What to give to new New Zealand friend?
March 5, 2007 11:29 PM   Subscribe

What imperishable, edible, uniquely American treats might a New Zealander find irresistable?

I'm going to be traveling to Ireland and hooking up with a native New Zealander as a travel companion. We've never met in person, but have developed a friendship via email. Anyway, I'd like to share something from home. I don't want to give her something that she'll have to lug around, as she is going to be traveling for several more months in Europe before returning home. So I thought snacks/treats would travel well, although alternative suggestions are welcome.
posted by dudiggy to Grab Bag (59 answers total)
I don't know about what's available in New Zealand, but I always bring Jelly Bellys to my friend in Austria. They don't have them there & people are amazed at how much flavor those little things pack. I had fun to trying to explain what root beer is & teaching them recipes.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:46 PM on March 5, 2007

Jelly Bellys are fairly common in Australia, so I think they'd probably be well known in New Zealand too. The big American snack flavour combinations that you don't get much down here are A) peanut butter and chocolate and B) cinnamon. So if I were bringing a pressie for an Aussie or Kiwi, it would be Reese's Cups and Red Hots.
posted by web-goddess at 12:13 AM on March 6, 2007

Peanut brittle? Is that uniquely American?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:14 AM on March 6, 2007

Cracker Jack. Bazooka bubble gum. A Candy you ate as a kid package.

By the way, if you choose something bulky and if you know where you're going to be staying, trying mailing a package to your destination in advance rather than lugging the package with you. Let the proprietor know through separate mail that a package will be coming addressed to you care of the proprietor.
posted by pracowity at 12:33 AM on March 6, 2007

I'd stay away from peanut brittle. Kiwi immigration is rather fierce; not only do they have you remove your shoes and inspect it for shreds of grass, dirt, or other pathogens you might be importing, but they also are rather vigilant about confiscating any foodstuffs that look strange to them. On a recent trip I brought professionally sealed/dehydrated strawberries I'd purchased with me and they were taken with alacrity.

More along the lines of interesting rather than irresistible: What about marshmallow fluff? Geoduck clams? Velveeta? Fried pork rinds? Spam? Or something regional: I can promise they'll be wowed by some of the food for sale at the Piggly Wiggly.
posted by stewiethegreat at 12:59 AM on March 6, 2007

Peanut Butter M&Ms.... oh please, give me some now! Silly NZ doesn't have them, and I think they're the best. Although we did get Reeses Pieces last month in a few places.

Also, See's candy(?) I remember trying some of that and enjoying that once, especially the packaging. Big Red is also something we don't get.

Things I would be interested in trying, that we don't have here (excuse me if they're all spelt wrong): Doritos, Cheetos, Pork rinds (weird! but I've never seen them).

I imagine anything you give won't last long enough to see NZ customs, so go for crazy things! Oh and, once my friend brought me back a real candied scorpion (set in "amber" hard candy" from the US, that was also impressive, seeing my name is Amber & I'm a scorpion. How that got through customs is a special mystery.
posted by teststrip at 1:25 AM on March 6, 2007

posted by Señor Pantalones at 1:34 AM on March 6, 2007

My girlfriend would lop off her right arm for Red Vines. They're reasonably unique to the US. "Strawberry laces" are similar but not the same.

Also, almost anything that's predominantly cinnamon tends to be uniquely American.
posted by wackybrit at 1:39 AM on March 6, 2007

Oh, and definitely Twinkies, as Senor says above. Gorgeous!
posted by wackybrit at 1:39 AM on March 6, 2007

Americans have such incredible sweet teeth that I'm not sure our insatiable need for the ever more cloying translates all that well.

Perhaps savo(u)ry is the way to go. What I've been missing lately Down Under are maize offshoots: cornbread and grits.
posted by rob511 at 1:44 AM on March 6, 2007

We have Jelly Bellys here, and Reese's Cups/Pieces, and Big Red gum, and lots of Hershey's stuff.

I would have said Twinkies, having always seen them in comics as a kid and being intrigued, but now that I've read the ingredient list over on the blue, not so much any more.

