Last week I read a Los Angeles Times article about Central Americans and their boxes of Pollo Campero, filling airline cabins with the aroma of deep-fried chicken on flights to LAX.
Apparently, this has been going on for years. Relatives who would otherwise avoid freeway traffic gladly brave rush hour to pick up their chicken-carrying kin.
Never mind that Pollo Campero outlets exist in the US. The chain has sold more than 3 million to-go orders a year through outlets at airports in Guatemala and El Salvador.
The authentic taste of home is key, and native eaters can’t be fooled. Try a Big Mac or a Coke in a foreign country and you’ll know what I mean. The packaging is the same; the product is not. Plus, you’ll have to ask for ice.
Before Krispy Kreme branched out to the world, doughnut lovers were known to carry boxes of the confections with them, much to the delight of recipients on the West Coast, who were Kreme-less until 2006.
Sundrop and Cheerwine are two other Tarheel products that have been considered delicacies in far-flung locales. Many a can and bottle traveled across the country when the Southeast had the corner on the market.
A former flight attendant told me that she was known to bring babkas from a favorite Jewish bakery to NC. I couldn’t blame her; the brioche-style sweet bread is definitely worth toting.
Another friend from New Jersey was partial to Tasty Kakes, those packaged pastries that originated in Philadelphia. The treats she remembered from childhood were something worth smuggling south—before they were available in stores across Catawba County.
As a college student in Missouri in the 1970s, I remember having orders to bring home Coors beer when I drove to Kansas University one weekend. Coors was not distributed east of Kansas City, thus the clamor for Coors. Now that this beer is available most everywhere, it’s hard to believe that Coors was once the Holy Grail of beers.
Which brings me to the point of scarcity. Products are highly prized when they’re hard to find. Take fiddleheads, for example. It may come as a shock, but wild fern sprouts are considered a delicacy in parts of New England. I was introduced to this fact spending time in Vermont where fiddleheads were available in grocery stores—fresh, canned and pickled. A friend educated me on this, describing fiddleheads as a cross between asparagus and broccoli stems. Um, yummy.
I brought some canned varieties home for the heck of it. I didn’t rush back for more.
One thing I would like to have, though, is an In-N-Out burger. I’m not that big a burger eater, but if I ever find myself out West again, I’ll make a bee line to one of those restaurants. I couldn’t blame someone for toting a box of those East.
At the same time, I know folks who will stop at nothing to snag a bite from Bojangle’s. People make a point to visit the Charlotte-based eatery first thing when they arrive n NC.
Once a woman stopped me in the airport for directions--to Bojangle’s. From her wild-eyed look, I knew she was on a short layover and desperate for one of their famous biscuits.
Bojangles now has two locations: Concourse B for years and Concourse D/E. Remember that if you ever fly again.
Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at email@example.com