Most people here in Britain have a basic understanding of American food. They know we love hot dogs and hamburgers, peanut butter and plastic cheese, Twinkies, Spam, corn dogs, BBQ ribs, buffalo wings and fried chicken. Chances are, unless they’re some kind of a communist, they probably love most of these things too. But this only scratches the surface of the rich tapestry of tastes that Americans actually eat on a day to day basis. The truth is, there are many other flavours out there which most British people probably wouldn’t be aware of.
You see, we Yanks are a nation of Dr Frankensteins.
It’s not enough for us to just have and enjoy delicious Nachos, covered with cheese and jalapeños, or tasty Barbecued spare ribs at home for dinner. Why should we wait until mealtime? Why can’t we have our Nachos, pretzels and cheeseburgers whenever and wherever we want them – even when we’re driving in our giant, gas-guzzling cars? So our corporate food mad scientists go to work to find out what would happen if we could make these amazing flavours more portable, more convenient, spicier, better. They give them a new, artificially enhanced life by combining tastes and flavours that were never meant to mingle. This is our genius – we have spliced peanut butter with chocolate and created Reese’s peanut butter cups. We have made donuts out of croissants and croissants out of donuts. We put coffee in our beer, cherry in our coke and cheese and chocolate on everything. Our monstrous offspring, once created, go out and take over the world. American food is like an edible blob made out of Velveeta cheese, it is unstoppable, artificial and it spreads everywhere. Freeze-dried, deep-fried, pre-sliced, individually packaged, pasteurised and processed – our creations are available at a store near you, no matter where you live.
But not all of our native food gets the chance to leave the laboratory.
Some of our flavours couldn’t be understood outside of the USA. You foreigners wouldn’t understand. You would judge us. You may even be horrified. But we don’t care. We want….pizza flavoured, pretzel goldfish crackers with a side of ranch dressing dip… more than we want your approval.
Catalogued below are the most popular flavours that are only found in the USA. Please note that most of the images below are from everyday items that can be found in any supermarket in America. Very few of the images are from novelty items. In short – we really do eat this sh*t.
Ranch and cool ranch
Let’s begin with the basics. Ranch flavour is the special flavour of America. It was invented in frontier times, when our founding fathers settled the land despite having little to eat apart from tree bark and the bones of slaughtered buffalo. They found that everything tasted a little better when covered with a combination of buttermilk and spices. Today, we put it on salads and use it as a dipping sauce. Ranch is delicious, but it’s also a little bit disgusting. When you eat ranch dressing, you inevitably get little splashes and splotches of its creamy goodness around your mouth. It’s not a pretty thing to witness someone eating something dripping with ranch dressing. You wouldn’t catch the Queen of England dipping her cheesy fries into a little bowl of ranch. Her loss.
What does it taste like? It’s kind of like mayonnaise meets blue cheese, with hints of lemon and vinegar, and lots of pepper.
Outdoor grilling is great. You take a big slab of meat, cover it in sauce, slow cook it for 8 hours and you got yourself a BBQ party. But what if you don’t have 8 hours to spare? What if it’s raining outside? What if you want the sweet, sweet taste of BBQ while you’re driving your SUV to Walmart? I know what you’re thinking: “we have barbecue flavour chips/crisps in our country too, or didn’t you know that Mr Expat Claptrap?” Well yes, you do (and I hate it when you take that tone with me), but you don’t have barbecue chewing gum, do you, Mr smarty-pants? We do. We BBQ do.
What does it taste like? A sweet, ketchupy, smoky flavour, but there are hundreds of varieties, including honey, mesquite, cajun and chipotle.
Here’s something most people don’t know – Americans understand and love pizza better than Italians do. Really. In Italy, there are many rules around eating pizza. It’s meant to be cooked in a wood-oven, eaten for dinner – never lunch – and never meant to be eaten alone. That doesn’t work for Americans. Pizza is awesome, and it shouldn’t be shackled by traditions and regulations. Pizza should be everywhere, and available all the time. So we get pepperoni pizza combo crackers, Scooby-Doo Pizza-roni crackers and Pizza flavoured baby food. While Italians are stuck with their boring rules and their stupid best-in-the-world food culture. What good is all that fancy stuff when you can’t eat a pizza cracker while taking a shower? No good at all.
What does it taste like? Whats-amatta with you? You don’t know what pizza tastes like?