Cracker Jack, yes, not that we don't have similar things here, but it's kind of an iconic brand. Those weird easter marshmallow(?) chick things. Altoids because I covert the tin. Hot Tamales. Maybe pop tarts (don't personally appeal, but it's kind of a very American foodstuff).
posted by sarahw at 1:56 AM on March 6, 2007

I was going to suggest Southern Comfort, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to get it through customs and the bomb check.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:56 AM on March 6, 2007

And candy corn.
posted by sarahw at 2:00 AM on March 6, 2007

Ah, we have Southern Comfort here. How else would all our bogans get pissed at the weekend?
posted by sarahw at 2:08 AM on March 6, 2007

Also a Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker.
posted by sarahw at 2:29 AM on March 6, 2007

I'm not sure about Kiwi's, but for Brits the uniquely American would have to be peanut butter and chocolate. Pretty much anything by Reeses is wonderful and a pain in the arse to get over here. A single bag of Reeses Pieces in about £1.50 (Erm... nearly $3?).
posted by twine42 at 3:13 AM on March 6, 2007

Somebody fed me Reeses Pieces once and I nearly gagged. I mean, I have as much of a sweet tooth as the next aussie, but we're accustomed to our sweets containing actual sugar; HFCS is not really our thing.

What are grits, anyway?
posted by flabdablet at 3:40 AM on March 6, 2007

I'd vote peanut butter cups over Reese's Pieces, personally. Cinnamon gum would be a good bet. How about something local to your part of the country?
posted by bassjump at 3:52 AM on March 6, 2007

My sister brought some Twinkies to my cousins in NZ back in January. Everyone tried one out of politeness, but I think they are the sort of thing that is pretty awful as an adult if you never had one as a child. One thing you absolutely cannot get in NZ are "american style" marshmallows. They have something called marshmallows, but they are sold in bags as a candy, and are what we would probably call "circus peanuts" - or something similar. This means you can't make rice krispy treats in NZ. So maybe give her a couple bags of "real" marshmallows, plus the recipe for rice krispy treats. (I think rice krispies are still called rice bubbles in NZ?)
posted by chr1sb0y at 3:56 AM on March 6, 2007

Reese's Pieces don't contain any chocolate, twine42 - just sugary peanut butter filling. (At least the ones they sell in the states don't.) That has always been the big failing of them, in my opinion. Or did you mean a bag of the mini peanut butter cups?
posted by chr1sb0y at 3:58 AM on March 6, 2007

We already have lots of the things suggested.

Pork rinds for instance, southern comfort, and SPAM. (Please, every supermarket in the WORLD has SPAM.)

We also have all kinds of marshmellow crap, both local and imported. I don't know what the difference that chr1sb0y mentioned is. They look the same as the marshmellows I seen on American TV, so *shrug*. (I've never liked marshmellows, and don't claim to be an expert.)

Jelly Bellys are pretty common too, for a while they were pretty much only stocked around Christmas, now they just seem to be in the supermarket. I see them around anyway.

Root beer, ginger beer, ginger ale, sarsparilla, etc, we either make great ones ourselves, or we get them from Australia. (Bundaberg is pretty good ginger beer, and my favourite, even if it is Australian.)

We had poptarts for a while, but they just didn't sell, so they seemed to leave the market pretty quickly.

We have shelves and shelves and shelves full of crappy awful junkfood. So I can't say if we have everything that's been mentioned. We don't seem to do a lot of Cinnamon, so extra points to anyone who mentioned that.

We're not Antarctica or Soviet Russia, I think some people are a bit deluded about what is and isn't available in New Zealand. Sure, we're pretty far out here in the Pacific, but we have, you know, boat technology. We took the friggin' America's Cup off you, in case you've forgotten.

Now, of course some of your brands are alien, but that doesn't mean we don't have other similar things, so I suggest that you just choose your favourite things and share those with your friend.

(If you know where she's from, that makes a difference, outside of the cities, as supermarkets shrink, the range of their stock also shrinks. But the non-city-dwelling population is pretty small.)
posted by The Monkey at 4:03 AM on March 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well said.

American candy is awful.
posted by the cuban at 4:17 AM on March 6, 2007

chr1sb0y *sigh* The perils of posting quickly while the bosses back is turned...

I managed to join two thoughts together. I think chocolate and peanut butter American style is a superb combination and one of the few examples of anything American and chocolate based that isn't fecking horrible. (based on mainstream American bars that make it over here, as well as the few bits friends have brought back)

I also have a major addiction to Reeses Pieces, and think they probably travel better in warm climates.
posted by twine42 at 4:29 AM on March 6, 2007

My only experiences have been with Australia, not NZ, but Sydney has to be fairly comparable in terms of what you can and can't get in a big city store in NZ, I'd think.

