There are certain foods that we Americans just gravitate towards — like juicy burgers, crispy fries, and stacked ice cream cones. For the most part, these foods tend to be popular worldwide, and they’re staples that even the most jaded of travelers can enjoy when they visit the States.
In the same fashion, there are foods that my Australian roommate introduced me to which definitely made me scratch my head at first. I’ve made it my mission to give you the first glimpse into these cultural food differences, so here we go.
American Foods That Freak Out Aussies
Why we love it: Few things come closer to heavenly perfection than peanut butter. Whether you like it crunchy or perfectly smooth, peanut butter is both sweet and salty, easy to pack, and high in protein.
It pairs nicely with our favorite snack foods (celery, crackers, sliced apples, etc.) and can be used in a variety of fun meals. Not only does it taste good, it’s also versatile AF and is great for on-the-go snacking, which means that America, home to every major fast food chain out there, is the perfect place for it.
Why it’s weird: As explained by my roomie, this one has more to do with America’s obsession with the spread than with the peanut butter itself. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed when confronted with the stuff at the grocery store. Going in for one jar? End up coming out with six; all a different brand, flavor, and level of smoothness.
We put it on everything, and, admittedly for those not too familiar with its texture, it can be pretty hard to handle. We’ve all experienced the serious lock jaw that a spoonful of peanut butter can cause. Though she loves it now, it certainly took my roommate some time to get used to.
Why we love it: Fluff is literally melted, whipped marshmallow in a jar. Its light texture and sugary, vanilla taste make eating it off a spoon feel like putting a cloud of confection in your mouth. It spreads easily, pairs great with peanut butter (hell yea to that fluffer-nutter), and takes the necessity of a campfire out of a s’more.
Why it’s weird: This one I found pretty interesting because fluff isn’t really an “American” thing, so much as it is a “New England” thing. Besides being unfamiliar with it, my roommate couldn’t give too much of an explanation for the strangeness of this one.
Basically, you’d be hard-pressed to find it anywhere else, and it’s one of those cultural things that she’s never really been able to get over. Then again, I guess her fluff is our Vegemite.
Why we love it: Hershey’s chocolate is more convenient than anything. It’s cheap and it can be found anywhere, which is perfect for when you’re in a tight chocolate spot.
If you went to summer camp or just grew up with junk-food loving parents, you’ve probably made a s’more at one point in your life. Roasting marshmallows around the camp fire and pairing it with an overload of Hershey’s plain chocolate is a classic all-American past time, and it’s hard not to be nostalgic about it.
Why its weird: Despite the fond memories, this one I have to agree with. I love Hershey’s chocolate when I’m baking, especially when I’m trying the fun recipes on the back of their packaging. But, in terms of enjoying quality chocolate, sometimes you just need a luxuriously silky Lindt chocolate truffle to love you instead of the powdery fake stuff.
Instant Ramen Noodles
Why we love it: Ramen is the perfect meal for a broke college student. It’s cheap as hell — you can buy a bulk supply for under $2 — and really easy to hack. Zap it in the microwave, sauté some vegetables and meat on the side, add some chives and there you have it: a pretty dope ass meal, cooked in under 10 minutes. It tastes great and you can find it anywhere.
Why it’s weird: This is a bit of a cheat, because instant ramen noodles were created by Momofuku Ando for a Japanese food company called Nissin Foods. Nonetheless, they are still hot on the American market, and almost every dorm I visit has a pile of them teetering behind some locked cabinet.
It’s pretty unique that we can instantly turn air-dried blocks of noodles into steaming hot bowls of soup. Add to this the multitude of flavors (shrimp, beef, chicken, and so much more) and it’s hard not to be taken aback by these little packets of goodness.
Why we love it: WHAT?!? Pretzels, you say? Yeah, pretzels make this list, but that’s not to say she hated them. People universally tend to like pretzels. They’re simple, mess-free, and (as with most of these items) can go with anything and still be awesome. I especially love pairing them with hummus — full of protein and flavor, it can be taken to the lib in a little baggie for that all-nighter.
Why its weird: They weren’t weird for my roommate so much as anti-climatic. I guess when you walk into a grocery store and see one item in 50 different forms, you expect it to be pretty out of this world. She still likes to eat them and will admit to their versatility, but, understandably, pretzels are dry, salty, and a bit underwhelming. Definitely not the main attraction at the circus.
Aussie Foods That Are Weird to Americans
Why they love it: The way I understand it, fairy bread is the hallmark of party food in Australia. When you went over to a birthday party (or if there was a celebration), fairy bread was most probably lining the rainbow party plates.
It’s sugary and buttery, and really easy to make. Fairy bread is basically just white bread lathered with butter and dusted with hundreds and thousands of sprinkles.
Why it’s weird: Fairy bread is that snack that is made of totally normal and not shocking ingredients, but once you put them all together it sounds kind of questionable. Growing up in the States, sprinkles always went on gooey ice cream, fluffy cupcakes, or mixed into cake batter. I can’t fathom it being a sole topping on un-toasted toast. But, what’s that saying…don’t knock it ’til you try it? This is definitely on the top of my food bucket list.
Why they love it: Oh, Vegemite. This one cracks me up because it still manages to find its way into every “you’re from Australia?!?” conversation my roomie has ever had…ever. Australians love Vegemite because it’s a quick, easy spread to top off your morning toast, and, despite all the sodium, is actually jammed full of B vitamins.
Why it’s weird: Vegemite is extremely salty for those of us not used to it. Not to mention that when you ask what it is, the most straight forward answer you’ll receive is “yeast byproduct,” — which, I’m sorry, just does not sound appetizing.
However, I have to defend Vegemite here, because Americans have this crazy perception that all Australians are just eating it in globs off of a spoon, and maybe some hardos are, but in reality, it’s eaten in small quantities mixed with butter. I’ve had it, and when diluted this way, it’s actually pretty tasty. Don’t hate, guys.
Why they love it: Tim Tams are fantastic, and there’s no reason the whole world shouldn’t love these. They’re kind of like Twix in terms of the ways they’re assembled, but in my humble opinion, a thousand times better. The cookie is perfectly crunchy, the chocolate extremely smooth, and the filling melts nicely in your mouth.
Why it’s weird: There’s nothing “weird” about Tim Tams, but you’d be hard pressed to find a cookie here that lives up to it. When I was first introduced to them I immediately went on to Amazon to have them shipped over, but the price was not as appealing as the snack itself.
Remember everyone: this is not a definitive list. Even if it was, it would not by any means disqualify the wonders that any of the above and a cheesy movie on Netflix can do for the soul. Happy snacking!