Do you remember any funny moments from your first visit to US?
Oh boy. Okay, so I originally came over to US with a group of 4 other students and 5 teachers, and after a short stop in Washington, DC, we split our time between Western Carolina University and Western Kentucky University. At some point early on we were introduced to some faculty members, and we were taken to one of their houses for lunch. This was one of our first exposures to the actual American food and people
So we are sitting in this van and it veers off the highway down a curvy road into woods. And then the woods open up and here is a enormous gorgeous house. We are all staring googly-eyed. As the van comes to a stop, our head teacher tells us, “This is a private residence and the man who owns it invited us here for lunch. You will mind your manners.”
To a Southern Russian, that means you eat what’s in front of you, and you eat all of it, and you compliment it.
So we disembark, and we are led into this massive kitchen. Most of us lived in apartments, and I lived in a very old reed house, that used to be teacher’s set of rooms in 1903 when it was built. We had 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 sink per house, and I don’t even want to explain the set up to you, because your hair will fall out. You can fit a toilet into a small shower stall if you have to. Let’s leave it at that.
So the hostess serves us a platter of these beautiful sandwiches. Looking back at it, it was probably a prepared platter from a grocery store. Someone is asking what’s in the sandwich and we are told turkey.
All of us check out pocket dictionaries, because that’s not a word any of us are familiar with. Aha. Turkey. Indiuk.
The celebratory roasted bird in our area is usually duck, but all of us are familiar with turkey, all of us had it before at New Year’s or other holidays. We are totally game.
So I take a sandwich and I bite into it and… it tastes like cardboard. I am chewing it. Here is some lettuce, some tomato, some sort of bread that tastes sweet like cake, and between all that, there is cardboard.
I am looking around and the four other guys all stopped chewing. We’re looking at each other. German (his actual name) discreetly lifts the top off his sandwich and we see this.
What the hell is this? This is not delicious roasted turkey. It looks like paper. It tastes like paper. There is no recognizable poultry texture in it. There is no flavor.
One of the boys quietly whispers, “Maybe it’s pulp.”
Keep in mind that a few weeks ago we have all watched a documentary on how Russian bologna made, and apparently at that time they added something called “pulp filler” which would “add fiber.” We all had a long discussion about it in class and all of us agreed that it was likely paper pulp.
We are staring at each other. One of the teachers notices that we are not eating and she bears down on us like a CRRC, one of those badass inflatable boats that delivers armed marines to shores. She turns so the hosts can’t see her face and squeezes words through her teeth. “Eat every last bit of it and pretend you like it.”
The youngest of the boys whispers, “But it’s paper.”
So we ate the sandwiches and said thank you. And the hostess was very happy and told us that if we wanted seconds, there was plenty, and then all of us decided to go outside to look at the pretty woods.
And that’s my American turkey story.
Poor dear. Those sandwiches can be lethal.
I’m guessing you’ve gotten over the trauma since. (I seem to remember menu posts from various holiday meals…)
You make the best sounding goodies!
It is a great story, though.
I got used to tasteless turkey now. I eat it in sandwiches, heh.
Rofl! Poor Ilona 😀
We have a store nearby where we can buy roasted actual turkey breast sliced for sandwiches. And good cheese that doesn’t taste like wax. Yum.
I love deviled eggs. Once, long ago I was pregnant with #3 and outside with my other children. The neighbor brought me a small dish with deviled eggs. She urged to try one and I bit in and.. gag! They were sweet. Not savory with a little bit of bite like every other deviled egg I had eaten in my life. And pregnant, and always have nauseated. . . and I had to keep smiling and swallow that nasty bite of egg. ugh. Awful . . .
Wes d says
I still can only eat turkey if its smoked or fried w seasoning. Otherwise no taste to me too.
That never happened before.
I was wondering how many posts would come in while I was typing.
Donna A says
Oh how I dreaded food offerings (still do). I am extremely particular even over my plate layout but this was NOT tolerated when out visiting. Funnily enough it was not my Lithuanian grandfather who enforced the polite eating of everything but my Yorkshire grandmother. I once vomited liver onto a girl sitting next to me and still had to thank my host before getting an angry clip outside. I did say I hate liver and would be sick and maintain my innocence to this day.
Oh wow! Who serves liver to a guest??? I mean if a person likes it that’s fine, but its notorious for being something easy to hate!
Carolyn Walker Sanders says
Oh man no kidding! Many moons ago a guy friend and his new girlfriend invited us to a spaghetti dinner. How bad could it be? It was made with Liver, and I am a very poor guest, I moved all the ity bity liver pieces off the pasta and called it edible. My son, 6 years old at the time, just no, won’t eat it. Suffice to say we weren’t invited for dinner again. 1970’s a lot of folks eating “healthy”.
Donna A says
I feel fairly certain even now, 30 odd (mumble, cough) some years later, that it was a targeted attack. The recipient of my vomit was a girl who tried picking on me – I didn’t notice it but the school contacted her mother and my nan about it and as a result we went to a ‘friendly’ dinner at her house. She knew about my eating habits because I was fussy at school lunches too and the thing I always refused – liver. So why would her mother make bacon and liver for dinner? And she was sat next to me so what did she expect?
Toni Causey says
You know, I completely identified with the tachi, who liked their food placed ~just so~ after being cut ~just so~ and then they all sighed with relief when Maud didn’t use one of the slices of kora and I was all YES, AS IT SHOULD BE. 😉
I cannot manage anyone offering liver to guests (loathe it) or beets (I don’t care what anyone says, those things are disgusting).
Sadly, the sliced turkey is usually terrible, even in the more expensive brand’s packs. I get them freshly sliced from the deli now out of self-defense.
Haha, I love fried liver and onions, and I like beets, yum. I’ve had potato salad made with beets added and I’ve add beets in a shake, so good. But I definitely wouldn’t serve liver to guests.
That’s why I love having friends with different taste faves sitting next to me. I have one friend who loathes mushrooms and she’ll shove them onto my plate every time. My husband hates dill pickles (like hamburger dills) and I love them. I tease him that I married him just to get allllll the pickles. 😉
Sounds like your classmate got what she deserved. Our family taught us similar table manners, and I remember when I had to put them to the test at a girl friend’s home when I accepted an invitation to stay for dinner. Surprise! Dinner that night was liver. Liver as my mom made it was like shoe leather that required some of the bacon and caramelized onion with every bite. Imagine my delight when I tasted tender wonderful liver in a delicious gravy!!! I was so thankful that I had been taught to eat what was provided. I had no problem complimenting my friend’s mom; but I’m sure my mom got very tired of hearing about it.
Robin Šebelová says
The secret to making good fried liver is to leave it to soak in the milk overnight in fridge and don’t salt it before frying.
And – especially with chicken liver – to make sure all the bile ducts are removed. That is one thing that adds an awful flavor.
My daughter went to Western Carolina University beautiful area but in the middle of nowhere.
This made me laugh so much.
American lunch meat is pretty traumatic, lol
Robin Layton says
It’s a quick food. Sometimes fast and filling nutrition is prioritized.
So, after years upon year of living the the US…
a) did the turkey taste vastly improve over time
b) did it grow on you
c) do you avoid all turkey-ish products lake the plague
Now that I think about it, here in Germany all the turkey stuff loooks like this…
And it has taste! But now that i think about it, it really does tastes like…uh, something.
Moderator R says
If you look up at the first comment, Ilona replied that she is used to it now and eats it…in sandwiches :D.
Ah, yes, thanks. Seems like the site didn’t refresh fast enough.
Yes, what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger 🙂
I visited Japan as an exchange student when I was 13; I went to the grocery store with my host family one afternoon and my host father had discovered, to his delight, that I was willing try try new foods.
I still have no idea what it was he offered me. It looked like salsa. I’m from an area with a lot of Latin American influence, so I’ve had dozens of iterations of salsa and love all of them. When he held out the sample and proclaimed “Challenge!” (the “I don’t speak English and you don’t speak Japanese” version of “I challenge you to try this unusual food item that I think you might not like”) I took it without question. It was not salsa (or if it was salsa, it was salsa made by someone who had briefly heard about salsa and decided it would be better if the tomatoes were rancid and they used wasabi instead of peppers). Immediately following this incident, with my eyes watering as I tried not to gag, I altered my rules for trying new foods in foreign countries. Previously, my rule was, “I will try anything once.” Subsequently, the rule has been, “I will try anything once, but you have to tell me what it is first.” This has served me well; there are things I’ve tasted since which I absolutely hated the taste, but I wasn’t blindsided; others were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be (Hákarl is an example of this; it’s not on my list of favorite foods, but also wasn’t so bad that I would refuse to eat it again.)
