my in-laws, I’d have to say: Idaho huckleberries, preferably already in jam or pie form.

  • Bluejay

    When my family and I visited Hawaii, we went to the Dole Plantation and had Dole Whip, this amazing soft-serve frozen yogurt thingy with pineapple juice and topped with pineapple chunks. I’ve never had it anywhere else (though I understand it’s also available at Disney World).

  • Martin

    Nearly lost a tooth to one of those when I was a kid.

    Irn Bru, Root Beer and Oreos would probably top my list.

  • ohiopokey

    can I count Ativan as food?

  • I ordered Irn Bru over the internet after reading Craig Ferguson’s autobiography. I discovered several months later that the grocery store a block from my house carries it in their imported foods aisle.

  • teenygozer

    Cara Cara oranges, which are only in season from November to April. I ate my last one yesterday and I miss them already. Their flesh is deep pink, like grapefruit, and they are completely non-acidic with an amazingly subtle/sweet flavor. I also miss Mutsu apples from an orchard near where I used to live in MA, I’d buy as much as I could carry every week at a local farmer’s market and have them devoured by mid-week. I’ve tried the “Crispin” apples you find in the supermarket, which is supposedly the same apple, re-named to be more consumer-memorable, but they’re never as good as picked-yesterday apples from a farmer’s market.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    And Disneyland, in one location in the park: a stand right outside the queue house of The Enchanted Tiki Room (presented by Dole(TM) ). They sell the Dole Whip in a cup, pineapple spears, pineapple juice, and a float made out of Dole Whip in pineapple juice. They also run, on a continuous loop, a promotional film from the late 50s/early 60s about Dole’s pineapple operation ins Hawaii.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’d kill to get some good, Jewish deli here in Northern Colorado. It’s really the one cuisine I used to enjoy in SoCal that I can’t seem to find anywhere.

    Similarly, my sister in New Jersey will occasionally have us ship her a case of little restaurant packets of French’s yellow mustard, as all she can find for her corned beef sandwiches is brown mustard,

  • althea

    I’m in Dallas, and a couple of years ago TimTams suddenly appeared in the local Target. I only managed to grab one package before they disappeared again. They were goooooood.

  • althea

    I am addicted to Chobani pineapple yogurt. It’s one of only a couple that are low-fat and not non-fat, and I’m grateful for that. Sometimes it’s creamier, sometimes it’s thick and heavy, and always fantastic.

  • Paul

    I seem to recall going in a shop that precisely meets your description, somewhere near Covent Garden. Can’t remember what it was called, and naturally I don’t know if it’ still there.

    Aren’t TimTams widely available now? They’re all over the place here in Japan since Arnotts was picked up by a large multinational.

  • Isobel_A

    Yeah, they appeared in Tesco for a while then sank without a trace :(

  • Isobel_A

    Ooh, really? Must investigate! Google gave me address, am heading there ASAP! And they have L&P. Squeee!

    Sadly, TimTams don’t seem to be available here at all.

  • RogerBW

    Mildly obscure things I eat quite a lot of now: Lingham’s chilli, garlic and ginger sauce, which unlike most chilli sauces is (a) quite mild and (b) possessed of a complex flavour.

    Things I would go to an effort to get if they weren’t readily available: pork in all its forms.

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    Booze. I’d break the laws of man and nature for beer and whiskey.

    As for solid food, I suppose I’d smuggle NY strips and dubliner cheese.

  • b.lynch black

    i spent years as a food mule when going to visit friends and relatives living in the south who had moved there from NY. to some friends in atlanta, it was mallomars; to my parents for a while it was jewish deli, sour kosher pickles and boar’s head cold cuts and sliced american cheese. only last year, i had to bring down two legs of lamb (my mother swears she cannot get lamb in the area she lives in) and 6 pounds of coldcuts. this year, it seems that some sort of civilized food has arrived, since i’ve been informed i can leave the cold cuts. they now get boars head brands — although not every kind of cold cut is available. for me, if i were stuck somewhere and couldn’t have it, it would have to be tea and light cream (although dairy is *really* hard to ship). my tea doesn’t taste right anymore with milk (especially *skim* milk … shudder) and even half and half doesn’t cut it.

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