Surprised by American food

When I visited London a little over a year ago I noticed that a common item on menus were baked potatoes topped with tuna, baked beans, or other items that to an American seem weird. Before my trip I had never seen tuna or baked beans on a potato. Inspired by this discovery my question is for non-US Dopers who have visited our fair shores.

When you came here did you discover any foods or dishes, that seemed to be common in this country but that you had never heard of? Did you try them? Did you like them?

One thing I’ve noticed while visiting the U.S. was apple sauce as a side dish, and people eating it. It is on Canadian menus as a side once in a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone order it, and just chowing down on a dish of apple sauce strikes me as weird.

I’ve heard of grits, but never seen or experienced them. They don’t really sound like my kind of thing, but I’d give them a fair try.

(I’ve often eaten potatoes with baked beans on them. In fact, I just might have that for supper tomorrow. :slight_smile: )

Two “weird” US food trends came home with me, in that I still continue to seek out and enjoy them. One is bacon and maple syrup on french toast/waffles/pancakes. The other is ranch dressing, which is almost unknown around here, which I don’t often use as a salad dressing, but I like it with crudites or on a sandwich.

Hash browns. Wonderful stuff, and I’ve never seen it anywhere in this country. Thank God my wife knows how to make them.

Also, the whole “big pot of ‘filter’” approach to coffee. Here we have instant, espresso and espresso-based drinks, Turkish and French press, but the communal fishbowl of brew is pretty much unknown.

In Hawaii I tasted pineapple sherbet, fell in love, and haven’t found it since. Was also given tastes of freshly-caught fish barbecued on the beach. I don’t like much fish, but that was mighty fine. I don’t even know what I ate. Oh, and fresh pineapple from the field is nothing like tinned or store-bought.

I’d heard about grits and wanted to try them. Finally got a chance on a business trip to Ft. Lauderdale. Not bad. I’ve actually been wanting some lately but even our gourmet shops don’t carry them.

Was in Tennessee and tried 'Meat ‘n 3’. The greens boiled with ham - ewww; waay too salty and greasy and I couldn’t get them down. Other stuff was ok but not great. However, there was a Waffle House which had some pretty tasty stuff.

In Palmyra, I tried ‘chicken-fried steak’ which I couldn’t handle and ‘sausage gravy’ - eww - glutinous white stuff with sausage hunks in it. Still makes me queasy to think of.

Actually, I have had some wonderful food in mainland US (Lindy’s cheesecake in NYC is one of the earlier experiences and risotto with shaved asiago was a later one that was sublime) but I’ve run into too many places with meals full of salt and meat and grease. It can be a challenge to eat well sometimes when I’m visiting the US. OTOH, I’ve enjoyed trying ethnic foods that aren’t available in my town, like Cuban cuisine.

Europe - loved ‘toasts’. Usually ham on toasted bread with fruit on top and then cheese melted over. Deelicious. I made them at home quite a bit after that. And German pastries - I know French are supposed to be great but for my money, German and Swiss pastries were heavenly.

Italy was Limonata as a beverage and I learned to like beer in Amsterdam (and Rijsttafel and Dutch breakfasts!).

I could go on and on. Trying new food is one of the great joys of travel for me - my friends and I reflect on great meals we’ve had as part of our fond memories of our trips :slight_smile:

Root beer - which I didn’t like very much.
The bacon at breakfast cooked until it was dried up and crunchy.

I hate to sound stupid, but what else would you do with it? I realize it’s called a “sauce” but I can’t think of anything that you would put it on.

Hmm… a couple of things

That bright orange stuff which I overheard being called “cheese”? Really? that is cheese? Uh huh, right… :dubious:

Biscuits? OK these are sort of like scones, I suspect they don’t have sugar in them like scones do though. Simliar texture to scones.

Where’s the bacon in my bacon! Why have I just been given a strip of crispy pork fat?

Not a food item in itself, but why am I getting this plate of salad well before my meal :confused: The salad is a seperate course is it? Of course. And on the menu, my entree is called an appetiser, and my main is called an entree :dubious: that makes sense!