Angela Beck says
Any food that you have to eat on a dare is immediately suspect.
I was also an exchange student in Japan before living there for 10 years, and, based on the description you provided, I believe your host father tried feeding you shiokara, fermented squid innards. Usually, they start with natto, fermented soy beans, which is also an acquired taste. I ate natto because all my home-stay families ate it practically every day, and I came to love it. But one home-stay family took me to eat sushi, which is always a big deal. The chef held up what looked like very pale asparagus and told me to take a big bite, that I would love it. Turned out it was an entire stick of pickled ginger. To this day, I cannot eat pickled ginger. Why do certain people take such glee in “challenging” (aka. ruining certain foods for) us?!
I actually really like pickled ginger! but eating a massive bite all at once would probably be a lot.
I like trying weird new foods and I’m generally quite adventurous – there’s a very short list of things I won’t try (brains, eyeballs, and drugs) and honestly I would say that most of the things I’ve been challenged to try have actually been decent. Few of them have hit the list of foods I would actively seek out, but the list of foods that totally disgust me is even shorter. Wasabi (which I was told “take a small amount and taste it” the first time I tried Japanese food, in the US, with American friends… I assumed “a very small amount” meant a small spoonfull, and they watched me make that assumption with no comment of “no definitely less than that.” So I sympathize with your pickled ginger experience!), vegemite (which I tried and hated as a kid and then tried again in college while studying abroad; the flavor had not improved any), and (I’ll take your word that this is what it probably was) shiokara.
Sara B. says
I’m American and still hate sliced “deli meats” as available from grocery stores. I would rather have bologna than that deli-sliced turkey, ham and beef. Occasional exception for sliced london broil, but there rest is tasteless and weirdly shiny.
HAHAHAHA. I had something like this happen to me in Egypt of all places. I speak Arabic but it is a specific dialect of Arabic and some words are different in other dialects. I almost ended up with a calves brain sandwich until I figured out wtf someone was offering me. Thankfully, I hadn’t agreed to the order yet so I didn’t end up eating that or the silsili sandwich i was offered either.
trailing wife says
Based in Mr. Wife’s stories of working in various countries in the Middle East/North Africa after having learnt Arabic at Berlitz from a Palestinian, there are lots of different versions of Arabic. The written language is consistent across the region, but the spoken vocabularies can vary widely — he had no problem in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but when he went to Morocco he had to speak French to be understood by his local colleagues. Chinese has the same issue, I am told.
On the other hand, in India they were greatly impressed that he could read the Urdu shop signs, which are written in Arabic.
I speak the Lebanese dialect and understand almost all of the dialects. Morocco speaks a version of Berber+Arabic+French so yeah, it makes very much sense that it would be difficult.
Sometimes, there are a couple of pronunciation differences or there are specific word differences. It is pretty funny.
So, I was 10 yrs old and I was allowed to go on my first over night at best friend’s house. So excited!! My mom says you Will Obey their rules and eat everything they serve you. So I go over right after school and the Mom is cooking dinner. We sit down at 6, and the stew is venison. Bambi! Oh No! I choke it down-crying inside. The shine on the overnight is very dim. So we get up the next morning, now I am dreading the food. When what do they serve, but peanut butter toast!! Omg. I had never had it, and was phenomenal. So I still can’t eat Bambi, but peanut butter toast is a staple!
I love peanut butter toast, especially when it has melted a bit from the heat with a cold glass of milk. Yum!
What is peanut butter toast? I’ve had toast with butter and honey and toast with cinnamon sugar but ….. Is this just roasted bread with peanut butter? Creamy or crunchy?
Yes, toast your bread and while it’s still hot, spread your favorite pb so it gets a little melty. Can then add fruit or jelly if desired, but I prefer it plain. It’s a favorite breakfast or snack.
I also butter my bread before the peanut butter is added. Yummmm!
Mini pitas split and toasted and then spread with smooth peanut butter are also amazing, if you are into the whole crunchy-melty-salty-sweet aspects of peanut butter toast.
I had a similar experience the other day. Husband & I stopped at a chain fast food place for a “beef” sandwich. The meat was ground up “something”, pressed & sliced.
What could legally be called beef? Ears, stomach, lips?
It became a question of “what is the beef?”
I enjoy hearing first impressions of the US. Of course anything you write is always fun.
My friend had a going away party before he went to boot camp, and invited me along. He lived in a gated community, in a huge house, while I was an exchange student from a third world country that survived on $400/month, because rent was $600 and it was deducted/tied to my paycheck. To this day, that house is the biggest house I had ever been. There seemed to be bathrooms around every corner.
My friend said it would be a casual thing, outdoors, we would have BBQ.
There were more than 30 people there, most of them family and friends. They wore designer clothes, while I was wearing my Walmart best. So, I was already extremely self-conscious, and none of them could pronounce my name. All of them seemed to already know I would be coming and assumed I was his foreign girlfriend (I wasn’t).
And the meat was drenched in BBQ sauce. To me, it tasted like smoke, so I barely ate any of the meat.
They all thought that I wouldn’t be able to understand them that well (I could), but I spent most of that party hearing murmurs behind my back, as they wondered, amazed, how could I possibly dislike BBQ sauce, and, where could my friend have possibly found me (we were co-workers), and couldn’t he have found a nice American girl.
I don’t know which one of us was more embarrassed, me, my friend, or his parents.
The worst of it all was that I couldn’t even leave because the closest bus stop was a few miles away, and my friend was also my ride home and couldn’t leave until the party ended.
American all my life, and I’m right with you on the smoke taste of much BBQ sauce. Anything with any kind of smoke flavor is off my menu. I spent 3 years in Houston where BBQ is a staple item, but in Ohio, they put the sauce on for the last few minutes of cooking and while they smoke the meat, the sauce doesn’t taste like eating tree bark. Ugh! I hope others made you feel welcome in this country.
I agree. 60 plus years … born here and absolutely hate BBQ sauce. It’s sweet and nasty and.. ugh. And that smoke flavor, well. they use it in “vegetarian burgers” and those are awful too. Smoke flavor, who wants that?
Or for that matter, Maple bacon, Who had that bright and awful idea.
Patricia Schlorke says
It makes me wonder about the meat if it was drenched in BBQ sauce. Really good BBQ should stand on its own without any sauce. If I was with you at that party, I would have joined you in not eating the BBQ.
I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in this!
I tried different combinations of BBQ sauce (not just at that party), and I just could not get over the feeling that I was eating smoke. Most of the people I met were welcoming, that party was the only place where I actually felt like a foreigner and out of place. My biggest issues were mosquitoes (Florida) and the need to watch out what I ate. Organic food is not a thing in my country yet (meaning, most if not all food is organic around here by default since any kind of GMO is strictly regulated according to ISO/EU standards), but organic food in the US was too expensive for my paycheck, not to mention that the labels were confusing and often, I could not tell if a grocery item was organic or not. Often, I just did not eat. When I got strep throat and over 102 degrees fever, I could not even go to a doctor to get antibiotics because I could not afford the fee (my insurance sucked). I ended up infecting my actual boyfriend before I even knew what was happening, who then shared his antibiotics with me, and did not even get mad he got sick because of me. I live in a third world country, yes, but at least I can go to the doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics without paying any fees whatsoever, which I appreciate a lot more now.
Maria Schneider says
I love BBQ–but not the sauce. It can be quite overpowering. My husband makes his own and I will eat a very little bit of it. Otherwise, I just eat the meat, which is also smoked so it doesn’t need additional smoked sauce!
Do not worry. We have all been to that party where we are the one that doesn’t belong or isn’t dressed right. And, as you can see from the comments, we have all had to suffer food that is not our thing!
