Study abroad is a great experience. Learn new things, meet new people, have new experiences; yada, yada, yada. But what's really the highlight? The food, of course. Be it with gelato in Italy or paneer in India, one of the best ways to experience culture is through the stomach. But this isn't about all of the unfamiliar food sampled on my study abroad struggle in Mar del Plata, Argentina. This is about a New Yorker's stomach struggle, thousands of miles away from home and away from the comfort foods I love. 

Don't get me wrong, Mar del Plata is great, but NYC is the greatest city in the world, and that goes for the food too. So if you ever feel like a trip to the sun and sea of MdP, don't forget to 1) brush up on your Spanish, and 2) consider smuggling the following staples:

Peanut Butter

chocolate, butter, peanut, peanut butter
Jocelyn Hsu

While Argentina is among the top producers of peanuts, peanut butter is as hard to come by as a NYC parking spot. The Argentines have dulce de leche coming out of their ears, but if you ask for a good old PB & J, they'll look at you like you have a million heads, regardless of how good your Spanish is.

Bagels

bagels

Muffet on Flickr

There's nothing like an everything bagel with lox on a lazy Sunday morning. Though smoked salmon is pretty common in Argentina (one bar had smoked salmon with cold mashed potatoes??), bagels are not. The carb of choice here is the Medialuna, a mini sugar-glazed croissant. And if there are bagels hiding somewhere, I'm still sure they have nothing on NYC's best.

To-Go Containers That Actually Work

New Yorkers eat, live, and breathe take-out. People are more dedicated to their Seamless accounts than to their relationships nowadays. Take-out, or 'para llevar' is a thing down South, but not to the same extent, and with one huge issue: the containers. A friend on the same study abroad struggle literally squealed of joy when her rice came in a container that actually came with a lid, because it only happened once during the whole month-long trip. In Argentina, take-out simply comes with a piece of plastic and a prayer that contents won't spill.

Iced Coffee

cream, milk, tea, coffee, ice
Alex Frank

No matter the weather or season, iced coffee is always a good idea. That said, it's better during the summer months, with all of the goodness of coffee preserved, just cold. But for some reason, this hasn't translated well, because in Mar del Plata, the closest counterpart is café helado: essentially coffee and ice cream–similar to a frap–this drink typically comes with some form of dulce de leche involved. Delicious? Yes. Pure sugar? Also yes. How hard is it to make cold coffee with a drop of milk?

Vegan/Vegetarian Options

stir-fry, tomato, broccoli, carrot, onion, pepper, vegetable
Christin Urso

Living in NYC does not mean that kale smoothies and vegan lasagna are dietary staples, but it is nice to have them as an option. While Argentina is known for their steak, which, granted, tastes great, sometimes all you want is a lentil burger or a hunk of tofu. Here, most things vegetarian-friendly are filled with carbs or cheese–both great things, but the body needs plain vegetables every once in a while.

Fast Service

Time is money, and in NYC, everyone walks so fast it seems the cost has been calculated down to single sidewalk squares. In Argentina, and generally everywhere else, this is not the case. The lax attitude shows itself most clearly in restaurant service. While some New Yorkers walk out if food isn't out within 20 minutes, in Mar del Plata, you're lucky if even drinks are out after half an hour. This is meant to allow for the custom of sobremesa, which is the chatting that comes with the meal as a social experience, but come on, I ordered a single empanada.