See's candy went over very well, as did Jalapeño Cheetos. Dr. Pepper was something that wasn't to be found -anywhere- in Sydney, so if you're looking for different, maybe that (however, I think that's something like Coke, where if you haven't grown up with it, you probably won't like it. It's an acquired taste. [I hate Coke.]).

Candy corn, Pirate's Booty, and dark chocolate-dipped espresso beans (which I don't think are US-specific) were also hits. Sour Skittles were pulled from the Australian markets, and my terrorist was overjoyed to find them still available here - not overly exotic, but if your friend likes sour things, it's worth a shot. The Easter marshmallows are called Peeps, and are now available year-round in seasonal variations (snowmen at Christmas, pumpkins at Halloween, etc.), and I know that those aren't to be found in Sydney. (I also know they're not a universal taste, and know more people who don't like them than people who do.) Also, s'mores - which I know in and of themselves aren't nonperishable, but the ingredients are. Hershey's chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, instructions on how to make 'em. May think of more later...
posted by po at 4:45 AM on March 6, 2007

How about maple candy? The good stuff is made from pure maple syrup, and it's uniquely North American.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:01 AM on March 6, 2007

Twinkies? Really? Are you SURE about that?

Do they have Pop Rocks there? 'Cuz chemicals aside, Pop Rocks are kinda fun.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:11 AM on March 6, 2007

po: Dr. Pepper is worth checking to see if it's in NZ or not. I'm in the UK and Dr. Pepper is not that popular but is easily obtained from most vending machines and stores.

I'll send Pop Rocks and Reeses Pieces. Reeses Cups are easier to get a hold of internationally for some reason, but the Pieces are quite hard to find.

Re: Twinkies.. why not? There's dead animal in my burger, so a few artificial chemicals and sugar compounds are nothing ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 5:39 AM on March 6, 2007

Dr Pepper is available. Not super common, but even many corner dairies (in Auckland at least) have a can or two in the fridge. Less available than even Sars or Creaming Soda, but usually stocked in the same place.
posted by The Monkey at 6:00 AM on March 6, 2007

If she's going through multiple boarders, try to stay away from most vegetables or meat products. Here is a typical list. They'll almost certainly be taken away from her (or you). Candy usually gets through customs checks without any trouble, but no pork rinds.
posted by bonehead at 6:38 AM on March 6, 2007

Bah, candy. Bring your friend a good single batch bourbon. For food I'd head toward something Cajun or Mexican, but it's hard to think of something small, consumable, yet durable.
posted by Nelson at 6:39 AM on March 6, 2007

Another vote for peanut butter M&Ms... we had an Aussie intern last year, and that was what he said he'd miss the most. We gave him a duffel bag full of them as a going away present.
posted by somanyamys at 6:46 AM on March 6, 2007

When I was in high school, I discovered that there were no Twizzlers in Australia OR the U.K. Also, bagels were not really real bagels, but that's not a non-perishable.
This data is 15 years old now, so things might have changed.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:54 AM on March 6, 2007

Sky Bar

If you've got strong teeth and like salty snacks, try Corn Nuts.

Do they have sesame pretzels in NZ?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:00 AM on March 6, 2007

A single bag of Reeses Pieces in about £1.50 (Erm... nearly $3?).

Depending on the size of the bag, that sounds about normal to me. $2.69 or something ridiculous for the size one larger than a handful.
posted by dobbs at 7:09 AM on March 6, 2007

Grits are corn (maize) from which the outside two layers have been removed by soaking in a lye solution--very popular as a hot breakfast cereal in the deep south.
posted by brujita at 7:15 AM on March 6, 2007

Well, since some people apparently have a tendency to be extremely snobbish about US candies, how about some Chile Spiced Mango from Trader Joe's?

Oh, and there's always Cracker Jacks.
posted by exceptinsects at 7:29 AM on March 6, 2007

wild turkey
posted by bruce at 8:03 AM on March 6, 2007

Several women I have known have gone ape for Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. My daughter loves peppermint patties.

You can get Southern Comfort here, and good bourbon - while free spirits are a gracious and tasty present they won't have the novelty factor. Also heavy glass bottles are not great for backpacking.

In general we have different kinds of confectionery here, and the brands we do have in common don't have so many variants so that's a good bet.