Deli meats in general, and particularly from the supermarket, are definitely an example of something one eats to live, not lives to eat. A really good ham or pastrami is different, of course, but in some places hard to find.
I find this extremely sad. First, the host should have provided food, not sandwiches from a deli. Deli meat is not food, and I won’t argue that with anyone. It’s not food. The end.
It was sort of right to tell all of you to eat it and thank the host, but I have to wonder if that’s why that type of thing was offered. Perhaps no one ever told him that real food should be served when company comes to visit. Americans have an odd relationship with turkeys, since we are all taught the Pilgrims celebrated thanks for the harvest with it, but if you’re going to serve turkey, cut a bird and include some side dishes. On behalf of all the Italians in my ancestry, I apologize to you and the others in your group for that meal. Sandwiches! Bah!
I’m just glad that meal didn’t make you want to go home where recognizable food was available, no matter how scarce it was. I’m glad that you got through it all and decided to remain here to write books so I can enjoy my forays into the worlds you create so well. And I’m glad that you have learned to cook so well that you will never commit such a horrible mistake as to serve deli meat to someone invited into your home. Mind your manners, indeed! Someone should have expressed that to your hosts! Here’s a hint: If people you serve have to ask what it is that you’re serving, you’re serving the wrong thing.
Imagine deciding at age 8 that you’re a vegetarian in the land of beef- Monterrey, Mexico. Also the land of cabrito- grilled baby goat. (ugh). Every time I went to a playdate, the poor moms would be at a loss what to feed me. (My hometown’s mentality- if you don’t eat meat, then what else is there?)
To this day I cannot and will not eat any more quesadillas.
Bliss Crimson the Mooncatx says
I’m really sorry to hear that. I would think some of the moms would think, peanut butter and jelly, for an 8 year old. Or just a cubed cheese and veggie plate, crackers even. Mac and cheese? Or you know, just ask the kid what kind of foods they like, and see if it is something they can put together.
Oh no worries! I never went hungry, and thought it was funny. Although I could not eat meat, I’d shut up and eat anything else they offered, which usually meant quesadillas, but every now and then I’d get lucky with refried bean tacos! The culture has changed now, most people’s palates have opened up to world cuisines. We even have a Korean restaurant now!
Lol…. I can’t stand turkey cold cuts either…. give me turkey leftovers any day, but not that cut crap….. I feel for you… poor introduction to American cuisine.
You don’t have to go to another country to have that experience. Who here has had pickled bologna (sold in a ring)? If you’re from the Midwest (or maybe even just Michigan), then you’ve probably seen it. You peel the outer skin(?) from it and cut it in small pieces and put it on a cracker with cheese.
You used to only be able to get it in Michigan, so if one of our cousins came out to visit, she’d usually bring us a jar, but while searching for an image on it, I discovered that you can buy it on Amazon (see link below). Woohoo!
So what regional/state-specific U.S. food item do you know of that everyone outside of that area has never heard of or thinks sounds gross?
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
Ring Bologna and fried onions and potatoes. I think you’ve given me an idea for dinner. Up here we also have a local Italian sausage called cudahi. It’s a local pizza topping, but I get the grocery store special hot cugahi and make Shak Shuka out of it. It’s wonderful. (Keweenaw peninsula in Michigan.)
Ok, that is soooo wrong. Pickled? Yuck. Bologna? Yuck. Pickled bologna? Where’s the toilet?
Sounds interesting. We used to take bologna and grind it with sweet gherkins and mix with a little mayo for sandwiches as a kid. I still like it tho I’ve not made it in years.
Red Buns!! My mom made that with leftover ham or hotdogs, and then put it “open-faced” under the broiler for a few minutes. We loved that when we were kids! (Use any sliced bread, hot dog or hamburger buns.)
When I was 15 I was taking part In exchange students trip to Belgium. I am not sure was more of a culture shock the fact that they were eating chicken with really really sweet apple jam or the fact that every single kid could drink wine (2 other Kids where like 9 and 12) ans I mean lots of wine (each dinner we would finish like 4-5 bottles for 3 kids/teens and 2 adults) ????
My story is the other way around. On a trip to Germany we had free breakfast with our stay.
It was my first experience with the European breakfast sandwich, great bread, mustard, butter, cold cuts — nummy!
So to this day I will frequently have a cold cut sandwich for breakfast.
Many a work trip to Europe, mainly Germany actually, and I still can’t do cold cuts for breakfast. Once I had an early morning flight back to the US with a work colleague, he was British, so he got to go through quick line at Customs when I had to wait in the slowly snaking line. Before we each got in line, he said that he’d meet me at a specific restaurant on the other side of Customs for breakfast. It took forever (b/c there were some idiots in line ahead of me)…I get there and he had ordered breakfast (which was fine), but it was the traditional cold cut breakfast sandwich and a pint of beer. I ended up ordering a coffee and he got the beer…because beer at 6AM isn’t my speed.
Yes! Yummy. And also cheese and crackers for breakfast too, at least in the northern European countries.
Judy Schultheis says
You have my most heartfelt condolences for that experience. Some people just have no clue.
I won’t eat the white meat from any turkey. Tasteless at best. But give me a drumstick and I’m happy. Fortunately, anywhere I can get a turkey drumstick, they know I view it as finger food.
I grew up in America and I hate deli turkey. The only thing worse is bologna. What made it worse was that when I was a kid things like turkey or bologna sandwiches were very common in school lunch boxes, which made lunchtime kind of rough until I got old enough to make my own.
Deli ham and cheese can be OK depending on type. Salami, pastrami, and capicola are very good.
Also, who invented mayonnaise and how can I go back in time to kill them. Ew.
Noooooo! Leftover (cold) holiday turkey and (hot and sizzling) bacon sandwich with mayonnaise for the win! ????
And you need mayo for deviled eggs. Whoever thought of using vinegar in deviled eggs needs to be kicked out of the country, though.
Robin Šebelová says
You remind me of czech christmas carp schnitzel with potato salad (mayo included), yummy!
Need to try home made mayo! So light and flavorful. The closest I’ve come to it packaged is Hellman’s canola oil mayo. And it’s still not the same, but who has time and energy to make their own mayo regularly.
Definitely homemade -with garlic in it. BTW Nigella Lawson has a recipe for it made with an immersion blender that avoids the necessity of slowly dripping the oil into the egg. Had to try it once because I couldn’t believe it would work – I’m now a convert, and have been on a kick of making Waldorf salads with it. But then I’m a garlic addict.
I lived in Dakar, Senegal from 8-11 years old. It’s a coastal city,so we ate a lot of fish: stewed, fried, etc 5+ times a week. When I had my first fried fish sandwich at McDonald’s after coming back, it all tasted wrong. I had become used to crusty baguettes & a whole gutted fish with the head & tail attached. I did not know that a popular sandwich was something that morphed the texture & taste of fish, bread, & cheese into bland easy-to-digest ” frankenfood”.
Oh yes! I remember on one of my first trips to America going to a place recommended for ‘the fish sandwich’! Fried tasteless fish, white bread and fries . No special sauces or marinades, overcooked, no vegetables or salads…. years later I am still befuddled about how that could be special.
Patricia Schlorke says
It is so interesting to read another point of view about American food. Those of us who were (are) born and raised in the U.S. really don’t think about this until it is point out by those who were not born in the U.S. I learned this when I was in school. The majority of my classmates were from India or Asia. I could always tell when someone from India brought their food with them since it had a spicy, curry smell in the air. Then they would start talking about how gross American food could be. All I did was raise my eyebrows and smile.
I agree that there are foods that are not so great to eat. Pre-made deli sandwiches (the kind that are wrapped in cling film in the deli section) are really bad. Stores think that people will like the white bread, tasteless fillings, including the soggy tomato, and gloopy mayo. All I say to that is yuck.
I will admit when K-Mart was still in business (back in the day when it was not part of Sears), they had a sandwich section that made really good sub sandwiches. The bread was French bread, not the pasty white supermarket white bread. You got to pick out what you wanted on your sandwich. By the time I got home with the sandwich, everything got to meld together, and it was good. 🙂
Susie Q. says
I worked in the deli at Kmart. We had a meat slicer and sliced actual meat into slices for the subs. Also used it for slicing the cheese and tomatoes. No using pre-sliced mystery “lunch meat”. I buy an actual ham and slice it myself using a food processor. Hard salami has actual flavor and is great with provolone on crusty bread.