I almost made an ass of myself my first day on holidays when I went to a fast food place to try a burger, I don’t recall if it was Wendy’s or Jack in the Box, ordered and when it was ready the lady said your sandwich is ready, I was just about to tell her “no, I ordered a burger not a sandwich” when it twigged that she was sandwich/burger interchangeably. They mean completly different food items here :smiley:

Pork chops! Or ham. But the very best is my own homemade apple sauce on buttered bread. Absolutely to die for. And much, much tastier than the gloop you buy in jars or get at restaurants.

I always thought apple sauce was for little kids, whose parents made them eat it because it was good for them, and for the elderly, whose teeth weren’t quite up to snuff anymore.

Sloppy Joes, Chili Cheese Dogs ,Grits ,BBQ (not the grilled stuff), Biscuits and Gravy ,Clam Chowder, Scrapple, Gumbo, Jambalaya are all uniquely American foods, rarely seen elsewhere.

That I’m aware of they’re two separate items in the US as well. It might have been a regional thing, or the lady just didn’t care about the distinction.

Sandwich and burger mean completely different things here as well, but the people who can’t be bothered to differentiate between them will use the two terms interchangeably, with sandwich being the more general descriptor. It’s much the same occurrence when certain Americans also refer to trucks and SUVs, or any other passenger vehicles, simply as “cars”.

Even I’m surprised by American food at times, and I’m an American. Sometimes we name things differently just for difference’s sake. One of my favorite examples are chips and fries. Here, they’re fries. UK, they’re chips. Well, what do they call their chips then, you ask. Why, they call them crisps, as one might expect them to. They also call beer “bitter”, and a bar a “pub”. I also much prefer the use of saloon/lorry/bonnet/boot/petrol to sedan/truck/hood/trunk/gas. I’ve been known to dabble in British slang when frequenting American bars just for shits and giggles, and perhaps not surprisingly, the meanings are lost on most Americans. I’d use the letter “u” more often in my spelling if people (and more specifically, MS Word) weren’t trying to correct me.

I met a fellow from Manchester recently who had never seen potato skins before and thought it odd for the same reason we’d find beans on a potato odd, I presume. Another strange thing I learned was that certain Irish folk tend to drink American pisswater both here and in their homeland. From what I can gather, it seems to be the same reason we colonists drink Guinness both here and abroad, I suppose. It’s just … foreign. :dubious:

Not a dish but when I was a legal alien in Britain, my gf (now wife) introduced me to Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Damn, they’re good. They’re not available down our way despite what wikipedia says (“sold all across the world”. HAH!)

And the title says, “American food” :smack:

My wife, the American, eats grilled cheese sandwiches with applesauce for dipping. I think she’s insane. Up in the GWN, that’s what ketchup is for. Applesauce is for breakfast, with buttered toast. I haven’t seen it offered as a side in any restaurants down here, but I haven’t looked for it, either.

I liked chicken-fried steak and sausage gravy from the first time I tried it. I’d never even heard of it before I came here. I’m still not much into collard greens, or mustard greens, and I can’t eat grits at all. But hey, until you’ve had a Philly cheesesteak po’boy, you haven’t lived!

I found Taco Bell a guilty pleasure. I never eat fast food, but if these were available in Britain (they’re not, are they?) I would probably be morbidly obese.

Things I was surprised by on my always enjoyable regular visits to Virginia and Santa Monica:

Grits. Never seen them then or now in the UK but apparently something of a staple at least some parts of the USA. I found them something of an acquired taste.

The puzzling absence of sausages and back bacon in supermarkets.

The pleasing abundance of granola which is only now slooowwly catching on here. Yummy! Especially La Brea bakery granola.

The quite superb steaks which made me wonder if the Americans haven’t bred some sort of ultra cow that they aren’t sharing with the world. Meanies! :slight_smile:

The habit of serving sweet and savoury things on the same breakfast plate - specifically waffles, jam and link sausages. This weirded me right out but in fact it really worked. Tasty!

The custom of holding on to cutlery between courses in very posh restaurants. Not a problem (when in Rome and all that) but very puzzling to this visitor.

Taco Bell - didn’t try it but it was interesting to see a fast food giant that didn’t exist at all this side of the atlantic.

I must admit that when I first went to the States I went a bit Taco Bell mad. I’d never seen Mexican-style fast food outlets before. I know now that it has a poor reputation, but it all seemed pretty tasty to my uneducated palate.

IIRC there used to be at least Taco Hells in London. One just off Leicester Square and one somewhere near Earl’s Court. No idea if they are still going.