A friend here in France says that every long conversation with Americans eventually ends talking about food. While there are other things we miss and compare from one culture to the next, food’s perhaps the most prominent. He’s right.
Last week was American food week at Lidl, a local German-origin grocery story that rotates one aisle for different specialities from around the world every couple weeks. Once a year they send out the “Bienvenue aux États-Unis” invites and stock a shelf with an unheard-of brand of ‘American’ products. Sadly, I was out of the country when the stock went up and didn’t get there until today, finding basically nothing of worth left over. Some of the great items that can’t otherwise be easily found here were dried cranberries, marshmallows, jelly beans, and American salad dressings. Photos of some favorites from the advert are below:
American hotdogs. I’m an American. I eat hot dogs. I’ve never in my life bought hot dogs in a jar, swimming in liquid. You?
Popcorn. Usually already popped and bagged (or bucketed). More often garnished with sugar than with salt or butter. Ewww.
Muffins. YES! This is why I scour the Lidls on American week. I love muffins. And these are good. Last year I bought one box, made them, and then went back and bought the 26 that remained. As I was checking out a French lady in line asked me if they were good. There’s 26 boxes in my shopping cart. Are they good? Gee, you think? This year I found one box left.
Milkshakes. Or the German spelling of Milch-shakes as they are listed here. This is a rant of mine. Sorry France, I love you but your milkshakes stink. 3 parts milk, 1 part ice, 1 part flavoring, and 1 miniscule part ice cream does not make a milkshake. And $6-7 for that? These are cheaper, spelled in German, and advertised as American, maybe there’s a chance.
Sauces. These make me chuckle. I have no idea what the ‘Sandwich Sauce’ is. ‘Ketchup BBQ’? No thanks. And then ‘Hot Dog Ketchup’, which is funny because every supermarket in France sells Heinz Ketchup. That is what we put on hot dogs, so...
I have another friend who is French but preparing for a move to the USA in the near future. He recently told me the things that he will miss most from France: coffee, wine, olives, and cheese. And he’s right... the US cheese selection is totally different, wines too. The olives will be different. And the coffee one is interesting, because there are about 5 billions coffees available in every US suburb, most of them better quality than the typical French coffee. But it’s different. Here coffee is an experience, a conversation centerpiece, a cultural norm; not a product.
What about you? Imagine moving away from the USA or whatever country you live in. What food items would you miss the most? For me, it’s buffalo wings, mexican food, Dr Pepper, Mt Dew, and Reese’s. And Pop-Tarts. And muffins.