Apart from using on BLTs, I used mayo and or salad dressing interchangeably for tuna salad, potato salad, etc. I bought the light version of either. Due to it being out of stock, I ended up buying full fat with egg mayonnaise instead of the healthy version. It was delicious!!!!! Never using salad dressing or the healthy version of mayo again.
My mom loved lunch meat. She would eat it plain. The fact that the reusable package that lunch meat comes in is the best part says a lot. So far as weird regional food, a party treat in the midwest is lunch meat spread with cream cheese rolled around a jumbo pickle, chilled and then sliced like sushi. Big crowd pleaser along with cocktail weenies and grape jelly served hot. The jelly melts into a sauce. As the designated cook, made them for parties while living at home. Never made them for guests in my home.
That definitely would not have happened at our house. My dad likes to show off his cooking skills, especially when he has an audience. In fact it most likely would have been a training exercise in teaching dutch oven cooking.
I’m American-born and have never been able to stand deli turkey or chicken. The taste, texture, and smell are horrible. I would beg my dad for almost anything else, only to be told “it’s Boar’s Head! It’s expensive!” Like that had anything to do with it.
Otoh, I will gladly eat sandwiches made of actual chicken/turkey. Roast a chicken? Better believe I’m cutting up some of the leftovers and making a sandwich with it. Thanksgiving leftovers? Woohoo! But deli meats…blergh.
I have to agree – deli lunch meat “turkey” is ok for sandwiches. Sliced off the breast at the deli is better than the pre-packaged, if your grocery store has a deli department.
One of the reasons to have a roast turkey for Thanksgiving (or any holiday) is the wonderful leftovers!! My mother put the larger slices in containers for sandwiches, smaller pieces were cut up for turkey casseroles, and the rest simmered for soup, usually with carrots, celery, onions and rice. (If she had time, there was also homemade bread to go with the soup.)
Elizabeth KW says
Ilona, you world have been better served to have the classic Pb&J, as long as no one had a nut allergy.
We lived in Germany when I was a child, and the (expensive) peanut butter available there in the 1960s was nothing an American child wanted to recognize by that name. I did quickly come to love the brötchen and real butter.
trailing wife says
Elizabeth KW, by the time my husband’s job took us to Germany in 1991, real American peanut butter was available in my grocery story near Frankfurt am Main. Of course there were a lot of Americans living in the area, between the US Army bases and expats working for the international companies. We even could get Corn Flakes and chocolate chips.
barbie doll says
We have hosted many exchange students. One told us what he had expected to eat while he was here. This was after he had been here for several months and had eaten only home cooking. He said he expected to have to eat McDonalds and fried food all the time. I asked why he bothered to come if that was what he expected. When I was in Switzerland everyone asked me if I missed fried food. We Americans have a very bad reputation for our eating habits. Unfortuunately some of the reputation is true
Patricia Schlorke says
I agree! One of my doctoral classmates from South Korea thought all Americans drank coffee. I don’t drink it. I drink tea. When she found out, her eyebrows went up and was surprised.
Just don’t go to Britain and then take your tea without milk. They will look at you like you are the advance scout of the invading Mongol horde.
Depends where you go; back pre-Covid when we had monthly fundraising coffee mornings in the local Church; they always kept a lemon on hand for people who wanted it – and it was always used by the end of the morning! (And not just for a quick G&T either).
When I was a young teen, Ranch dressing was gaining in popularity we went to dinner at a family friends. My Mom and I were excited to see homemade ranch as one of the choices for salads. It was great until I took a bite, she had used Miracle Whip instead of Mayonnaise to make it, talk about throwing off the whole meal plus I had taken a big serving and had to eat it.
Christmas of 2019, the kids gave my husband a slicer, it has made using leftover grilled or smoked meat into easy awesome sandwiches.
Until I discovered Boar’s Head, yes, I found all cold cuts to be like this. And then for about a decade (the 00’s, more or less), I had wonderful, if expensive, cold cuts.
Then I moved to Austria. If it’s pork-based — and they can do things with pig that make the pig happy it dies in Central Europe — there’s about a 50/50 chance it’ll be tasty. If it’s not pork, it’s either cardboard or slimy cardboard. I cried and complained for a YEAR. I trolled expat blogs looking for something better. I had been utterly spoiled.
After ten years, I found I can get half-decent corned beef and EXCELLENT pastrami in the Jewish quarter (not unlike NYC there). Aside from that, I have to make my own. The bologna — leberkäse — is good, but falls within the realm of pig-based. Roast turkey sandwiches are perfect for a non-air-conditioned summer meal. Roast turkey, not so much. I’ve learned to live with it (but I still let out a whine a few times per year).
Don’t even get me started on the beef. They name steaks & cuts for how they think they should be cooked, with no regard for or way to tell what part of the cow it came from. They… they BOIL one of the primest cuts of roast beef. It’s one of their national dishes (Tafelspitz).
Let me be clear that I am referring to grocery store cold cuts. My ex’s parents lived in Philly in the early 00’s, and if I’d had my way, we’d have visited every two weeks to bring home cold cuts from the Famous Fourth Street Deli (they lived around the corner). 6 hour drive plus $30/pound meat made them the most expensive ever. Boar’s Head doesn’t compare to real deli cold cuts, but it’s still miles better than anything else in the grocery store.
Yeah, I’m pretty darned fussy about who I buy sliced meats from these days. It’s usually Whole Foods and I watch them slice it for me at the deli. The meat actually tastes like what it is. I’m willing to pay a little more for the real thing, rather than the processed yuck that is sold at most grocery stores.
My best/worst moment on the other end:
I was bartending & waiting tables one summer afternoon in Boston, when an older, quite lovely French couple came in to eat. They ordered Budweiser. They were incredibly excited to try it. I did my best to disillusion them, but they were set on course.
At that point I had lived several years with a friend who traveled 2-3 times/year to Prague and brought back the BEST beer. I knew what these poor people were probably used to, and I tried. I really did.
OTOH, the look on their faces when they sipped was absolutely priceless.
Patricia Schlorke says
Try going by the AB brewery for more years I care to admit in St. Louis. The smells coming from there (cleaning the vats, mash fermenting, etc) were so strong that I can’t smell Bud or any of the other products from there without turning away. I can’t even drink it. ????
Linda B says
lololol…that is absolutely the BEST story!!!
I refuse to eat deli turkey/chicken, also.
Oy. You know they still sell that “turkey” at grocery stores in the packaged cold cut section. I accidentally bought some a few months ago, and of course “had” to eat it. Yeah, I really know what you’re talking about. We really have some food surprises in this country.
In the mid 70s, my mother took my sister and I to visit one of her friends in Kobe, Japan. She designed kimonos and was famous for her designs. One day, a group of ladies took us to lunch. They went to the aquarium and picked their fish from the tank. Then we went to a private room with tatami mats and huge trays and platters of ornate foods and dishes. My mom whispered to my sister and I to behave. Lunch was $250 USD per person. Okay, I’ll be good. I ate the stuff I knew but I couldn’t stop wondering why the sashimi fishes had towels over their heads. Why do they need that? My sister dared me and I, so full of curiosity, lifted a damp towel off one of the fish and all heckola broke out. The flip was alive!, flopping!, and the ladies were pisssssed off at me for ruining the spread, their dishes, and the supremely expensive lunch. I got my pet turtle taken from me for being a very naughty 3rd grade girl and no more Hello Kitty doodads for the rest of the month-long trip. I only eat proteins that are good and truly dead, for reals, and all of it has to be ‘well done.’ California roll with fake crab is the most sushi I can do.
Ah, ikizukuri – fish prepared alive.
I lived in Japan many years and was once at a drinking party where a plate of beautifully lined up shrimp was brought to the the table – until the first one was removed and they all started to jump off the plate.
