Sunday, October 19, 2014

American v Australian junk food

As a bi-national, I often straddle the border, metaphorically speaking, between the USA and New Zealand. Add into the mix Australia and the UK, both important to New Zealand, and I often find myself explaining three countries to my American friends.

Like food for example, junk food in particular.

The BuzzFeed video above, “Americans Taste Test Australian Food,” was originally posted in late January, and I planned to share it here shortly afterward. Things happened. But maybe it’s just as well, because now I can compare and contrast it with the Australian counterpart, “Australians Taste Test American Sweets”, at the bottom of this post.

The first thing I noticed was that the Americans were much harsher than the Aussies. Granted, the Aussies were taking the piss sometimes, but the Americans seems very unadventurous to me, something I’ve often found to be true of Americans when it comes to trying new and unfamiliar foods.

However, someone should have served Vegemite to the Americans properly, not with a spoon!! That was just plain unfair, and their reaction is totally understandable.

Several Australians commented on the connection of various products to American pop culture (TV shows/movies). It reminded me of the time a co-worker asked me “why do most Americans drink their coffee black?"

I think that gets at the larger point here: Up to a point, we experience food products—junk food in particular—through the context of our own culture, or through our impressions of another culture, usually received through pop culture.

Sometimes another culture’s food will enter our own, but often it’s adapted for the new culture. Much of the readily available “Mexican food” in the USA, for example, might more accurately be called “Mexican-inspired food”, though that might be overly pedantic. The point is, it’s adapted for American tastes (in the same way that McDonald’s uses much leaner beef in New Zealand than in the USA; Kiwis don’t like overly fatty beef in their burgers).

I think these videos demonstrate yet again how people see the world, and experience it, from within their own cultural realities. The Americans tried unfamiliar food products that don’t have equivalents in their culture and didn’t like them. The Aussies tried American snack foods, were vaguely familiar with many of them because of American pop culture, and mainly liked the foods they were trying (or, at least, they didn't seem to hate them as fervently as some of the Americans did).

Compare and contrast yet again.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

I HATE vegemite; vile. Then again, the formulation of Twinkies has gone downhill since the 1960s, and I never "got" pop rocks.j