Expat cats and Camembert

Our big cat is getting fat.  She wasn’t small to begin with and even had to go on a diet before boarding the plane since “(cat+carrier)<18 pounds”, or we couldn’t take her as carry on.  But she slowly packed those pounds back on.

Our cook asked if she was going to have kittens.  Nope, she’s just fat!  She’s a little pig, she manages to dump a whole bunch of her little food morsels onto the newspaper that serves as a mat under their feeding area.  I noticed big rings of oil under the morsels and figured out the problem: the diet cat food here is loaded with fat.   Ta da, now I know what happened.

So, on a hunt for better cat food we are.  And you feel so silly, in a country where child malnutrition is rampant, looking not only for cat food that isn’t table scraps, but diet food, because she’s overweight.

Back home, whether the US or France, you often hear the less than immigrant-friendly ask: “Why don’t they adapt, why don’t they act like us, why do they keep on eating “merguez*”, why do their houses always smell of curry, why can’t they blend in and become more American/French?”  I wonder if Indians think the same of us here.  Are they upset when they smell lasagna or roast beef?  Just like you have Chinatowns or Little Italy scattered around the country, you have Whitefield with its two expat compounds.

* a traditional North African spicy sausage

In order to survive here, you need to create what my friend calls “a bubble”, a space where you can be yourself, where you’re comfortable, where you’re safe, where you are not judged.  Most of the time, living in a foreign country, you are very vulnerable, insecure, confused.  Regaining confidence and a sense of self often starts with food.  I think all of the foreigners I know cook and eat foods from their home country.  Our cooks are always surprised that we want them to prepare exclusively local dishes.  Many of the conversations are about food.  “Where can you find this, where do you buy that?  Oh, I go to this particular store that sells great (insert favorite food).  If you’re going back to (home country) and have room in your suitcase, could you bring me a packet of Old El Paso Taco seasoning?”  On expat forums, people advertise how many kilos of empty space they have available for importing food.  I have heard so many conversations about Camembert that I refer to some expats as the “Madame Camembert” crowd!

We are no better than anyone else.  For us, it’s not the food.  We would rather not have cheese or meat or maple syrup than have to drive all over town in heavy traffic for some overpriced, maybe even beyond the expiration date item.  I gave up French cheeses when I moved to Canada in 1990.  But I understand why people do that.  In our Indian home, our coping mechanisms involve American TV and diet coke.  And our two cats.  Our sense of normalcy requires cat fur everywhere.  Since 2001, the year we adopted our first kitten “home is where the cats are”.  Hence the hunt for Science Diet Light Cat Food.

The cute demon stray cat who is in love with our kittens and who, along with his dozen or so buddies,                                  terrorizes the neighborhood.

The cute demon stray cat who is in love with our kittens and who, along with his dozen or so buddies, terrorizes the neighborhood.

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