And many still wondered why I did not eat my portion…
I once was invited with two other teenage girls to a friend’s house for lunch. It was the first time any of us had visited there, although we’d been part of the same group of friends for several years. Her father was Egyptian and her mother was from the Sudan. Her mother must have cooked all morning. Bowls and plates of food, enough for at least eight people. I don’t remember much of it, but most of it was inedible to us. There was this slimy, leafy greens in a bowl of clear oil. Chicken fried with an egg coating, which wasn’t too bad. Thankfully, we all politely took small bites and otherwise kept our mouths shut.
Richard Cartwright says
If it makes you feel better my late wife was fed liver and onions for breakfast in Moscow when her school choir toured Russia and Poland. 🙂
I was a DOD school kid and attended school in various countries. I will never forget when I was living in Germany and our class was invited to visit a German base somewhere up on the Baltic Sea side. It was cool to tour and everything was going great until lunch. We found out that we were to fed with the enlisted troops.
We were handed a plate of boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, and bloodwurst. Except the wurst (sausage) was sans casing. So it was basically a heap of semi finely massed meat product that was an “interesting” purplish red color.
A lot of us wound up eating kraut and potatoes.
For our snack for the afternoon, we got sea biscuits and cheese. Sea biscuits were a hard pass, too. It’s hard to describe the flavor and texture of an unsalted and unsweetened “cracker” that had the density of particle board, the thickness of a cookie, and a wonderful preservative laced after taste (they were apparently good for 5 years if the package was sealed). But the cheese was good.
Being exposed to different cultures is always entertaining, even if all it does is make you appreciate what you have.
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the post. I ROFLOL. I too think store bought sliced turkey is tasteless. My doctor insists I eat drat Turkey bacon that even the dog refuses to eat because it’s more healthy. I prefer to buy Turkey meat and cook it myself in oven and make sandwiches from that. Same thing with sliced deli chicken. It’s just yucky to me. The bacon— well, I buy the real pork bacon and limit my intake to one slice once a day. Because I figured out how to cook in oven a baking pan at a time. So to keep from eating excessively the whole pan, I immediately bag up the delicious crispy done pork bacon and freeze it.
Katherine c Davenport says
After a while you forget. A couple of years ago I went to a market my dad used to go to (not very conveniently located for me now) and got chicken breasts. When I got home I opened the brown paper and thought “Oh no! the butcher gave me turkey by accident,” but it really was chicken. I was steaming it to add to soup but when it was done it smelled so good I cut off a couple of slices and thought, “I remember this. This is what the taste and texture of chicken used to be like.”
I went back and asked. All of their meat is locally sourced mostly from organic farms that they have a relationship with. Now I make the extra effort and get all my meat there. So worth it.
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
One of my client is a farmer. She breeds and shows Herefords and sells their sperm and eggs. Last year she paid me for fixing her computer in grass fed hamburger. The flavor is noticibly different from grocery store meat.
Valerie in CA says
Since we are telling food stories….
Green beans are my kryptonite.
Since I was a baby, they make me vomit. My 100% Ukrainian mother told my 100% Ukrainian Baba. My Baba said no, my mother just did not prepare them right. My mother was an awful cook
My Baba prepared fresh and proceeded to feed me. “See?” I ate them right up, happy as can be. I then proceeded, 20 minutes later, to projectile vomit them all over Baba’s kitchen floor.
I was 2.
Same at age 12. Same at 23. Same at age 30. I have given them up permanently, now. When I decided to see my current doctor she asked me “ ok what are you allergic to?” Green beans s always the first on the list. She laughed for five minutes
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
Thru the good aspices and friendship of the Russian Language professor at my university, I managed to get paid to go to Russia in 1993 with a group from the university (as a translator), right after I graduated. After nearly 24 hours on the plane, and more than that awake, we landed in Moscow and were invited to the home of a Professor at Moscow State University for dinner (or lunch or possibly breakfast, I hadn’t slept in a long while. His son was part of the exchange program at my university.) The 14 of us were sitting in a tiny room around a large table that went nearly wall to wall.
After a meal I don’t remember at all, the host got out “champagn for the women and vodka for the men.”
I do not like bubbles, especially sweet bubbles. I love whiskey and other “local” drinks. I asked if I could try the vodka instead. He was very confused, apparently women don’t “really like alcohol.” I told him I like whiskeys and brandy and rum. I’m not one for sweet drinks. He looked amazed, and slightly weirded out but said “Oh, whiskey, I’ll share my treasure with you.”
And he opened a little cabinet, moved a bunch of stuff out and pulled out his “treasure”. Which was a bottle of Crown Royal that someone from Canada had sent him. He shared a tiny little glass with me, as an honored guest.
I thanked him, altho I’d rather have tried the vodka… Later, when I got to grad school, I sent him a limited edition bottle of Jack Daniels as a thank you for sharing his treasure (and so he would have american “whisky”… and I did eventually get to try the vodka, and it was very tasty and not at all like vodka I’d had in the US.
(All the food we had in Russia was excellent, tho the plethora of hard boiled eggs was a bit weird to us. )
And then there was the Russian exchange student and his wife and baby we invited to my mother’s house for Easter. Beautiful little girl, about a year old, in a beautiful white lacy dress. My mother whipped her dress off, put a towel on as a bib and gave her a bowl of red Jello. That was funny on all fronts.
Wow what a great story!! I can’t stand that overly processed turkey, we get the real roasted turkey breast slices when we get sandwich stuff but it’s mainly bc my husband likes it. lol. Poor kids!
I am French and went in a summer camp in Colorado for one month when I was 15, where we did lots of hiking. During a hike, we did a break and got “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches”. I had never tasted peanut butter but when I saw how the other kids were excited, I was excited too.
Erf, one bite and I couldn’t believe that people could enjoy this. The smell of it, the awful sweetness and the weird after taste that stays forever. Yuk ! So for me, it was just jelly sandwiches 🙂
It depends a lot on the peanut butter. Regular US peanut butter has lots of added sugar and is awful. Peanut butter with just good roasted nuts and oil tastes totally different. There are also lots of other nut butters here also. But P&J is a staple that kids seem to like.
I can definitely relate to fillers in USSR meat products. Do not remember this from early childhood( who cared at that age, you just ate or did not and went slightly hungry because nobody was ready to make you a different kind of meal), but from the eighties it appeared and spoiled lots of sandwitches.
By the way my experiences with food in the US have been good . Except… why on earth are there peeled eggs on sale swimming in some kind of liquide? Surely everyone or their helper can peel an egg?
Cultural differences, I know. Just curious
A lot of peeled eggs in liquid are actually pickled, with vinegar, herbs like dill or spicy peppers. Not a fan myself, but some people like the briny taste.
They do sell pain hardboiled eggs in small packages (no liquid and in the refrigerated section). Usually 6 eggs for $4 US dollars. Every time I see them, 1 think that I can spend less than $2 for a dozen eggs and boil them myself.
Actually, not everyone can peel an eggshell off an egg. To this day, it amazes me that this is true, but there it is. I have taught many people to do it easily and they are all surprised at how it’s done. I don’t want someone else taking the shell off my eggs. I always wonder whose hands did it and how clean were those hands?
Now that you mentioned it, ready to go eggs can be easier for young kids and people with conditions like arthritis. (They probably use pressurized water or air to remove the shells).
There’s a secret. The older the egg, the easier it is to peel . Never make boiled eggs using fresh chicken eggs. Oh, the humanity. (Lessons learned from next gen small farm mom.)
My mom went to public school in the 30’s . They would serve chunks of fish, heads included in a milk sauce.
My mom couldn’t eat it, she cried that the eyes were watching her.
The staff would not let her leave till she ate all of it. It was the Depression. My mom wouldn’t budge. They finally got her sister to come in and eat the fish.
My mother hated all fish except salmon.
I didn’t know tuna salad existed till I was in catholic school and they served it every Friday for lunch . I loved it . I was only able to eat it when we were out to lunch. No tuna at home.
We had a great Jewish deli when I was growing up. They had fabulous turkey sandwiches made with real turkey. The chicken matzoh soup was perfect. Corn beef on rye with mustard was a expensive treat.
Down the block was Walken’s bakery.
It was owned by Christopher Walken’s dad. Everything was excellent. Incredible, jelly donuts, strawberry tarts , crunchy bread and exquisite little melt in your mouth cookies. There was always a huge line, and the ladies who worked there had feminine uniforms with flowers and lace on the upper left breast.
