Monday, July 18, 2011

Back to Food

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 √Čtats-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.

11 comments:

Anne said...

We have some pretty great food available to us here in Italy and after a year and a half, we still miss some American stuff! We are with you on the Reese's, we also miss marshmallows and Dorito's and Lucky Charms! And Chick-fil-A. We DO talk about food a lot because we like to eat!!!

Anonymous said...

When we were in Germany(thousands of years ago)I remember Hot Dogs being in jars.EUUUUUWWWWW. I refused to eat them. I didn't know you liked pop tarts, What Kind???

Anonymous said...

After spending 3 weeks in India and being in Nepal twice, the things I missed most were ice cold diet coke and decent Italian food.

Dan and Pam Johnson said...

I miss poptarts (the no icing brown sugar and cinommon ones), pepperoni (but can you believe it I actually saw pepperoni in Aleems the other day. The lady next to me and I were shocked but both of us were going out of town and with power outages we didn't want to chance losing it while we were gone.), Chick-fil-A, Hersey Kisses to just name a few.

Michael & Joe Joe said...

Anne - Ooh Chick-fil-a! The restaurant list would require entire pages. I think we've narrowed it down to our top 30 or so... but Chick-fil-a is definitely in the top 10. Our French friends don't understand how we could like a resto so much that just sells chicken sandwiches and nuggets! A former coworker friend of ours gave us a recipe to make chick-fil-a at home. We haven't tried it yet, but when we do and if it works, we'll post it up here for sure!

Michael & Joe Joe said...

Mama S - We were in Germany last week, and the supermarket there was filled with jarred hot dogs swimming in liquid. Half of them were marked 'American-style'. I think their marketing director needs to take a trip to Kroger.

I'll eat most pop-tarts, but I'm partial to the cin/br sugar and the strawberry. And any that aren't 'low-fat'.

Michael & Joe Joe said...

Anon - you are so right about ice-cold drinks! Are Americans the only people in the world that use ice in our drinks? Seem to be.

You know, it's interesting now having lived abroad a lot, we latch onto a couple favorites everywhere we go. If we ever leave France, I don't know how I'll live without daily fresh bread and pain-au-chocolat. And I do miss chipatis, samosas, and roasted corn from East Africa!

Michael & Joe Joe said...

Pam - No way?! Pepperoni in TZ? That's fantastic! Now what are the chances you'll find mozzarella at the same time?

Anonymous said...

In Nepal and Burkina Faso I missed cold milk, dr. pepper, food bought in stores that wasn't stale, JIF peanut butter, ice (especially in Burkina), and a hamburger made with beef not water buffalo or dog.

-paul

Michael & Joe Joe said...

Sure Paul, complain about the water buffalo. Everyone's got one. Yours is fast, mine slow. But they all go down easy between two sesame seed buns.

Michael & Joe Joe said...

I always miss my mama's country cooking the most: creamed corn, buttermilk cornbread, green beans etc. I've tried duplicating with what I can find where I am but it never comes out right.... I'm getting over missing my favorite candies and chocolates because I've learned to love the specialties where I am i.e. cadbury in TZ and hello! France/Europe chocolates!. I guess what I would really enjoy is an organic foods supermarket like Whole Foods or Trader Joes. Ones that aren't too ridicously pricey but makes it easier to find better for you easy food options. Or a warehouse style supermarket like Costco or Sam's. But... we love our little tiny city markets and their accessibility. We didn't have that in the states!

Joe Joe