It doesn't sound as though you are coming to New Zealand, but if you do, honey, raw fruit and veg, and meat products are verboten at customs. The fines for not declaring them are very severe, so don't try it. Peanut brittle will be ok because it's cooked.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:15 AM on March 6, 2007

Since I recommended a Necco product above, I feel I should warn you away from Necco Wafers. Unless you like lightly-flavored chalk.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:00 AM on March 6, 2007

A can of boiled peanuts. I haven't tried the fresh ones they advertise here but the canned ones are good if you grew up on them and just have to have them. Many Americans aren't familiar with them so it's almost certain they will be new to a Kiwi (and probably disgusting).
posted by Carbolic at 11:54 AM on March 6, 2007

I agree with peanut-buttery things in general. My French flatmate went nuts for PB M&Ms. You might try nabbing some Reeses PB eggs since they're out for the holiday. Somehow, they seem to be even tastier than the original PB cups...mmm.

Stay away from root-beer-flavored anything, though. I was homesick for some Diet A&W in Ireland, and my grandma sent me a bottle and some root beer barrels. I eagerly shared them with my friends (from Ireland and the continent), and they acted as if I'd tried making them eat a live goldfish. Apparently, the flavor is used in medicine (like cherry or bubble gum are in the States). Oh hey--what about goldfish crackers?
posted by monochromaticgirl at 1:38 PM on March 6, 2007

I don't know about New Zealand, specifically, but the thing that struck me most in Europe was the total lack of different flavored pop/soda, i.e. no Mountain Dew, no Dr. Pepper, no 7-Up, just Cola, Cola Light, or Fanta. Or that nasty mineral water stuff. Ick.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2007

To the "American candy is awful/hideous/disgusting" people:

I don't think the point here is to provide an amazing gastronomic experience, it's just a fun cultural exchange. You know, much in the same vein as inflicting vegemite on unsuspecting Americans is.

Speaking personally I don't really care if things are decidedly yucky (and I still consider the day I tasted a Hershey's S'mores bar as one of the worst of my life). It's good fun finding out what "product X", which comes up frequently in US pop culture, actually tastes like.

The same goes for things British, Japanese, Mongolian, et al.

Also, please can people read the replies from New Zealanders stating what we actually have available before suggesting things?
posted by sarahw at 2:08 PM on March 6, 2007

Girl Scout cookies are in season. Samoa cookies are pretty freaking good.
posted by Skwirl at 3:13 PM on March 6, 2007

Since Samoans are a large and significant minority in New Zealand the eponymous cookie is likely to cause particular horror/amusement.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:16 PM on March 6, 2007

WHen I lived in Australia, I couldn't get red licorice (Twizzler or Red Vine kind, that is) and missed it horribly. Friends from Australia just visited last month-or actually, Australian friend and her American bf-and what they were thrilled to have was good Mexican food. Unfortunately, most of that would be impossible to get through customs, but they said that it was impossible to find the ingredients in Oz...

What about something like pralines? They seem very American to me. Salt water taffy...
posted by purenitrous at 7:35 PM on March 6, 2007

Thanks to the miracle of globalisation, we have pralines all the way from Europe here in New Zealand. We also have red liquorice. However, I have no idea what salt water taffy is, so you could be on to something there.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:13 PM on March 6, 2007

so I suggest that you just choose your favourite things and share those with your friend.

I totally agree. Also, just ask your friend. She'll know what she wants to try. We're very Americanised here so have heard of all this stuff, she'll have ideas of things she's interested in.

Still, most of the things suggested in this thread by non-NZers we already have. Herseys are available and I'm sure I've seen Reeces in the occasional place. I've also had salt water taffy, it's a more gourmet item but can be found in the right deli's (it's not that great either). The one type of American candy I love and haven't found an adequate substitute for is Jolly Ranchers. My US friends sometimes send them to me as bribes for things in return and my NZ friends love them too. It's the really strong flavour that appeals.

Keep in mind that to get food into NZ it will need to be basically commercially processed and tightly packaged. Even then something made of fruit (e.g. the strawberries mentioned above), vegetable, grain (no breakfast cereal), honey, meat or similar won't be allowed in. There are good reasons for this and the beagles can smell pretty much anything. If you're planning on eating it with her in Ireland then the options are probably wider.

We don't get Twinkies or their ilk, but this is a good thing. Really really good thing *shudders*.