My mom and I were spoiled with the riches of food. We were very poor and my mom hated cooking ,but she considered jelly donuts and hot dogs or chicken soup as essential eating.
When I became a teenager I found out by watching public TV you could
roast a chicken, and make chocolate chip cookies. I took over the cooking.40 years later I can roast a chicken, make a good lasagna and make OK cookies. The only bread I can make is Irish soda bread.
I am so surprised that you got awful sandwiches when you first came here.
Thank you for staying and becoming both a bestselling author, wonderful parent and excellent cook.
Tiger Lily says
I visited Zimbabwe with a small group of teachers through the Fulbright program. It was three weeks in South Africa and three in Zimbabwe. It was an awesome experience. The people were so warm and friendly. The animals and nature was extraordinary. Our first night in Zimbabwe we had a dinner to welcome us. It was a buffet kind of dinner where you picked what you wanted to eat. One of delicacies was something that looked like a pile of catepillers but was actually a pile of mopane worms which were a delicacy, especially in the city. I had decided beforehand that I would try whatever I was given because this was an experience I would never get again. The worms were kind of salty and crunchy. It was just difficult eating them because they looked so much like catepillers. I tried a couple of them. Not bad. I tried everything that was offered, culturally and food-wise, on the trip and it was so worth it. The only think I could not try was raw oysters. I could not eat them in the US before or after my trip to Africa so I didn’t feel too bad about that.
Ah, you got the dreaded plastic lunchmeat.
I went to Kapingamarangi atoll in the Pacific and they served us pig meat that still had hair on it and boiled octopus with a side of taro root. I don’t remember eating anything as horrible as that meal in my life but I ate it and food wise I was a picky teenager. It was not a happy experience I became violently ill out of both ends and we were on a boat.
I’m not a fan of turkey, but my guys love a Boars Head turkey sandwich with bacon, Swiss, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes on a Kaiser roll.
I hate deli meat and what I call old cold sandwiches, but will eat them in a pinch. Then I went on a cruise on a European cruise line. While they had American foods they served a lot of European foods. The “deli sandwich” was a revelation. Mini baguette with a quality dried ham, and I don’t know what the cheese was, but it was amazing. I lost 10 lbs on that cruise because they served the food to you in the buffet and it was European portions and the quality was so good that I savored it and didn’t want to overeat.
Colleen Curran says
I grew up overseas with limited choice in groceries. My family came back for a summer visit. I was 11 and my sister, 7. My parents took us to a grocery store and to the cereal aisle, then told us we could each pick out ONE cereal. Then they stood at the end of the aisle and enjoyed their evil sense of humor. I finally chose something at random, but it took me some 10 minutes. My sister was reduced to tears.
The first time we visited Florida was in 1990 and we went to a restaurant in Orlando for dinner on our second night with our two boys age 13 and 10 and what a shock we had when the meal arrived at the table.
We had ordered a starter, salad and a main plus extra fries and it all came at once. There was not enough room on the table for everything. No-one told us that Americans had such huge portions of food and that a starter was meal on it’s own, that a salad was mainly lettuce with a little bit of tomato and a full rack of ribs was too big for one person never mind a 10 year old.
The food we did not eat would have fed a family bigger than ours and the hotel where we were staying did not have a fridge in the room so we could not take any food away to use the next day. In some ways it was a valuable lesson as we asked questions before we ordered in other restaurants and that saved both waste and money.
We have been back many times to Florida and had some really lovely meals but that one well the memory stays with us and we wonder what did our waiter think when ordered so much?
OMG. What an introduction. I wish you had had better food to greet you. I’ve read your many food descriptions throughout your books, so I know you’ve been able to enjoy food that actually tastes good. Plus you can cook so many things. Thank you for remembering. ????
Erin D says
Genuine question from a nearly lifelong vegetarian: is that turkey lunchmeat, as pictured, made from thinly sliced turkey, or is it turkey that has been sort of ground up and reformed like bologna?
Neither! It’s half way house between the two where the parts of turkey breast (it’s always the breast) are soaked in water/brine then packed into a form and pressed so you end up with an easily sliced roll with very little waste or taste.
… these stories remind me of a favourite sitcom moment – Fran tries sushi:
I still remember being on a trip to China (14-day tour, it was amazing) and eating many things I had never tried before — until one day at lunch a small dish came around with pieces of what looked like sweet and sour pork. I took a piece and tried to eat it. (unsuccessful) I asked the waitress what it was & was told “pork”; asked our translator for clarification and was told “pork fat covered in curdled bean curd”. No one else at my table was willing to try it. I was never brave enough to try the chicken feet or 100 year old eggs after that but there was some absolutely amazing food.
Chicken feet not worth the effort! The 100 year old egg completely inedible and I eat pretty much anything. I did have amazing food there otherwise! Have no idea what some of it was tho.
My late mother’s waterloo moment in 1930’s China was an encounter with duck’s feet!
She did enjoy the fried chicken intestines though.
Your story is hilarious!????
When I was 16, I was an exchange student to Japan. We were treated so well and the food was amazing!! The only time I was thrown for a bit of a loop, was when served what looked like rice with pepper. Turned out it was small cooked baby fish. I believe it’s called shirasu. Probably a delicacy, but that first bite was a surprise!!
RJ Blain says
This made me smile during a very bad day.
Beth Colsher says
I sympathize with this. My mother in law invited us for dinner once. She served us very over cooked spaghetti with cold jarred pasta sauce and stale pre grated cheese along with a charcoal like burned French bread loaf with margarine and a lot of garlic powder in lumps on it.
Pam Blome says
I haven’t eaten “lunch meat” in decades. I’ve accidentally purchased fast food roast beef sandwiches, which I threw away after one bite. You have my sympathy. There are reasons I prefer home cooking!
Marsha Johnston says
You never fail to make me smile. Today was a very tough day so I thank you.
Candy Daniels says
Omg… I had to eat that stuff for years because our school didn’t offer hot lunch and we were poor. It was always that “paper” Turkey, chicken, or ham on cheap white bread with mustard for 2 straight years. (Mayonnaise made me gag back then.) Sometimes a slice of American “Cheese” was involved. Sometimes it was just white bread and mustard at the end of the month.
That paper meat is disgusting and I can’t eat it as an adult… makes me gag.
My Dad used to tell me the story of when he first came to Canada from Italy and he was on a train ride. They offered him a ham sandwich and he gratefully accepted it. He was used to crusty Italian bread and was expecting that but what he got was this really soft bread that kept sticking to the roof of his mouth. I would always laugh when he told me that story. I lost him last year and wanted to thank you for your blog that brought that memory back to me.
I’m Australian, but worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at Harvard for four years. I never got used to the sweet taste of bread in the US, so rarely ate it. But I was also very poorly paid as a postdoc, so used to participate in paid research studies to supplement my income.
One study was looking at the effect of low and high protein diets on bone density. We had to eat only the food provided in the study for two weeks, so I thought it would be great, get paid, and also save money on food for two weeks. But the food was the same every day, and the lunch consisted of a “turkey” sandwich. The first week was the lower protein diet, and the sandwich comprised a couple of slices of the sliced turkey meat, an overpowering mayo, and the sweet bread. I disliked it immediately, and hated it by the end of the week.
Imagine my disgust when the second week’s lunch was the same turkey sandwich, but with about 10 slices of the turkey meat in it. I would nearly gag as I ate it, and it was only the knowledge that it would affect my colleague’s results if I didn’t stick to the diet that kept me eating it, forcing down every mouthful.
The same study also gave us a daily candy corn “snack” that we had to eat, to keep our calorie intake constant. That was another thing that I immediately disliked the taste of, and loathed by the end of the study.
Needless to say, I’ve never eaten turkey meat or candy corn since that day.
Melisa M. says
I feel like deli meat is getting a bad rap here in the comments. On a sandwich or on a cracker with cheese for a snack they are great! They are just an easy lunch to make and eat on the go. Bologna, ham, turkey- they are all good. Of course there are better ones and cheaper ones but overall they are tasty.
