New adventures in grocery shopping

American convenience food! The enormous grocery store is full of things in packets, and the variety of those things in packets is astounding.

The variety of fresh produce is a little less astounding. For every aisle of fresh produce and fresh food, there are about four aisles of Things In Packets. All I want is some fruit and veg and rice and noodles and flour and eggs and beans and soymilk (I am somewhat intolerant of lactose, too much milk does unpleasant things to my insides) and meat and fish – you know, things that don’t have to come in packets. (I think we give our local supermarket very bad profit margins.)

Instead there are 200 varieties of cereal, another 200 varieties of cookies, things in cans, things in packets, things in jars, things in boxes, frozen things in said packets… People rave about Trader Joe’s, but they’re raving about things like Trader Joe’s premade pizza dough, Trader Joe’s organic snacks… I like popcorn and chips as much as the next person, but they’re not that special to me. I guess if you’re going to eat popcorn and chips they might as well be organic?

Occasionally we also hit up the pan-Asian supermarket (like a pan-Asian supermodel, only larger). There, at least the packets are familiar.

At the same time, online shopping!! is the best thing about being a consumer in the US. I don’t have to set foot in a shop if I don’t want to…


The Way of the Bolster

Now THIS is a bolster.
Image from Ah, bliss. 
Shortly after I arrived to live in the US for the second time*, it became very apparent that I was in dire need of a bolster. First of all, I’m seven months pregnant. Let me tell you, there is no sleeping position that is comfortable for a pregnant lady, mostly because changing positions is a conscious decision which means you have to…you know…be conscious. So either you get a crick in your neck from being in one position all night or you’re awake half the night. Isn’t it a joy?
Second of all, even when I’m not seven months pregnant, I like my bolsters.
What’s a bolster, you ask? If you’re not familiar with the term, a bolster is a long firm cylindrical pillow that one hugs for temperature control. It’s most commonly used in Southeast/ South/ East Asia, and it’s also called a Dutch wife, no doubt by lonely Dutch colonists in Indonesia who needed something to cling to.
Everything marked ‘bolster’ on Amazon is this anaemic little pod that seems to be meant for back support, under-the-knee support, or as a miniature elf prop. I thought everything was bigger in America – clearly I was wrong. There’s a smattering of dog beds and mislabelled yoga props, too.
Not helping, yoga industry. I know, lady on the floor, I’m rolling my eyes too. 
Because I am functionally bilingual in English and American, I also tried searching for body pillows. Everything marked ‘body pillow’ on Amazon is the wrong shape – a fat rectangle, a flat rectangle, or this terrifying Snoogle:
Help, it's eating me.
Help, it’s eating me.
I think I might fall out of bed trying to extricate myself from that thing. WHAT IS SO DIFFICULT ABOUT A CYLINDRICAL CUSHION?
And so today we’re going shopping for a few essential household items, such as a nightstand (husband: “What, the one-night stand we have isn’t enough?”), a dresser, a freaking humidifier because I keep waking up dehydrated, and…something as close to a proper bolster as possible.
I think there’s a missed business opportunity here to sell custom large bolsters. Or even standard-sized large ones. First niche market: homesick Southeast Asians. Second niche market: pregnant ladies.
Sometimes when you’re far away from home, you just have to hold on to small familiar things. (Or, in the case of bolsters, hug some large familiar things. It’s funny that the ‘Dutch wives’ of yore are my Southeast Asian security blanket today.) I may get my kid one of those anaemic little pods of their own when they’re old enough; it’s all part of reminding them about half their heritage. Plus, toddler bolsters are adorable.
*Living in the US for the first time, over a decade ago, is how I got dragged into living in the US for the second time. Long story, tell you sometime.