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  • Hunger is not always just about calories or nutrition. Living or even traveling abroad often create new challenges for those fortunate enough to go through life unaccustomed to a life without an abundance of food available. And not just food, but food we have come to enjoy, depend on, and even take for granted. Food like bread, cheese, soup, and Rootie Tootie Fast and Fruity.

    After college on my first couple trips overseas, I considered it a burden to have to decipher the French McDonald’s menu: “Le Hamburger?” Is that the same as in America? Why do I have to pay extra for ketchup? Why is my large Coke so medium? I remember arguing with a waiter in Italy because he brought me a bottle of Evian water when I clearly stated in English I wanted free tap water with my meal. I had a lot still to learn about international cuisine and customs...

    When my 12 year old son and I moved to China last summer, I expected we would soon learn to eat Chinese food-something the Chinese simply refer to as food. Back home in Charleston, we would occasionally frequent the Great Wall Restaurant in the Piggly Wiggly Shopping Center and even had a menu, packed with entrees and the optimistic “NO MSG” disclaimer posted on the fridge. My expectations were Alex and I would on many nights settle into our favorite dishes at the local neighborhood restaurants. He would either get the #17 or on some occasions the #34, whereas I would stick to the vegetarian #9, 21, or perhaps the #11 if I felt especially hungry. I would normally let him have my fortune cookie and extra Soy sauce and we would be set on most nights.

    Eating, like at home, would be a rather mundane but important part of the day. More about spending time together and chatting about our school than fretting over what to fix. Trader Joes and Whole Foods did all the fretting for us, provided we could use a microwave and the occasional stovetop. We would prepare healthy meals at home most nights, and simply grocery shop like we have always done.

    Next up: Part 2
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