10 Foods You’ll Miss as Soon as You Leave the U.S.
Adventuring out of your home airport is great – new experiences, exotic foods, and new scenery. Every long-term traveler knows, though, that eventually you will start to crave some foods from home. Here are a few of my favorite foods from the U.S.:
1. Cheesecake –
You know the difference between this rich, tangy dessert and its pale imitation from the first bite. Restaurants everywhere have this on their menu, everywhere, but what you usually get is a whip cream cake with some flaky cracker crust. Cheesecake is made from real cream cheese and the taste is unmistakable, no matter what flavor.
While you think you can live without it, that crème brûlée is a perfectly good substitute, that first bite of that fake cheesecake you just paid €10 for will break all your optimistic reasoning.
2. BBQ –
I’m not talking barbeque. When I say BBQ, I mean Bee. Bee. Que. The kind of down-home cooking you can only find when looking for a good fishing hole and wind up stopping at a soda shop on a gravel road.
You sit down at a wooden table in a dirt-floored shack and there’s only one thing on the menu; smoked and slathered meat. Maybe a consolation coleslaw. BBQ comes on a massive platter, dripping with secret sauce and plastic sporks are available on request.
My next stop in the U.S. will see a massive road trip to visit all the corners of the South, where this underappreciated food group lives.
3. Chip Variety –
Before I left the U.S. I had a mild like for potato chips. Sure, they are good every once in a while. I liked Jalapeno and Salt & Vinegar, like any good American. Then I moved to Eastern Europe, where the flavors are limited to Paprika, BBQ (no, not that kind), Salt, and sometimes Sour Cream. That’s where the aisle stops. There’s a black hole where there used was Chicken, Salt & Vinegar, Cheddar, French Onion, Basil & Tomato, Jalapeno…
You get my point. People have yet to discover the joy of flavorful chips here, and I regret it every day.
4. Spices and Seasonings –
Don’t get me wrong, you are more likely to find that spice that makes you pot roast pop than you aren’t. There is a great variety of imported spices and seasonings that can fit almost any cultural dish. Finding the correct translation of that spice, however, is hit or miss. And some spices are just not available. Do you like ranch dry seasoning or season salt?
Sure, you can make those from scratch, but good luck making it taste the same. And cultural curiosities like Cream of Tartar or powdered onion? Nope.
5. Craft Beer –
Europe is the grandfather of beer making; they invented it. They perfected it through the centuries in monasteries, keeping it culturally relevant for way longer than was probable. Europe invented beer, yes, but American’s made it fun.
Living in the Midwest is like living in the candy shop of beers: you can get any style, taste, flavor, or alcohol level at your local gas station. Saisons, amber ales, brown ales, chocolate espresso stout, nitro porter? A good brew shop has them. Americans may have awful coffee, but they play with their beer well.
6. Beef –
The U.S. is not the best producer and it does not have the reputation of Argentina or South Africa, but they can make a mean steak. My last American steak was at a Smith & Wollensky’s, where I paid an indecent amount of money for a dry-aged porterhouse. That was four years ago, and I still remember it fondly.
Americans enjoy excellent beef, plenty of variety in cuts and at very affordable prices, all at their local grocery store. Remember that before you complain about the drive to Walmart.
7. Cocktails –
While I do love beer, I love a ridiculous cocktail just as much. Full of sugar, ridiculous garnishes, exotic juices and unpronounceable ingredients, a good cocktail means I’m having a good night out. While our local watering hole has an excellent gin & tonic, there is no game in their menu. Applebee’s knew what they were doing when they loaded up on the themed martinis for happy hour menus.
8. A Plethora of Donuts –
A good donut is correct in every occasion. Powdered for the office, glazed for a funeral, and chocolate for a wedding. Just kidding, but a donut is really an unappreciated staple of American casual dining. While donuts have started to hit our scene, they have somehow started at the top of a niche market. Donuts here are all heavy jelly filled, freeze-dried raspberry topped, chili-chocolate glaze infused.
I just want a plane, chocolate cake, vanilla glazed, traditional donut. Is it so hard to get a Krispie Crème Franchise?
9. Package mix cakes –
Have you ever tried to make an angel food cake from scratch? I did. Once. It ended in me crying and swearing off baking forever. The project was probably more difficult than it had to be due to the lack of cream of tartar. Being able to go to the store, buy a box labeled chocolate chip cookies, angel food, or devil’s cake, is really a modern convenience no one can do without.
Sometimes baking from scratch is completely over-rated.
10. Deep fried everything –
The only other place that loves deep-fried things as much as the U.S. is Scotland (and I love you for it!). Deep fried butter, ice cream, chicken, or pickles, no matter what’s in your fridge you can probably fry it. A great American pastime of mine was going to a local fair, grabbing a giant smoked turkey leg and an elephant ear and watching the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Fortunately, my husband loves clogging his arteries as much as me. We have crafted a secret blend of panko breading, flour and spices to keep our addiction alive.
What are some foods you miss from your home country and have yet to find a local substitute for? Let me know in the comments and we can commiserate together!