Surprised by American food

Imagine the surprise of this SoCal boy when he ordered his first iced tea in the South. There are two things I want in my iced tea: tea and ice. And the ice is optional if the tea is cold enough.

The thing about American food is that we (I’m an American) 1.) absorb foods from lots of other cultures into our cuisine and 2.) have a lot of chains that serve homogenized versions of more interesting foods (as **Elendil’s Heir ** said) and 3.) a very wide variance of quality, so I would imagine that for a visitor, it might be bewildering and you might not be able to get the “best” of anything without knowing where to look.

Case in point: Chicken Fried Steak. This is a fairly common dish (mostly in the South), but unfortunately, commonly prepared badly. It’s not something that bears mass production well. If you’ve had the real deal, prepared with fresh meat and homemade cream gravy (no sausage in it), it’s heavenly.

Another example would be BBQ. Lots of places will serve chopped up mystery meat slathered in ketchupy BBQ sauce and call it BBQ. Bleck!

And you haven’t had catfish till you’ve been to my house. Fried catfish and Hush Puppies are the South’s Fish & Chips, and if made properly, will knock your socks off.

Regional foods done authentically kick major butt, too. Real Philly Cheesesteaks (there could be a multi-page GD thread on those), Buffalo Wings, Tex-Mex, etc are all great when done right, not so much when mass produced.

Gack! Proper iced tea should be coma-inducing sweet. The Deep South is the only place they know how to make it right. :smiley:

Quite possibly, I remember it having a kind of whipped texture so certainly wasn’t plain old butter.

Not sure why you didn’t find sausages - there’s tons of them at my local supermarket, and for that matter in any supermarket I’ve ever been in here.

As far as the back bacon goes, what you call bacon may be called ham here - or perhaps you are referring to what we’d call Canadian bacon (which is, yes, actually thinly sliced ham from the loin, not from the belly or back, which is what true bacon is usually made from).

To find grits in a gourmet shop would give me the giggles. Grits were a staple food for poor Southerners in the past - they are anything but gourmet!

Preach it! I can’t drink it without (a lot) of sugar. It was one of the (few) things that was a real improvement about moving to the South. I no longer had to drink my tea “crunchy”!

I wanted to add something about Taco Bell. I like Taco Bell a lot, but I consider it to be fast food, not Mexican food. Maybe “Mexican influenced fast food”. I grew up less than an hour from Mexico and I’m quite picky about my Mexican food, but Taco Bell just doesn’t fall under that umbrella for me. (It’s also one of the better fast food chains for us vegetarians, followed by BK now that they have the veggie burger. McD’s is one of the worst except for breakfast–they even have beef flavoring in their fries!.)

The fundamental problem with biscuits and gravy is the vile stuff they’re calling “gravy”. It’s not gravy. It’s library paste with enough bits of fried sausage in it to make it greasy. Real gravy, which is a dark, rich brown and full of spices, is very tasty on biscuits (though I love biscuits with butter and honey, too).

Sorry–I’m a Louisiana brown-gravy snob exiled to Texas, which is apparently the Holy Land of white gravy. I have to rant sometimes. :slight_smile:

To quote George Carlin:

“What’s that on my plate?”

“Hell, boy. Them’s grits!”

“They’re…they’re moving, man.”


The closest way to fake them outside the country is to make polenta, hit it with as much pepper, cheese, butter and whatever else strikes your fancy, and serve aside eggs and sausage.

Appplesauce goes on fresh-baked gingerbread, hot out of the pan.

Huge amounts of carne are very common in Argentina (as previously mentioned), Chile, and of course Bolivia. (I went to a place in the mountains where you picked out your own cow, sort of like a big furry lobster.)

To me that would render the gingerbread inedible.

Yeah, well. I was in a ‘zone’. :smiley:

And there’s another thing that’s wierd: ordering tea and being asked ‘hot tea?’. Um. Yeah. Like it’s been made for several thousand years in countries around the world. It seems that iced tea (which is gradually losing syllables so that it’s ‘ice’ tea or ‘icetea’) has coopted tea consumption to the extent that it is now the standard way to serve tea down below 49 there.

We have a couple restaurants here called Rio Churrascaria, which is purported to serve meat in a style found in Southern Brazil. It’s like a buffet where they bring the food to you. The waiters come around with great spears of different kinds of meat (different cuts of beef, along with lamb, pork and chicken too) and offer you some. Over and over. We call it ‘chugging meat.’ The sheer volume outstrips any other restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life.

Apple sauce is typically served with pork chops or roast, especially in old-fashioned, home-stye restaurants. It’s like serving mint jelly with lamb.

Fruit salad with dinner seems to be a mid-west thing.

Everyone I know how’s been to sub-Saharan Africa has reported on the barbecues there–also huge amounts of all kinds of meat. It led one of my friends to speculate that there might be such a thing as “protein poisoning.”

There is a puzzling absence of English sausages in supermarkets, but here in California any large supermarket will have an array of other types: “regular” breakfast links and patties, kielbasa or smoked sausage, chorizo, Italian sausage, bratwurst and so on. Not sure about the back bacon, though.

:smiley: To me, it would render the applesauce inedible.
I like applesauce, but don’t really care for gingerbread.
I get the idea that it’s kid-food, but it’s something I can take to work and eat on the run, so to speak.

There’s a chain Texas de Brazil that’s similar. You can definitely overload there, the salad bar kicks ass before you even get to the swords of meat. I like it about once a year.

English breakfast sausage tastes more like a hotdog to me. Gimme a nice breakfast link any day, especially when the maple syrup from the pancakes drifts over.

This American finds the British love for fast food (Arby’s? Taco Bell?) amusing and befuddling in equal measure.