How different is everyday American food for Australians?

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!

    “Intense dark”, as this particular variant is called, is an understatement. Dark chocolate here is very, very bitter due to high cocoa (cacao) level. At 86%, you have to wonder if this level is actually toxic! It certainly tastes like it. Definitely an acquired taste.

  •  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.

    Starbucks coffee is our usual choice if nothing else is around. Here you can see how well-entrenched the Dunkin’ Donuts brand is, when even their customers are called by that sweet title! You gotta laugh…

  •  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.

    American potato bread. Yeah! you heard me right.. Bread made from potato. Very inventive indeed. Should I ask if this was introduced by the Irish?

  • 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?

    Even so called ‘healthy’ cereal has sugar coating added to it. See the bottom of the box: “lightly sweetened”

  • 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 🙁

    American pork sausages. This is the most popular type of sausage eaten here although turkey and chicken sausages are also eaten frequently.

  •  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.

    Admittedly this is pre-cooked bacon but you can see from the picture that they like it well done here! At least you won’t get worms..

  •  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.

    American beef brisket

  •  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.

    Hellmans mayonnaise, an iconic American brand and the inventor of mayonnaise? That’s what they say anyway.

  • 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.

    Not sure this is really the cheese they eat in Mexico but it sure tastes OK on tacos. The yellow colour is certainly due to American cheddar.

  •  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!

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11 thoughts on “How different is everyday American food for Australians?

  1. Loving all this having just returned from our six week visit. Have you noticed that ALL the bread has high fructose corn syrup added to it?
    The meat tasted delicious every where we went. Diners were the best!

    Keep them coming please.

    • Lovely you could drop in Claudia! I haven’t checked the levels of corn syrup but suspected it by the taste. the bread has been one of our bugbears since we’ve been here-it’s just so different to back home. However, we’ve now adjusted to eating Italian bread which is just that much nicer… Will be doing an article on diners very shortly actually! you read my mind!

  2. Hi,
    We relocated to Northern NJ 12 months ago, and have been in Montclair since June 2012, love the town.
    If I could add my 10 cents worth regarding the food in the forum.
    The meat is good quality (especially if it is certified, beef that is at least), pork is plentiful and cheap, I have recently discovered pulled pork, at about $1.50 per pound, a shoulder of pork goes a long way, check is fine, lamb is cheap at Costco (Australian boned legs, about $6.00 per pound, cheaper than Aust).
    I hear you on the sausages, everything is sweet italian, or hot italian (not that hot), but both laden with fennel seeds, nice but after a while get a bit boring.
    I have not bought a loaf of bread in 6 months, as I make my own, but had a disaster with hot cross buns, so might be buying those!
    I’ll check the other posts and add some comments. I just came across this site, and it is a breath of fresh air.
    Well done to you.
    Chris.

    • We’ve been here 3 years now, and still haven’t found out all there is to know. I’m constantly drilling for more info from local and expat friends here. We love the town too! Absolutely great place in so many ways. Unfortunately our kids don’t like pork too much and since the older one is a vegetarian it just makes it that much tougher.Thanks for the Costco tip. I think that’s a place we should have been going to but haven’t, much to my shame. Heard good things from so many people. We like lamb so I think Costco’s going to be on next week’s shopping agenda. I am yet to rty out Trader Joes which my lovely American friend (thanks D if you are reading this BTW) has also told me about. I am planning on hitting Clifton for these as I know both are there. Really enjoyed all your comments and hoep you’ll come back for a chat again! Cheers:)

  3. Hi, I recently moved from Aussie to USA. Can you recommend a sugar free / no high fructose corn syrup preferably white bread? I just can’t seem to get a taste for American bread.
    Also. I really miss Aussie sausages too

    • Hi Tania,
      definitely with you on the sausages thing. I have barely eaten any US bangers since arriving, and only get the Aussie ones on home trips on rare occasions. I do not know of any bread that meets your request. Best idea would be a search online or ring a dietician. They can usually tell you healthy types of bread available. Otherwise its a search by product instore. We dislike the sweet taste but put up with it out of necessity. Personally I have taken up eating spouted bread which is lower in carbs overall and I think has at least less sugary taste. They sell this fresh (that’s a relative term here-means unfrozen) in Trader Joes and less commonly in the major supermarkets.

      I do not eat as much bread here anymore due to this sugary taste, and makes vegemite on toast a different experience as well-less pleasant:( You adjust though over time and appreciate home all the more!
      Cheers
      Anne Marie

  4. Hey, I was wondering if you had any recommendations for snacks from the USA that you would want to send back to Australia for people to try. I am looking to buy some food items for a friend in Australia but don’t want to buy something that they could easily get themselves!

  5. Jessica Forrester says:

    I find Italian Bread from Walmart is the most like Aussie bread, not sweet and has a nice chew.

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