What’s more American than a cheeseburger? Actually I have an answer for that: cheeseburger flavouring. Cheeseburger isn’t a meal in the USA, it’s a flavour. Blueberry, banana, lemon, raspberry… cheeseburger.
What does it taste like? As a flavouring, not really like a cheeseburger – if I’m honest. More like beefy cheese. Or cheesy beef.
Recently, I wrote a blog post about how you can’t get good nachos in the UK, no matter how many times you try. There’s a reason for that. Nachos are American, 100% American and can only be made properly within the borders of the United States of America. I think they may have originally came from some other country, but history doesn’t even remember which one. It doesn’t matter. Americans don’t care where their nachos came from, or the method of delivery of that special nacho taste as it travels from the nacho factory to our hungry mouths. We just want our nachos.
What does it taste like? There’s a variety of Doritos brand nacho chips that are ‘nacho flavoured.’ Nacho flavoured nachos taste like nachos, that’s just what they taste like.
Buffalo wings are chicken wings that are originally from a city in upstate New York called Buffalo. The actual flavouring is kind of a spicy cayenne pepper sauce with a bit of butter and a bit of vinegar, so it can be put as a topping or flavouring on nearly anything. Buffalo chicken wings go hand in hand with beer, so, ergo, buffalo flavouring is best applied to bar snacks. Coming soon to a pub near you.
What does it taste like? Spicy and sharp
Pickle or Dill Pickle
In the USA, we serve pickles on the side of almost everything we eat. All sandwiches come with pickles on the side. Burgers come with pickles in the burger and on the side as well. I know that pickles exist in the UK, but just barely. If you scour a supermarket here in Blighty, you’ll maybe find a couple of jars, covered in cobwebs, in the “world food” section, next to the Matzoh mix. But in the USA, it’s different. Way different. Because every. single. supermarket. in. America. has. dozens. of. varieties. of. pickles. dozens. sometimes. scores. I. don’t. know. why. I’m. putting. a. period/full stop. after. every. word. But. somehow. I. hope. that. this. will. emphasise. how. much. we. love. pickles.
What does it taste like? Like a pickle of course.
British people all think America’s most famous brand of chocolate – Hershey’s – is disgusting. To a certain degree, they’re right – Hershey’s isn’t nice chocolate. But without Hershey’s, you couldn’t make s’mores which are awesome, and that makes Hershey’s awesome. S’mores are little graham cracker sandwiches, with melted Hershey’s chocolate and marshmallows as the filling. It has to be Hershey’s as it’s the only brand of chocolate that wilts rather than melts. S’mores are really only properly assembled over a barbecue grill, but because capitalism, you can now get s’more flavouring on almost anything.
What does it taste like? Mushy, warm and sweet.
Root beer is almost completely unknown in the UK. There’s one brand you can find that is made in Australia, but it’s revolting. Real root beer is amazing, and can only be made in America, the home of the famous sassafras and sarsaparilla roots, which give it its magnificent taste. How can something not be magnificent, when it is made from things with names like sassafras and sarsaparilla?
What does it taste like? The closest thing you have in the UK to root beer is Dr Pepper, but it’s not the same. Root Beer tastes more basic, more elemental. More honest.
Our last flavour is my personal favourite. Blue. Yes that’s a flavour in America – blue. Occasionally, some marketing egghead will slap on the word “raspberry” to blue items to make them sound more natural, but if you’ve learned anything from reading this far, you’ll know we Yanks really don’t care if our food is natural. We only care if they are delicious. And blue is delicious, even if it comes from a chemical factory. Especially if it comes from a chemical factory.
What does it taste like? Freedom. Blue freedom.
But wait, there’s more- Americans also mix, match and modify all of the above flavours
In the USA, we have always loved exploring unknown lands and experimenting with forces that shouldn’t be tampered with. We invented nuclear fission, moon landings… and pizza stuffed with cheeseburger bits.
All of the flavours above can be combined to form new, ingenious combination abominations. Forgive me if I have made this all sound easy. It’s not actually such a simple thing to combine ranch and dill pickle. You can’t just slap two things together. That’s not the American way. I once ordered nachos in a London pub, and they unexpectedly prepared it with barbecue sauce instead of tomato salsa as a topping for the tortilla chips. Great idea in theory – Nachos and barbecue sauce! But in reality, it was just revolting.
The only way to make truly great bad food is to start with really good bad food.
That is the American way.