Things I Miss



Here is an actual photo I sent to someone who was returning from the States with peanut butter for me.

Here is an actual photo I sent to someone who was returning from the States with peanut butter for me.

The Quest for Peanut Butter


Perhaps you thought that I would print a recipe for peanut butter here. The title is rather deceptive. Actually, I’m going to relate an ongoing experience I’ve had here in Russia, which will be difficult for people other than American expats to relate to.
The constant search for peanut butter consumes a disproportionate share of an expat’s time here in Russia. I’m sure that in Moscow, it’s quite possible to find American style peanut butter without any problems; but I’m not in Moscow, and it’s a long way to travel to buy this.

Whenever I meet up with another American here in Chelyabinsk, within minutes, the conversation invariably turns to the “quest” for peanut butter. Popular is the person who can direct this other American toward a place to buy this uniquely American taste treat.
When you live in the States you really don’t need to give this subject any of your valuable time, but if you look in your cabinets, it’s likely that you will find a jar or two. When you want more; you needn’t make trips all over the city to find it. You merely put it on the shopping list for the next time you need food.
Here in Russia there is a product that would be translated as “peanut butter”, but it’s not the same at all. I’m not trying to disparage this product that Russian children may also crave, but the only similarity to American peanut butter is the translated name.
Whether you prefer “creamy”, “chunky”, “extra chunky”, “natural”, “low sodium” or whatever, you never realize how much we Americans love this stuff until you are separated from it. Believe me; when you are making a list of things to bring to Russia for the first time, peanut butter will not be on that list, but the next year when you travel back to the States for a visit, you’ll be calculating how many jumbo jars you’ll be able to fit within your baggage allowance.
When you return to Russia with your prized jars, at first you swear that you will really use it sparingly, no more than a tan stain on your bread in order to make it last. But, before you know it you are pounding it down with a tablespoon, and to hell with milk to go with it; this might dilute the taste. What you thought you could nurse for the next year, is gone in less than two months.
Another thing; if your spouse or roommate here is Russian, do your best to convince them that it tastes awful. Perhaps mixing a teaspoon of salt with the sample spoonful of peanut butter that they ask for will also accomplish this on its own. You see, I wasn’t thinking and let my wife try it without adding anything to destroy the taste, and she also developed a taste for it. So now I’m resigned to spending twice the time on the unrewarding search. Actually, I’m happy she likes it, this way I’m able to use up her baggage allowance with jumbo jars also. Due to not so frequent trips to the States and also miserly baggage allowances, I’ve had to resort to desperate measures in order to obtain even 30% of my peanut butter requirements. Not long ago, an acquaintance of ours told us how her son had been hit by a car while riding his bicycle in America and how the proposed insurance settlement would not even cover his hospital bills. I interceded on his behalf and was able to have the settlement increased substantially. My charge for this? Several jars of peanut butter payable on his return.

Here in Chelyabinsk I am able to find it in a few locations. This is imported peanut butter, but from somewhere in Europe. European cuisine is known as wonderful, but they don’t know crap about making peanut butter. In a pinch it will do though, when you are really desperate you will pay the $5 for the microscopic jars that it comes in; not much bigger than a baby food jar. It’s not quite as good as the worst generic brand in the States, but still worlds better than the local variety.
Recently a Metro brand supermarket opened here in Chelyabinsk, and I’m told that they carry large jars of American style peanut butter. The problem is that you have to belong to a member organization to shop there. I’m thinking about setting up a shell company to accomplish this task. Actually, I know people who are members and I should just ask them to pick some up for me, but part of me enjoys the search I suppose, and then I’ll need to find something else to occupy my free time. Besides, if I did go there and find that this was just a cruel rumor, I don’t know if I could handle it emotionally.

     Well……… I guess I could always start to search for Fluff.
2011 Update
      I was finally able to become a member of Metro (the discount shopping club) back in 2009 and have since that time been able to enjoy having a stock of peanut butter at home. The price is high though, about $11 a jar, but money has no value when you desire peanut butter and have none. The availability to purchase it here has also had an impact on my baggage whenever I’m returning from America. This lack of peanut butter weight in addition to the lack of book weight (due to my use all the time now of a Kindle) has resulted in my being able to bring back a lot of other taste treats such as Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Milano cookies. I also like to bring back 4 or 5 blocks of nice two year old cheddar cheese. The stuff called cheddar here is not even in the same ballpark as the real deal.

