LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: I know you must be thinking “she’s kidding right? Everyday American food? How different could it really be? It’s not like she’s in upper Mongolia!”
True enough. We don’t have any exotic stories about eating chicken entrails or monkey brains here in New Jersey. Nevertheless, all of us found eating here, even everyday food staples, quite different than what we’d expected.
Of course there are lots of foods that are the same. Surprisingly, though there are many that aren’t. These include:
- Chocolate: They do have similar types of chocolate here to Australia – at least in name. Dark chocolate is especially interesting as it is very different from back home. Here it is made with a very high level of cacao (cocoa bean) added. You can buy it in different concentrations depending on your taste and I do use that word very loosely here. Even milk chocolate is not particularly sweet. Hersheys, a big maker of chocolates in the USA, has a bitter after taste compared with something like Cadburys. It’s all relative to your experience though, as an American friend who tasted some Cadburys told me, it was too cloyingly sweet. Funny but that’s what I love about it!
- Coffee: Americans are big brewed coffee drinkers, having it for breakfast and all day long in some cases. Brewed coffee here is very strong; you could stand a spoon up in it most times. Dunkin’ Donuts is a popular brand of everyday coffee. Still available but not as frequently is the lighter espresso coffee that is common in Australia. Starbucks here, is the most common provider. Australian espresso is milder and smoother than here. I guess the locals would find our coffee boring.
- Bread: White bread here is hugely different in taste and texture. While fresh Australian bread is spongy, light and very tasty, US bread is stiffer, never goes moldy (so one assumes high levels of preservatives?), tears easily when buttering, and has a sweet, corn taste. There are also different breads here that just aren’t made in Australia, for instance potato bread. I never realized you could even make bread from potatoes. Sourdough bread is popular here too.
- Cereal: Product packaging is very similar to Australia, though the contents aren’t the same. Special K for instance is made of something completely different. Most of the brands have added sugar, usually as frosted coating on the cereal which of course makes them very sweet. Consumers here must like this, otherwise why would it be so widespread?
- Sausages: Virtually no beef sausages exist here that can be barbequed. Only German sausages or hotdogs are made of beef. Everything else is pork, turkey or chicken. I miss them 🙁
- Bacon: Americans seem to like it very well cooked (what we’d call overcooked) so that it’s crunchy and the bacon usually is quite fatty which helps the crunchy bit quite a lot. Cooked bacon, served in restaurants is also like this, so it meets local tastes no doubt.
- Red Meat: Aside from lamb being less common and very expensive (it’s often imported from Australia), there are lots of different cuts of meat available. Beef here is pretty high quality and from my view, it seems pretty cheap compared to Australia. The meat types include beef, veal, pork and turkey. Aside from the usual stuff we have bought at home, cuts of meat can include ribs, brisket, pot roasts, loin roasts, trotters, tongues and so many others I have never seen before. There is almost no part of an animal that isn’t eaten it seems. This is great from a waste avoidance view but feels a bit horrific to squeamish folk like me.
- Mayonnaise: American mayonnaise is creamier and less tangy than ours (way less tangy). It’s depends on what you are used to but the lack of tanginess makes it harder to appreciate. Mayonnaise is used a lot! No matter where you go, people ask if you want it added to your sandwich, and it often gets added without your request, to things like hamburgers and Lebanese shwarma rolls.
- Cheese: Cheddar cheese here is bright yellow. I must be the last person to realize that’s why McDonalds burger cheese in Australia is that colour. They do have ‘white’ cheddar as it’s called but of course that’s a bit different too. Wonderfully here, they have a big range of everyday cheeses that we just don’t have back home. These include Monterey Jack, Provolone, Pecorino Romano, Mexican cheese (a mix of others) and Muenster. Funnily enough brie cheese is very, very popular but you need a private eye to help you find a bit of camembert. Go figure! Feta is also popular but consumer demand here is for a pre-crumbled version that can be sprinkled on the salad as is. Very convenient.
- Milk is different here but mostly due to the addition of Vitamin D and A. This is a great idea because most people in this type of climate wouldn’t get enough Vitamin D from sunlight during the cold months, so this should help overcome the problem. It tastes a bit different from at home but nothing too hard to adjust to.The milk comes in No Fat, 1% fat, 2% fat and full fat versions. There are many, many types of standard milk alternatives available as well. I have trouble understanding what all these other products offer beside milk. Boy, I sound like an old geezer already, don’t I?
Despite these differences, we seem to have acclimatized and even now eat the local bread. The hardest time is when you first arrive and the tastes from home are still fresh in your mind.
However, even the most stubborn of us has converted to these foods (except for local chocolate). They’ll make Americans of us yet!