Surviving as a Supertaster in China

I have the taste-buds of a five-year old. I’ll admit it, not because I’m dying to let the world in on my terrible eating habits, but because there is no point in trying to conceal the fact that when refined palates were being handed out in Heaven, I must have been trying to decide which pair of heels would look the best in my celestial yearbook photo, posing by the Pearly Gates. (Do I go with something pearlescent, to bring out the shine of the entrance to eternity or would a bold, jewel color be better? These are the questions I imagine I was pondering while others were given a love for expensive liquor and well-marinated meats.)

Each morning, I happily pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple (or banana if I’m feeling wild!) and some type of treat, whether it be a precious Jell-o pudding cup or just a cookie, for my lunch. This is the same mid-day meal I have been eating since I was a fourth grader. (First through third grade lunches consisted of a Tupperware bowl of Lucky Charms and a twenty-five cent carton of milk, deftly combined in my elementary school lunchroom to put some calories in my scrawny stick-bug-like body before running out to swing upside down on the monkey bars.)  I’m more than content with the contents of this possibly juvenile lunch, not only because it is super yummy, but because the mere fact that I have the peanut butter to make a sandwich each day for lunch in the smack middle of China still amazes me!

My extremely unsophisticated sense of taste is both a slight bane and a helpful quirk for Thad. As someone willing to give any food a shot and as a particular fan of the spicy treats, my overactive taste buds often lead us away from some of the choices he might make if he were on his own. Hotpot always has to be the half-and-half bowls, on the exciting nights we go for pizza, pepperoni as about as crazy as it gets and my cooking repertoire consist of a lot of simple pasta dishes, sauce on the side.  However, the very thick silver-lining on the supertaster cloud is that I am a cheap date! There is no need to take me out to a posh restaurant for an expensive cut of steak or search Chengdu for a slice of fancy-pants cheese. I’m just as content with a plain hamburger (and by plain, I mean plain- just the burger and the bun) and a fountain drink Pepsi.

They Might Be Giants may consider super tasting to be a super power, but in the bi-yearly nomadic lifestyle we have undertaken, it does cause some problems.  One of the most outstanding of these rears its ugly head first thing every morning, when breakfast is to be served. Where’s the cereal? Of all the “American” foods I missed the most when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, my morning bowl of cereal was right there at the top of the list. There is no better way to start a morning than with a nice big bowl of some crunchy flakes or rings or stars, drenched in low-fat milk, being consumed as I catch up on the latest world news via and the latest fashion faux pas via

While we were over the moon about Thad’s placement in Chengdu on his Flag Day, I knew instantly that the cereal issue was one I must remedy before returning to the Land of Pandas. With this in mind, I hit up Costco and bought what felt like a whole lot (but now I question the amount) of Cheerios in “family-sized” boxes.  Those crates are still in transit (I’m told they may hit Shanghai on August 11th, and then have to come overland to Chengdu, so, I’m mentally shooting for a Labor Day delivery.) To bridge the gap between our China arrival in May and my much needed cereal fix’s arrival in September, I’ve supplemented whenever the occasion has arisen.

Cornflakes are the most ubiquitous and cheapest cereal in town. (There are a few other options of imported cereal available but they tend to come in very small, very smashed boxes that cost anywhere from $5-10USD.) I can do cornflakes. So, whenever I was in a store that had them, I was buying a box or two.

Then, I had a few things I needed to order from, like scooter helmets, so with each order, I just added on a couple boxes of sugary goodness. I figured I’d already hit the $25 free shipping amount, so I may as well take advantage of the savings!  Here some Corn Pops, there some Lucky Charms, everywhere a little Fruit Loops…You get the idea.

Early July rolled around and an anniversary package from my parents arrived, which included a bag of Marshmallow Mateys. What a great addition to the cereal stash.

Oh, and then, as part of my job at the consulate, I submitted an order to the Beijing Commissary for our officers, so I figured along with Thad’s desired pickles and Cheetos, I may as well order a couple of boxes of Wheat Chex.

And then, knowing I have this underlying need for a daily breakfast cereal fix, but not knowing the extent of our current stockpile, my dear husband ordered me sixty-four (!!) miniature boxes of cereal for our anniversary last week. (According to the all-knowing Google, a traditional fourteenth wedding anniversary gift would include ivory and orchids, but I’m quite content with Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes!)

So, there is a cupboard in my kitchen. It is the cereal cupboard. It is full. I swear, I don’t have a problem! I am just prepared for a possible cereal shortage. A cereal apocalypse could be just around the corner. Are you prepared? I certainly am!

It’s not hoarding. Hoarding would mean I saved the boxes and made a special fort out of them in my spare bedroom. Hoarding would be piling the boxes haphazardly along the hallway, creating an impassable maze to the bathroom or the laundry room.  Hoarding would be not eating the cereal, but rather lining the boxes up neatly in alphabetical order, to enjoy their bright colors and feel a bit like I lived in Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment. But I do! I eat it every morning for breakfast. I eat it with a smile on my face as I sit cross-legged on my living room floor, stalking former students on Facebook and catching up on my favorite blogs. (Thank you StrongVPN!)

I’ve heard people snidely referred to as having a champagne taste on a beer budget, but I’m happily the girl with Malt-o-Meal bagged cereal taste on a Kellogg’s boxed cereal budget! So, while the rest of you are contemplating which variety of spices to add to your expensive Kobe beef burger, I will be safe in my knowledge that emerald green creates a divine contrast with the Pearly Gates.

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This is the current stash, but additions are always welcome.

One thought on “Surviving as a Supertaster in China

  1. I like the same cereal as you, but like seems to be a tame descriptor for your craving of all things crispy in a box, and I believe the more sugar that has been coated around such crispy treats makes the smile in the morning oh so much wider! I have not had a craving for cereal in years, I eat it because it is quick and efficient. In reading your blog this morning, however, I almost got up and fixed a bowl so I could enjoy your story to its fullest potential. I follow a few other bloggers, but I get the biggest bang from your writing. If you are not planning to write a book about your adventures, change your mind, I will gladly buy the first printing!


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