15 American Foods That Are as Weird to Foreigners as Poisonous Blowfish Is to Us

Categories: Food Nation

Jell-O-Print-Ad-1960s.jpg
Or you could, you know, just eat some actual fruit.
"Boiled animal bones and hide, colored with garish chemicals, served with fruit," wrote food blogger Dr. Ricky on Twitter yesterday. "Oh, you like your Jell-O don't you?"

When deconstructed in this way, a simple childhood dessert like Jell-O suddenly sounds rather vulgar and disgusting. And that was the point.

Or, rather, it was Dr. Ricky's counterpoint to yesterday's post from EOW blogger Sam Brown on foods to avoid, which included foreign treats such as fugu (a.k.a. poisonous pufferfish liver -- which, to be fair, can kill you) beondegi.

"Imagine the counter post about disgusting things that 1st worlders take for granted -- like hotdogs," Dr. Ricky suggested.

Instead of imagining it, I went out and asked my foreign-born friends which American and/or Western foods seemed the strangest to them either from afar or once they arrived in the U.S. Their answers were predictably awesome -- and some of them even surprising.

Biscuits and Gravy

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Photo by jeffreyw
"I do think biscuits and gravy are gross and strange." -- Hala, Canada via Lebanon

Peanut Butter

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Photo by Brandice Schnabel
"Peanut butter, it's still weird to me." -- Natacha, Chile

Bacon and Eggs

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Photo by Grace
"Bacon and eggs in the morning seemed weird to me. And then I realized that I could wake up really, really early to find myself a nice baguette or croissants for my breakfast!!!!!!" -- Genevieve, France

Pasta and Broccoli

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Photo by Sarah


"So when I just came to America when I was eight, we were invited to this nice host family's house for dinner. I didn't understand why they only served noodles (pasta) & green cauliflower (broccoli) for dinner. I thought they didn't like us since they only served two items for the entire dinner! Why was there not five or six dishes, like a Chinese meal? I was such an uninformed kid!" -- Miya, China

Black Pepper

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Photo by Dottie Mae
"I was born here but I always thought it was an "American" thing to have black pepper at every table - my mother (Cuban/Spanish meals at home) never used any type of pepper. I had to get used to spicy foods and explain to people that not all Hispanics liked spicy foods." -- Elaine, Cuban/Spanish


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209 comments
outterspaces
outterspaces

The huge portions.... this is what really makes me angry every time I'm visiting the US ... so much food wasted on daily basis ... I've talked to people there about that and common response is "We, here, can afford it", which was not the point. I, too, can afford it -  in Europe! - but I'm not doing it just because I can.

AnAmericanOtaku
AnAmericanOtaku

Sometimes I don't understand other places. I like a lot of this stuff. I just don't understand how it's weird. I still don't get how our bread is apparently sweet or something like that.

lgjhere1
lgjhere1

A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain America is "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues. 

It even has a chapter on our food and dinning etiquette. It points out that foreigners criticize Americans for the junk food they eat, yet surveys show that the most foods taken back home with foreigners when they leave the US are the junk foods they criticize us for eating.

Here’s a closing quote from the book’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”  

brae125
brae125

cheese? really, it's not even as big a deal as when i went to europe. europe is all about cheese

movingmum
movingmum

Hi there,

As a french person who used to live 3 years in the Netherlands, 3 years in the USA, and is now living in Spain (and who has a bit of russian roots by the way) I am very surprised by what I am reading here. The only true thins here are: huge portions and free refills.

For black peper we use it in France, in Germany, and in Spain!!!! And I discovered the grit in the Netherlands! They have it in every single supermarket! In France we have three warm meals a day, like in Spain, what has always been surprising for my dutch friends and for a lot of my AMERICAN firends too, who eat sandwiches once a day (a warm sandwich is not a warm meal, sorry!).

Peanut butter is eaten by everybody in the Netherlands, they have it for lunch in the daycare. Of course France is famous for cheese, and the Netherlands are called "the other country for cheese".


