Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jon's America II

selfie at Sunday's Redskins/Titans game

Right, I'm here to continue my monthly updates about my amazing time here in the USA - it's now been just over a month and my memories of the old country are slipping away, my accent has gone, and my worldview is changing... just kidding! I'm still very much British and very much enjoying being somewhere where things are familiar yet subtlety different at the same time. This isn't my first time living in a new country - when I was eighteen I spent six months living in rural north Vietnam - so the culture shock isn't what it could be, but it's been great fun being introduced to new traditions. Betsy's already blogged about pumpkin picking, so I shall say no more about that except to say to the UK-familiar Americans who were writing in the comments that carving a pumpkin for Halloween in the UK is just as much of a ritual there as in the US. It's true you won't see much of that going on in London (which is more of a city-state anyway), but get further afield and you'll see it everywhere.

One of the areas in which things seem similar at first glance but reveal real differences the longer you stay here, is grocery stores. I know many of you will be big fans of Trader Joe's and, inevitably, Whole Foods, but I'm talking about the places that most people have to use on a daily basis, the equivalent of Tesco or Sainsbury's in the UK. When you first go into, say, Giant, you see the same stuff - fresh produce near the front, a butchers and a bakery, etc etc. But the longer you stay, the more US stores begin to feel like they saw what nature's bounty could produce, and thought "fuck you, we're making it bigger and trademarking it." Sometimes, that's awesome; I was cooking a roast and needed shallots - and lo and behold, there were giant shallots the size of small onions. That's monstrous, but in a good way.

Same goes for chickens - I don't know what you're feeding them (and probably don't want to), but they're huge! They're also strangely and unnecessarily watery in terms of how they're packed - you tear open the plastic bag and delicious salmonella juice goes flying across the kitchen. But I'm sure that when I'm back in the UK this December, I'll be complaining about how small and expensive the scrawny chickens there are.

In terms of true culture shock, I think one of the main things has got to be junk food. Betsy eats pretty healthily, so keeps me from going off the rails with this stuff, but it has become vitally important to me that I experience all the crap America has to offer. Chips (aka crisps) so far have been a let down. When I left the UK, Walkers were selling pulled pork flavored chips in addition to the usual stuff, like prawn cocktail and roast chicken, and they were amazing - but where's your famed spirit of innovation, America? You basically seem to  have cheesy, spicy, and spicy cheese flavors. More investigation is clearly needed. You do have the UK beat on pop tarts though, as well you should. I've only been casting admiring glances at the dizzying array of choice say far, but will update when I finally decide which ones to get. And as for the long-fought Cadbury's/Hershey's debate? I'm not even going to touch that one; I feel like expressing the wrong allegiance could get me deported. I will warn you of this, though - the stuff branded as Cadbury's here is a lie - it's made by Hershey's under license. Caveat emptor...

19 comments:

  1. Classic strawberry with frosting is always a good choice. S'mores and Oreo flavored are also quite exquisite.
    -Colleen

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  2. Cadbury's for the win!

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  3. You need to go to the Target in Columbia Heights for some innovative potato chip flavors! They were carrying the limited edition Lay's (not sure if they're there anymore) with flavors like cappuccino, wasabi ginger, mango salsa, and bacon mac and cheese. Actually, now that I write this out I think those were for a competition that's now over...

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  4. I'm with you on our chickens/salmonella juice (ew) and your Cadbury's... and though I generally wouldn't touch them these days, you've got me seriously craving the strawberry with frosting Poptarts of my youth.

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  5. Oh man, dive into the Pop-tart arena soon! Hopefully, you won't be disappointed because they are so good! I've always heard that the Cadbury we are offered here isn't the same so it's on my bucket list to get across seas and taste the good stuff in all it's glory!

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  6. I think we've definitely gotten better on the chip flavors recently, but prawn flavored chips just do not sound appetizing at all! I'm much more of a fan of dips to accent my lightly salted potato crisps.

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  7. I agree start with the basics as they are so good!

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  8. So true about the chickens, in Sweden they are so nicely packaged and even have the legs sitting all delicately crossed unlike in the US with all the aforementioned juices and guts!
    In terms of junk food I think it is key to try all sorts to find your go to bad day kind of treat. Not sure if they are only a west coast thing but if you come across Have'a Corn Chips I strongly suggest trying them as they have a really good unique flavor.

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  9. Georgia ChristakisOctober 23, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    FYI, regarding the chickens- it's the steroids ;-)

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  10. I'm with you on all of that! I avoid the huge chickens at all costs...just plain wrong. I never ate pop tarts in the UK (apart from when I did the Duke of Edinburgh as a kid) but have a real urge to buy them here, probably because of the flavours - S'mores anyone? And the chocolate - it's Cadbury's all the way!! Whatever you do don't buy what claims to be Cadbury's mini eggs at Easter...they Hershey licence means they're definitely not the same. I've already experienced that disappointment! Glad you're settling in well! X

    And pulled pork Walkers - these I need to try!!

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  11. Haha, I have the exact reverse with chips/crisps and was horrified to see prawn,chicken,steak flavoured ones the first time!

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  12. HAHA My mom always joked that the farmers gave the chicken steroids and that's why I'm tall (I'm 5'7" compared to 5'1"--my mom's height). Also, I loved Walkers crips when I was in England for vacation. They beat Lays any day! Also, I hope Betsy took you or will take you to Ted's Bulletin for their homemade Pop Tarts--they're AMAZING!

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  13. My favorite sentence: "you tear open the plastic bag and delicious salmonella juice goes flying across the kitchen." This is extremely true. Jordan (my husband) CLAIMS I gave him salmonella once. I think we have agreed to disagree about this for the rest of our married lives. Also, you're right about the flavors of chips, although you left of BBQ flavor, which is definitely a thing.

    Please keep writing about your America. I love it!

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  14. Also, Re: pop-tarts flavors. My favorite is the brown sugar/cinnamon.

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  15. Yeah, the watery chickens are because after they're killed they're pumped full of salt water for preservation/size… gotta shell out for pasture raised organic to avoid that. And that's DEFINITELY more expensive than in England, sorry. We used to get average 5lb pasture-raised organic chickens from a nearby farm shop for £5, but here we're very lucky to find a sale for $2.50/lb.
    And US chocolate is crap, but that's not news to anyone! Admittedly, though, I'm not a big fan of Cadbury's other than Bournville, but that's because I won't touch milk chocolate.
    We have some stuff better than the UK… umm… hmm.. give me a second… Mellow Mushroom! It's delicious!
    And bagels! We have better bagels!

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  16. My favorite potato chips are paprika, which I've only found in Europe. France and Norway had them, so I assume they're common in all European countries...? Whenever I go to a grocery store with a good international section, I scan all the chip selections to see if I can find paprika. Alas, no such luck...


    You haven't experienced American junk food until you've gone to Jack-in-the-Box around 2am and ordered a selection of fried snacks to share. I haven't done that since college, but it was a ritual with my best friend after a hard night of studying.

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  18. You want a good chip flavor, come to Spain. They have ham-flavored chips!! (They're not bad.)


    Our chickens are huge, and it's scary, after having lived in Europe for a while. Not a good sign, I don't think!


    (I can't wait for my husband to have all these observations when we move there.)

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  19. I'm with him on the whole scandal over Cadbury in America being made by Hershey's....it's a crime against humanity.

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