Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Five foods I eat more frequently since moving to the USA

The American diet is fascinating. I mean it.

The culinary history of the USA is a tale that parallels the country's socioeconomic past, and it's something I've been really engaged by since moving here. In the near future I'll write much more about some of the stories of American cuisine past and present. For now here's a short list of some things I definitely eat more frequently now that I'm an American resident.

1. Beef
America is cow-grazing country and beef finds its way into many of the meals I eat, from a cold beef sandwich to meatloaf, hamburgers and that old favorite, spag bol. Even the hot dogs are made of beef. Beef is everywhere around me literally, as we are surrounded by farms, including veal farms. My husband says that it's American beef and full-fat milk that turned him into the man he is today. I think that's a moo-t point.

2. Pretzels
Back in the UK pretzels were a Christmas thing - the tastiest part of those 'party snack' pots. Now I live in the pretzel capital of the world where they are a matter of local pride, owing to the local German history.

According to wikipedia, Philadelphians eat twelve times as many pretzels as the average American. Big ones, small ones, soft ones, hard ones, skinny ones, chunky ones, long ones, round ones. Plain, chocolate, yoghurt, cinnamon. In sticks, in pieces, in m&ms. Pretzels in ice cream, in salad, covered in cheese or stuffed with beef. I'm keeping up my Philly quota, for sure.

3. Pickles
When I was a kid, pickles, or gherkins, were the slimy bit of the McDonald's burger you fished out before tucking into a Happy Meal. Now I've cultivated a healthy addiction to pickle spears - I eat them out of the jar. Pickles come in a variety of sizes and marinades and you can buy local options at local farmers' markets. US restaurant food is often served with a giant pickle spear on the side. Sweet, sour, delicious and healthy, kinda. It's the US alternative to a cucumber sandwich.

Corn then and now - from June to September
4. Corn
Again, I'm surrounded by corn, literally! It's been growing by the day since I arrived. Acres and acres of corn fields. Hand painted signs at small intersections advertising Sweet Corn at a local farm. Small un-manned stalls by a farm, stocked up with corn and other produce, with an honesty box to drop your money. Farmers markets. Displays of corn in supermarkets.

But also everything else. The beef is likely corn-fed (unless you buy from a local farm proudly advertising its grass-fed cows). Processed products often contain corn in various guises, including the much maligned High Fructose Corn Syrup. But don't be fooled, the UK calls it fructose-glucose syrup so I probably ate plenty of it before I moved.

I could talk about corn forever, this country depends on it.

5. Fries
It would seem like too much of a stereotype that I was eating more beef and potatoes, ie. Hamburgers and fries! It is true though.

First of all, the BBC America expat blog Mind the Gap is correct when it says restaurant food is cheaper than in the UK. Fries are a staple in basic American cuisine. My husband and I go to local civics meetings and happy hours which are often held in traditional American bars - weak bear, bottomless soda, fried food and good conversation abounds!

Secondly, we often make baked potato wedges at home which is a far healthier alternative. They cook faster than baked potatoes, which is key when the weather's hot and humid.

Of course, they don't quite do fries like the Brits. Fish and chips, that Victorian invention, is tough to find here, and it never quite matches the crispy freshness of the seaside towns of England and Scotland. Southend and St.Andrews, I miss your chips!

Overall, I definitely eat more meat, but otherwise my diet is no more unhealthy (or healthy) than it was before. Now, where's that pickle jar?

 If you're an expat or living abroad, how has your diet changed?


  1. The standard American diet is pretty sad. Hopefully you can find some organic healthy things to snack on too!

    1. Oh yes, absolutely. It's the benefit of living out in the country - the local farmers' markets are great!

  2. love this post!
    I'm italian so I love food...I travel around the world all the year for job and pleasure and the only places where food is sad are USA and France...
    I agree with you!

    1. Wow, I'm surprised you say France - why is that do you think?

      Italian food is phenomenal, but I've had the best Italian food in Italy itself, so I don't get to have that too often ;)

  3. Beef and corn for me as well :) In my home country Germany, you're much more likely to find pork rather than beef on the table and corn is usually of the canned variety. Here in Texas most BBQs will feature beef and corn on the cob. And since the summers are long, there are many, many BBQs. What else.... for sure more low-fat dairy products. It's so hard to find full-fat yogurts and cheeses! I'm ok with the yogurt, but go out of my way to find the real imported cheeses. And I eat lots more beans here than I did in Germany. And fresh spinach. It's featured in so many salads here whereas in Germany it would be much more common to find iceberg lettuce.

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  5. I do miss good European cheeses, though our nearest Wegmans (a big supermarket on the East Coast) has a good cheese counter that I want to check out.

    Sounds like a healthy Texan diet you have there. I think it's actually very easy to eat very well in the USA, it's just that fast food and processed food is very cheap, although here in rural PA the produce is great - not sure what that's like in Texas though?

  6. My husband and I are both American, but he was born in Puerto Rico, so I've probably started eating more rice, beans, and using seasonings that I'd never heard of before (sofrito? Adobo?)

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