I mean they are sold in every grocery store for a reason and there are like a billion different varieties. So…someone is eating them. I’m not afraid to admit I eat them. It’s like one comedian said everybody acts like they don’t eat McDonald’s but they sell millions of burgers so someone is eating there! Lol!
Of course not everyone loves them I just think it’s funny like 90% of these comments are about how gross they are but I sure see them in people’s grocery carts out here in California!
But I definitely see how not growing up on them you would find them displeasing at first! But Ilona learned to eat them in a sandwich so they can’t be disgusting! Haha!
I remember really disliking white turkey meat and thinking the dark was blah at Thanksgiving.
But I’ve found the most delicious ground turkey is the fuller fat version brought to market by Empire. No other compares for great turkey burgers.
I’m guessing the deli meat was very much white meat…
Jane D says
This story reminded me of one of my first American meals.It was a cheeseburger meal that was served as we were flying to the US – on TWA. My siblings and I wondered – how could Americans eat cake with sweet cheese, and dry meat? And what was with the sweet tomato sauce for the fries? Tomato sauce should be savory!
Many years later, I drench my fries in ketchup, as I enjoy a juicy cheeseburger 🙂
Kala A. Goriup says
Do you want me to tell you about being served lampreys in Russia? LOL And pickled stuff. Oh, my. Everything was pickled. I just remembered being fed lots of different pickled things. I think someone was pulling a joke on me. Or maybe not. I was never very sure. Food is different in every culture. I will never order game meat anywhere. My friend did that in Mexico. I have never laughed so hard in my life at her face while she tried to eat that, while I happily munched my tacos.
You would probably laugh at all my flubs in Russia. I tried to buy fruit and veg in a market. My Russian was so bad, I couldn’t get across that I wanted just one. So I gave up and bought bags of stuff. My host thought I was very strange giving them food. I was too embarrassed to admit how badly I was struggling with the language. This was way before cell phones and google translate. I kept screwing up and making things plural instead of possessive or something. It was a hot mess.
Between my bad Russian and American Southern accent, I am pretty sure they thought I was an idiot.
I will end my bad travel stories there. (I really loved the country. And would go again in a heartbeat. I just think I didn’t make the best impression)
You went to school at Western Kentucky? You were a Hilltopper? I went to school there for a year, but I’m pretty sure it was long before you were in the US. Well, here’s to alma maters.
Marjorie Best says
I’m a Hilltopper too, I was wondering if anyone else was. My mother hated PB &J so she fixed us peanut butter and Miracle Whip. I still eat it to this day, and my husband thinks I’m crazy. LOL.
I first went to the US as a young teen in the 1970’s and I was with my parents, grandmother, older cousins, two younger siblings, aunt and uncle.
All I remember is the breakfast cereal choices, the absolute horror of my mother, aunt and grandmother and the delight of my father and uncle. We had gone over for the wedding of a cousin but had hired an enormous motor home to sightsee for two weeks before the event and so were self catering.
Both my mother and grandmother always made their own bread and had had somehow imagined that America would be something like the continent where they would be able to buy wonderful food from bakers, butchers and greengrocers. Instead, they met the enormous supermarkets and the endless, sprawling aisles of prepackaged choice not seen in the UK at that time.
We kids went into hyperactive shock from the sugar and E numbers in the breakfast cereals, the men bought a portable bbq and cooked meat every evening and the women suffered when they tried to make savoury sandwiches with sweet, cake-like bread. They recovered, I’m pleased to say, when we reached the groom’s family and had wonderful southern home cooked food. Then, we children returned to our bland and mostly unsweetened existence at home longing to be able to eat tiny marshmallow treats at breakfast. When said cereal was introduced to the UK, we were older and it really didn’t have the same magical effect, I’m sad to say!
For the rest of their lives, those women packed certain staples into their luggage, jars and packets they couldn’t do without for even a few weeks, carefully wrapped in their clothes, whenever they visited and even I always pack teabags!
This made me laugh because it all sounds so familiar. Can’t leave the UK without your own teabags, and breakfast in America was a shock. The cereals which were just sugar in a multitude of different forms, the weird dairy products and the breakfast staples of bacon and sausage which were just wrong. Sausage presented as a burger and pork scratchings style bacon were a revelation.
When we visited America we made a game of reading ingredients lists of things we bought and spotting how many ingredients or production methods were banned in the UK. It really was horrifying.
It is funny that even in the 2000s when I visted America, my shocks were so similar to yours from the 70s.
A couple of decades ago, I found myself shocked at the number of ingredients used in American foods and a number of other products that are banned by other countries and why they were banned.
I was never a person who put my country’s value over others, but I also never thought we could be so low. I was really horrified and heartbroken.
That was my first realization of being gaslit.
The year the macaroni and cheese wasn’t eaten.
My mom has a large family, nine siblings. When I was four our family was invited to my Aunt Edith’s for dinner. The house was packed with different families relatives. I was outside playing with all the children when we were called to come eat. Standing in line in age order adults were asking us what we wanted. I was just standing there looking at the dish in front of me when my aunt said do you want any. I said shook my head saying a long no. I heard my mom say I take her, she will be here all day. My mom to me, you like macaroni and cheese why don’t you want any? Me pointing with my finger… look it has baby roaches in it. The room went quiet. All the kids start gathering around me to look, my grandma and aunts and uncles came to look. My Aunt Edith who made the dish looked and said that is black pepper, do you want any? All the kids and me said no. One of my uncles laughed that started all the other adults to laugh. My grandma laugh and said I told you to use white pepper. No one ate the macaroni and cheese and from that date forward my mom was reminded to feed that “picky ass kid at home”. My Aunt Edith celebrated her 100th birthday last November 27, 2020.
Lol, this story sounds so familiar! After hearing so much about American food and its decadence I was both impressed and disappointed when I visited for the first time. I ordered tea with breakfast and the milk was this watery stuff that had no taste. I actually thought it was off or some form of fully skimmed stuff and asked the poor waitress for different milk. She returned with ‘half and half’ as she called it and it was even more watery. My friend at the time sat debating if it was actually milk or water that was coloured with chalk powder. I turned to my bacon, eggs and toast breakfast and was horrified by the fatty, crispy cardboard that looked more like pork scatchings than bacon. The bread tasted artificial, like sweet long life cake and the stuff pretending to be butter was like a yellow wax.
All was not lost however as later in the day we went exploring and indulging our gluttony. The burgers we had for lunch later were some of the best I have ever tasted and the risotto for dinner was excellent. Over the next few days we ate some wonderful and some quite frankly decadent foods. For breakfast however I learned to stick to fruits, ginormous pancakes and syrup and to avoided the weird dairy products as much as possible.
The huge portion sizes and wait staff always asking if we wanted cheese on things or extra cheese is what really caught us off guard. The idea of ‘doggy bags’ or ‘take away’ bags for leftovers is such a standard part of so many restaurants it blew my mind. The idea of getting so much food in a meal that you are almost expected to take some home with you is really weird to us.
Oh and the ‘soda’ in America is such a strange experience. The amount of sugar in everything made our teeth ache. I switched to drinking water after the first day because the sweetness was too much from Soda. Here we have sugar taxes which have restricted the amount of sugar that manufacturers put in soft drinks so my taste buds and teeth were not prepared for American drinks which tasted like watered down syrup a lot of the time.
Ah yes, the American bread that tastes like cake 😀
Wenonah Lyon says
That is funny! OK – I make very good pies, take pride in it. I decided to make a Key Lime pie. Key Limes are very different than limes. I couldn’t get key limes, so I used regular limes. My daughter’s best male friend, and her fiance, were over. I served the pie. They started eating. then I took a bite: “this is completely inediblel!” I said. Both young men threw down the pie, best male friend said, “Oh, Thank God! We don’t have to eat it…”
Marcia McGinley says
I used to have turkey sandwiches when I first started working. There was a shop that had an array of roast meats and would slice off the meat for your sandwich so you ended up with a hot turkey sandwich. Very yummy. Fast forward a year or two and my first trip overseas which was to the US. I was in a restaurant for lunch and the menu said “hot turkey sandwich” and I thought bingo! What turned up was turkey on a slice of bread covered with chicken soup which I later was told was turkey gravy. It wasn’t bad though. Just unexpected.
