One of the things that has been hardest for me to adjust to while living in Okinawa is the inability to get ingredients when I need them. In America, I could go to a grocery store and expect to find everything on my list. If the store didn’t have what I needed, although an inconvenience, I could stop at a different store to get it. In Okinawa, this is not always the case. The on-base grocery store, called a commissary, carries most American products that you could want, but not many specialty ingredients. Sometimes, I can find the items at off-base grocery stores, but due to cultural differences with food and the fact that we are 5,000 miles away from America, this is not always the case. The commissary, and every on-base store, commonly runs out of things (the running joke is that they will never have something in stock when you actually need it) so it is common to see Facebook posts asking where people have found certain ingredients off-base.
Now, please don’t take this as me complaining. I love the fact that I can get Japanese and other Asian ingredients all of the time. I love the adventure of buying unknown foods just to try them out. I also really appreciate the fact that I can buy most American foods that I use to cook with on-base for reasonable prices. But, sometimes, I just want to be able to buy almond butter, Greek yogurt or dried cherries at one store, without having to make my own, go on a wild goose chase or order it on Amazon and wait two weeks to get it. Don’t even get me started on the selection or price of good beer, but I’m sure I’ll touch on that in a different post.
Every time I go back the U.S., I try to stock up on a few non-perishables that I haven’t been able to find here. The last time I was back, I picked up some dried cherries from Trader Joe’s. For some reason, I only bought one package, so once I was in Oki, I had a very hard time deciding how to use these precious cherries. After months of deliberation, (I’m not even kidding, I bought the cherries in January and didn’t use them until April) I finally decided to use them in cookies. But not any cookies: cherry, almond, white chocolate, oatmeal cookies. Let me tell you, this was the best decision ever. These cookies are amazing! They are chewy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, bursting with ingredients, and the almond flavor puts them over the top. I even feel slightly healthy eating them, thanks to the oatmeal and dried cherries. Do you want to know the best part? Colin said they are the best cookies he’s ever had. Let me say that again, BEST COOKIES EVER! Now, he is a little biased, because he loves any type of oatmeal cookie. But he also has the difficult task of eating everything I bake, so for these to be the best cookies I’ve ever made, well, that’s saying something. From now on, I have a feeling that dried cherries will consistently be in my Amazon shopping cart or future care packages from my mom and sister *hint*. And for those of you lucky enough to go to a store to buy them, or, even better, a Trader Joe’s, you should bake up a batch of these now, or as soon as you can get home from the store.