But really, just pick something that you like and want to share. Even if she's had similar it's the sharing that will make it good. And get her to bring you some Marmite. Black gold, mmm.
posted by shelleycat at 8:37 PM on March 6, 2007

I've been thinking about this some more (and I read the Samoas thread). It's Girl Guide Biscuit time in NZ right now. You guys should do a GuidevScout swap and compare. We certainly don't have anything that looks like the cookies linked in the other thread and it opens conversation about the different organisations in the respective cultures and stuff.
posted by shelleycat at 9:54 PM on March 6, 2007

Saltwater taffy is the candy you eat when you're tired of those fillings and crowns you gave the dentist so much money for. Yanks 'em right out. Tastes good, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:41 AM on March 7, 2007

I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned but, then again, it might be available everywhere: fudge. I feel like that is pretty unique.
Also, chocolate covered dried fruits is pretty American (like the choc. covered figs in Trader Joes).
I haven't seen those really anywhere here in Aus.
posted by shokod at 3:58 AM on March 7, 2007

Fudge? Please. We probably make better fudge than you've ever even dreamed of in your life.

As to soda/pop/softdrinks. I'm sure there are plenty in the US we don't have (I remember a mefi post about a place that made turkey flavoured, and that sort of thing, I haven't seen that here) but there are a lot we do have.

Just off the top of my head...
Coke Zero
Vanilla coke
Lemon coke
Fanta Orange
Fanta raspberry
Fanta lime
mirinda raspberry
mirinda orange
pepsi max
diet pepsi
L&P (which you don't have, suckers.)
mountain dew
irn bru (if you know where to look)
creaming soda
fresh-up everything
bundaberg lemon lime & bitters
bundaberg ginger ale
bundaberg sarsaparilla
bundaberg lemon ale
bundaberg peachee
macs ginger ale
phoenix honey cola
phoenix honey ginger beer
phoenix lemonade
phoenix organic cola
phoenic organic ginger beer
phoenix organic lemon, lime & bitters
phoenix sparkling feijoa
schweppes classic dry lemonade
schweppes ginger ale
schweppes soda & cranberry
schweppes sparkling duet
schweppes sparkling lemon
all those just juice bubbles ones
royal crown draught
etc etc etc

Every single one of these, and no doubt many more (Just thought of a couple more: V, Red Bull) are available at every supermarket in Auckland. (Excepting Irn Bru, which I just threw in for the Brits that wanted to play.)

Point made?

Oh, and pralines are French for Christ's sake.
posted by The Monkey at 4:34 AM on March 7, 2007

Go on, someone say chocolate. Or potato chips. Or beer.
posted by The Monkey at 4:38 AM on March 7, 2007

posted by wackybrit at 5:50 AM on March 7, 2007

Animal crackers. You got those? Oh, yeah - you do.

Slim Jims - godawful solid-preservative spicy "meat" sticks that you have to be half-drunk to eat.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2007

Man, this has turned into a bit of a cranky thread. No offense intended if we accidentally suggest something that is now available in NZ. I've spent a lot of time in Australia and some in NZ and, at that time, there were very significant differences in what was available in those countries vs US. Sometimes candies with the same name were completely different, as well. When friends visit from Australia, I love them to bring blackcurrant candy and Cadbury peppermint rolls. I can get some of that here, but it's really hard. I'd agree with the idea of asking the friend for anything she's been curious about (unless you're going for a surprise)

Re pralines: yes, the word and the culinary concept are French. I'm not a dumbass. The candy that Americans think of is the very-New Orleans/deep south Prawleen, which I think is a completely different thing. Wikipedia has a little info
posted by purenitrous at 9:06 AM on March 7, 2007

Response by poster: I can't believe this thread is still alive, but I'm enjoying the lively debate. Yes, I kinda wanted to surprise her, because I don't want her to feel like she has to reciprocate. She's got a lot of traveling to do and I don't want her to have to lug something around for me. Anyway, I think the following suggestions seem like strong contenders:

jolly ranchers
peanut butter m&ms
peppermint patties
candy corn
see's candy(?)

What about "pop rocks" as a couple people mentioned, oh and cotton candy?
posted by dudiggy at 2:52 PM on March 7, 2007

Pop rocks and cotton candy (we call it candyfloss) will not be novel. But why not? Shelleycat is right.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:22 PM on March 7, 2007

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