When my mother arrived from China, she was given a hamburger for dinner as a big treat. She vomited it up. She never said, but I believe this occurred in front of her host. In all fairness, she was in her first trimester at the time and vomiting a lot. Still, it was decades before she fed us hamburgers and only when she was too tired to cook.
Omg that’s too funny! They probably picked turkey because it’s inoffensive, too. ROFL!
Great story, thanks for the laugh!!
I can sympathize. My dad did not believe in “artificial food”. We had chicken and turkey bought at the butcher’s. And it was really the butcher’s. The animals met their end there. It was a bad day when I realized what that lamb was there for. Beef? My dad bought wholesale and cooked it superbly. This was in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Yes, another world, but I brought real meat sandwiches for lunch until I was out of college. The weird pink sliced stuff? Yeesh. I’d eat plain bread and butter instead.My kids continued this as I was an at home mother.I even grew all our own veggies and kept chickens. Until the day they wanted to eat like everyone else, hot dogs, canned tuna, bologna, deli meats. But the wheel turns. As adults, Child2 will eat almost anything if it is presented to him, but never buys “processed” foods, and positively revels in fresh foods. Child 1 although OK with meat, takes pains to eat “healthy”. Thanks, Dad.
HaHaHa. I was raised on an Angus ranch in the 60s and 70s. College food was a shock and I became a involuntary vegetarian for that time.
I’m sorry for our flavorless turkey! ????????????. Thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing your real life stories, particularly the Russia-related ones because I get to hear snippets about the regular Russian people rather than politicians.
I was born in America, so I can only poke fun at my country from that perspective.
I can offer a memory of visiting Italy, my one and only trip outside the USA:
I was 12 yrs old and two things shocked me: their orange juice was RED and children & teens take walks in the evening with their family – including parents & grandparents – WITHOUT EMBARRASSMENT. My understanding of world was never the same after that ????
Gaëlle from France says
I visited America only one time, 6 years ago. New York city, with my brother and my cousins. I have saved money a very long time for the plane ticket and for renting this little house in the Queens.
Amazing souvenir, I really fell in love with the city… what I didn’t fall in love ? The food !! When you spend all your money in the ticket and the rent, you can’t be really demanding on the restaurants… Everything was full of grease. I mean, I’m ok with some fried food, but not on everything !
One day, we tried a mexican restaurant, and on the menu was spicy soup, spicy pasta, spicy chicken, everything spicy… I asked the waitress, “not too spicy please”, her respond was something like “no, no, not too spicy, don’t be afraid”. Don’t be afraid my ass, I haven’t be able to eat a single bit of my plate, and my brother who finished his plate ? Let just say that the spicy food doesn’t just hurt in coming in…
Unhappily, your Mexican food experience has become almost universal in the US. I am extremely sensitive to capsicum (even a mild green bell pepper is like eating acid). Everything seems to contain pepper these days. It’s the ‘In’ flavor, I guess. Restaurants serve foods containing peppers without any warning. Even when a restaurant marks the ‘hot and spicy’ dishes, there can be capsicum in the mild ones!
Reading labels on prepared foods doesn’t help either, because they sneak red pepper flakes in while the label just says ‘spices’ or ‘natural flavoring’ (and what is that, anyway? does it grow on a ‘natural flavor bush’??)
Needless to say, I don’t eat out much (and try to be very cautious when I do!), and prepare meals at home using fresh ingredients.
Angela Knight says
Ilona, you are right. It tastes exactly like paper. Doesn’t taste like what you carve off a turkey at all.
Hmmm. Maybe it IS paper.
Early on in my marriage my mother-in-law was traveling so I invited my father-in-law over for a homemade meal. I made beef stew and served it with “hard tack” or Swedish rye crisp. He was old enough to eat what he was served but his expression said that I had fed him cardboard with his stew. Needless to say he did not take seconds of the hard tack.
That reminds me of a birthday party that I attended when I was in 4th or 5th grade (early 80s). The family was from Romania. Her grandmother made the most wonderful bread that I’ve ever eaten. She would chase us out of the kitchen frequently for eating all her bread. My expectations were very high for the birthday cake.
So birthday party, we finished a wonderful dinner, and the cake is served. It’s a lovely sheet cake with pink frosting and little pink rosebuds. It’s beautiful. I take a big bite anticipating a typical American birthday cake with teeth hurting sweet frosting. The frosting was colored butter. Being a good Southern girl, I ate the whole piece and complimented it. But I’ve never forgotten that first bite.
American Lunch meat is not very tasty. I hate it. So did my Dad. For 18 years the only lunchmeats my family ate were imported salami, pepperoni and Mortadella. I hated them too because the sandwich was always dry italian bread with 3 slices of the lunch meat of choice. Still won’t eat salami or mortadella. Will eat pepperoni in stick form but love sandwiches with tomatoe crisp lettuce condiments and real meat sliced like chicken breast or beef from a roast or an actual ham
And even today it still tastes like pulp. I used to like deli meats, but as I’ve gotten older they’ve become more and more tasteless. Either my taste buds are worn out or like everything else nowadays that is supposedly “improved”, the quality, rather than better, is actually worse.
My first visit to the US was an IT business trip to Minnesota in February 1982. As an Australian, I was leaving high summer where temperatures were in the high 90s to the mid-100s so wearing thermal underwear recommended by a glaciologist friend, I thought I was prepared. Nothing could have prepared me for it. The cold was unbelievable. Also unbelievable and eventually funny were the questions I was asked. the most frequently asked were:
1. Do you have electricity in Australia?
2. What do you use for money?
3. Do you own a kangaroo?
The coffee was disappointing, the tea questionable and the food experiences I and my colleagues had were the stuff of slapstick at times.
And English was supposed to be our common language!
Five more visits and a good deal of exposure to American television make for fewer surprises but we still find it a foreign land.
Val Cortez says
I have to say that reading your blog has really brightened up the pandemic for me. I enjoy all of your books and the stories on your blog make me smile…especially the ones about your house. ????
This story about my dad still makes me smile — my dad & my uncle immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. There weren’t any local Korean or Asian grocery stores, and they were two young, poor bachelors who had never had to cook for themselves before. Add in the language barrier.
They drank orange juice because it was cheap — but it was frozen concentrate, and they didn’t add any water! My mom used to say it was a miracle they survived 🙂
LOL!!!! Thank you for sharing. I love it. 🙂
I would think the sweet American bread a major contributor to the yuckiness of tbe sandwich.
First stop in the US was Key West, courtesy of Her Majesty’s Grey Funnel Line.
Bread. No, just no.
Fish & meat.Yes please and keep it coming.
Pizza – I’m in heaven, you guys do it better than anyone and I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively for free.
If you could only produce a lager with taste I’d move over tomorrow. 😛
Hehehe, this brings back memories. I am from Germany and in our upbringing my mother has payed much attention to good manners: To be applied especially if one is a guest somewhere!!! BE GRATEFUL! BE POLITE! SMILE!
When I was 16 years old I had the amazing opportunity to spend one year in Massachusetts with a lovely host family. They took me home from the airport and told me on the ride to their house, they had a “welcome home” cake prepared. So sweet. Well, not only the people, but the cake. It was a store bought frosted beauty. Visually stunning. The dough tasted of absolutely nothing and the rest was icing with so much sugar it overwhelmed even my sweettooth. I could feel dental rotting taking place while eating^^. I was very hungry, quite disappointed and hopefully very polite. The next week I found out, that bread too seemingly consists of cardboard in the US. After describing the lovely dark loaves we have in Germany I was shown the dark bread in the supermarket. I think the dark brown colour was just dye 0.0. No real texture, no crust, and where were the grains?? But during my year in the US I found food I really enjoyed. And it was an experience ^^.
Food is different from one country to another – heck – sometimes between one region of a country to another. I have been told that traveling expands your horizons.
Love the story. Thank you for telling it.
Dianna Kilgore says
I have gotten lots of amusement when people watch me eat one of my favorite sandwiches. Bologna, onion and peanut butter. Everyone who was brave enough to try it has liked it so far. My mother would put a slice of tomato on hers. I have never been brave enough for that. I agree about cardboard turkey. I don’t like it either. Thanks, Everyone, for sharing your food memories. Fun!