When you hear “America”, what foods come to mind? When I first visited the United States in 2009, I was overwhelmed by how food here differed from the Russian diet: lots of new products, interesting dishes and weird flavor combinations. After living in Chicago for two years, I decided to put together the list of American foods and traditions that I, as a foreigner, still find weird.
- Steak for Breakfast. Being from Siberia, I love meat. But the idea of steak for breakfast is a bit too much even for me, especially when you consider the size of portions. In America, they're way bigger, and sometimes simply gigantic compared to those on the other side of the world.
- Barbeque Culture. Barbeque sauce with everything! Actually, I really like this tradition. Russians, sadly, don't barbeque the way they do in the U.S. Maybe it's the weather, or maybe we don't have good barbeque sauce like Cowtown's that rocks sales at The Chopping Block.
- Burgers. It's not like burgers only exist only the U.S., but the number of the places where you can find them is astounding: Epic Burger, Burger King, Philosophy of Burger - you name it Burger. And there are so many different kinds of burgers. To a foreigner, it's almost as if, for Americans, burgers are their own food group.
- Bacon on Everything! When the rest of the world thinks of the U.S. we think of “the cult of bacon.” A friend from my hometown visited this past spring, and he kept asking if I put bacon on this or in that, because “Bacon with everything” sounds like a true American principle. I mean, really? Bacon with ice cream?
- Sweet Potatoes. For my American husband, sweet potatoes are a normal holiday side dish. While I was living in Saint-Petersburg and Skyping with him, my roommate came over to say "Hi." When she saw my husband peeling these giant orange potatoes, she just stood there in front of the computer screen and stared. She has started a legend in Saint-Petersburg about this amazing, impossible-to-find-in-Russia, American, orange potato.
- Red Velvet Cake. When I first saw Red Velvet Cake, I thought that it was a sponge cake dyed red and topped with buttercream frosting; turns out I was mistaken.
- Jelly Beans. You won't find jelly beans at a Russian Halloween party - ever.
- Peanut Butter. Did you know that peanut butter does not exist in most other parts of the world? Only two of my friends from back home have ever tried it. So, what do we eat on our sandwiches instead? Nutella.
- We need to talk about American bread. When I first bought bread in the supermarket, I was a bit surprised to discover that it tasted sweet. No, not like actual “sweet bread” or pastries. American breads, like wheat, rye, and white bread, are much sweeter here. However, this surprise was nothing like the shock of opening my friend's freezer and seeing a loaf of frozen bread. In Russia, you do not do this; the whole point of bread is to be eaten fresh, just baked, still warm.
- Passion Fruit and Dragon Fruit. We don't import a lot of exotic fruit in Russia, especially Siberia. Or maybe because Russia doesn't have it's own Hawaii.
What about you? If you aren't from here, are there any foods you find strange? I'd love you to add to my list.