If you’re like me, you grew up in a typical American household in the suburbs. My parents kept our cabinets stocked with the regular food you might expect, including staples (bread, milk, eggs), snacks (crackers, veggies, cheese sticks), and all our favorite dinners (pasta, chicken, tacos). This is what I became used to as a kid, and I thought nothing of it. However, something changed when I went to summer camp, as so many of us did.
My camp, where I still work to this day, hires a lot of staff from foreign countries such as Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Hungary, and Finland. I found it funny when some of my counselors would make comments on what we were eating, even saying things like “that’s so American!” American? I thought, not sure what classified as a typical American food.
I wanted to ask my friends what it was about our food that made it so American, and the major differences they noticed when they came and experienced our cuisine for the first time. They all gave me some great responses, which are too good not to share.
1. We use too much fat and oil
Added grease, butter, and oil does seem to be everywhere in the American diet. It is often used to add flavor and a create mouth-watering experience in everything from sizzling bacon to deep dish pizza. If you are someone who blots their pizza with a napkin, then you probably agree with my friends that oil has gone a bit overboard in American restaurants.
2. We use spices very differently
Most times, all I need to add is a little salt and pepper to whatever I’m eating. To my friends in Hungary, that is appalling. They typically use a lot of paprika in their foods, so our lack of this spice makes home feel even farther away. One of my friends even said our food had no taste at all, and was too bland for her preference. Sounds to me like we need some sort of flavor revolution.
3. We have “ginormous” portions
I have to agree with this one. The food prices are low in America, making it possible for us to offer huge amounts of food. We are the country that is famous for endless buffets and making everything “super sized.” America has definitely gone overboard, since people in other countries seem to be living just fine with less food on their plate.
4. We use too much ice in our drinks
If you always ask for “half ice” at Dunkin, you probably agree with my international friends. A huge pitcher filled with ice water is all so commonplace at American eateries all over the world that this comment seemed ridiculous to me at first. If I can get more iced coffee for my money though, maybe America should hop on the low (or no) ice grind.
5. We make a mean cheeseburger
It’s safe to say America has nailed the cheeseburger. Few things come close to the taste of a fresh burger, hot off the grill on a sunny 4th of July. My foreign friends thankfully experienced their fair share of cookouts while here in the summer, and many of them say our cheeseburger is their favorite meal in the States.
6. We use cheese nearly everywhere
America is a huge advocate for adding this gooey goodness wherever possible, and for that I am thankful. We put it in our pizza crusts, it’s featured in nearly every sandwich, and it has no better partner than its buddy Mac. Restaurants are constantly coming up with new ways to serve this beloved ingredient, so the foreigners may have to get used to it. The US certainly has!