13 thoughts on “Things I Miss

  1. for all who’re missing their favourite staple, our small moscow-based production offers all natural nutbutters, such as creamy and crunchy peanuts, roasted almond, raw and roasted cashew butters, no additives at all

  2. Fascinating. Please write more. How good is your Russian? Do you work? Where? How are your coworkers? What about the meteriote? Dachas? Sauna? Mushroom picking? Blini? Pickled tomatoes? Cow candy? I have dozens of things I want to know.

    • Donna,

      I don’t really maintain this site much now, but I do have a podcast I do every week. I’m up to number 87 I believe and I cover most of the questions that you had in these podcasts. The podcast is located at and you can go there and peruse what I’ve done to date.

      • Hi Donna Again,

        On my podcast site, you may be interested to hear the podcast I made the day after the meteor explosion and yes, I definitely experienced this once in a lifetime experience. You can listen to this one at:
        I also launched an internet radio station at where I’m mainly trying to produce talk programs in English with different Russian hosts on various topics.

  3. is where Ill be putting my Russia experiences…….

    I have just started reading this and of course, the first place I had to go to is ‘The things I miss’……I am SO GLAD I did!!!! I am heading to Costco now and will be sure to get MANY LARGE jars of Pbutter! I LOVE Pbutter and wouldn’t know what I would do without it.

    Yes, I am headed to Russia on business. I will be there for the next couple of years with fly-homes every 3 months or so…….I will continue reading the information on this site prior to heading out to Costco in case there are other items I may ‘MISS” while I’m in Russia. I have been told to be sure to bring Tylenol and NyQuil as the Russian placebo of those items are basically nil or completely useless.

    If there’s anything else I’ll need, please post and I will read them all. I ALWAYS remember to take my Charmin with me to India!!!!!!!!!

    • Hi Anna,

      Actually, I get saltines here in Russia. I buy them at Metro. They are not saltines brand, but they are certainly saltines. If you are interested let me know and I’ll send you a photo of the package they come in.

  4. I went to Russia back in 1995 — spent a whole summer there, mostly in Siberia (Barnaul). A friend who had gone the previous summer suggested bringing peanut butter, so I did. I broke it out after heading up to the Altai Mountains after about a month of strictly Russian cuisine. Some of my Russian friends had heard of it, but never had it. Some of them were timid to try it, and when one finally did, her initial reaction was, to her friends, “yeah, it’s OK.” By the next morning, the jar — brand new when I broke it out the night before — was completely empty!

    So, is peanut butter still a rarity? I am going back to Russia for the first time in 20 years this summer, but I will be exclusively in St. Petersburg, and will be just vacationing for the month. Should I pack away a jar of Skippy, or trust that I can find it in SPB with relative ease?

    • Hi Paul,

      Things are now different on the peanut butter front. You’ll be able to find peanut butter here without any problems. If your friends in Saint Pete don’t know where to get
      , there is a large supermarket located just about everywhere in Russia called “Metro Cash and Carry” and this place does carry it. The American brand they carry is called “Hy Top” Peanut Butter and it comes in Creamy and Crunchy. I go there twice a month, primarily to stock up on PB, plus they carry some good sized jars of Jelly also.

      Have a great time in SPB this summer; I’m headed there for a few weeks in July with my family also.

  5. I was in Russia with my wife for about a year in 2007 and the same goes for American style yellow mustard. I could not find it anywhere, and with the quantity of sausages on the market in Russia, I needed some mustard. I made a trip to Mongolia to renew my Visa once, and alas, I found a container of French’s Mustard in the local grocery. I bought the biggest one they had and took it back with me, and introduced it to my wife’s family.

    Are you still in Russia? If so, I would like to chat about the possibility of us moving back and some issues we are concerned with.

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