I just think that people who were quoted for the article don't really know the food of there own country/area ...

janesmith110585
janesmith110585

A lot of these are gross, southern, redneck foods. The world always looks at southern hicks and think that's all of America.

elizabethrfernandez
elizabethrfernandez

I'm American and I STILL hate large portions! I can never finish them and it always looks like I didn't even eat it.

Brazos
Brazos

If you don't  like grits you don't have enough butter or salt on them.  Or shrimp.

settledyetnot12
settledyetnot12

Cheese? Cheese isn't just American...

 

And I have NEVER even HEARD of this "Frito Pie". It looks too artificial for my tastes, though, and I'm an American myself. 

avery
avery

Peanut butter vs Nutella.  For 30 years now, whenever my wife's relatives from Europe visit, they bring me several jars of French Nutella, and occasionally some from Germany and Italy.   When I am there, I also bring it back with me  (Canadian Nutella, sold in the USA, is not very good, compared to the various European kinds.).  When I go to Europe, I take several large jars of Peanut butter with me. ( the relatives seem to prefer JIF and Skippy),  and they also take it back with them when they visit here.

Never heard of frito pie till I moved to texas, but really like it.   ( wife thinks it is gross)  cannot stand grits.  pasta and broccoli with nothing else on the plate is just weird.  SOS (biskets and gravy) is just something you eat if there is no food available.

Now, I do like octopus, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, and a lot of other things the author probably thinks are strange.  Oysters to me are disgusting, lobster is not.

 

eggplant? part of the nightshade family.  enough about that.   Love italian food, which is why i avoid the olive garden.

I could ramble on for hours, but think i will go eat a peanut butter and mustard sandwich on white bread, and have nutella on a cracker for desert.  or maybe find a slice of bologna and some velveeta to put on that peanut butter sandwich.   YUM, YUM !!!

 

Wagordon
Wagordon

Sigh.....Dunno if anyone will read this nearly 200 comments into a week+ old blog post, but what EVERYONE should understand is that ANYONE from ANYWHERE will find the foods of othercultures, regions, etc. wierd. What all people need to realize is that the foods we eat and the way they are prepared and especially how they are PRESERVED  has so very much to do with localconditions and availabilty. You'll find cheese everywhere you find the arable land to raise sufficient numbers of milk-producing livestock; cheese is the ideal method to preserve milk, be it from goats,sheep, cows, water buffalo ("true" mozarella!), etc. Koreans have kimchee, Germans make sourkraut. Bread everywhere is made in one way or another to make grains more edible, palatable and useful as a dietary staple. Beer (grains) = sake (rice) = wine (grapes) = vodka (potatoes), etc.,when it's time to party. Point being, none of it is truly wierd, it's all about getting the most out of what you've got.

And as a Houstonian and a Texan, I gotta defend Frito Pie, Chicken Fried Steak, spicy Tex-Mex,Quart-sized iced tea, and anything & everything battered & deep-fried. BBQ is smoked, dammit - low and slow, and NO BEANS in the chilli, or it ain't. Nuff said.   

Sweep
Sweep

Anything with pork ?

Bells Andwhistles
Bells Andwhistles

My French husband votes for carrot cake; although he loves it, he still finds vegetables in a cake strange. Also, the fact that Americans eat at whatever time they choose. (Here in France, snacking isn't very common and most people eat breakfast/lunch/dinner at the same time everyday.)

chillas
chillas

I guess "13 Foods Plus Two Other Eating-Related Things That Are Not Necessarily American But Are Eaten By Some Americans That a Handful of People From Other Random Countries Think Are Weird" was too long a title.

trisch
trisch

I like this blog post. It highlights a lot of the food experiences I had growing up in an immigrant family. One of my mom's favorite food stories came from her days as a grad student sharing a dorm room with a French exchange student. Someone in the Chinese community had gifted her with a piece of homemade (home-aged?) stinky tofu, which she brought back to her room and placed in the refrigerator. Not long afterward, her roommate came back, found the stinky tofu and threw it away, assuming it was something that had gone bad. My mom was not happy about that. A couple of weeks later, she found a container with something in it that was moldy, blue, coagulated and smelly in the refrigerator, so she threw it away. As you might have guessed, it was a sliver of French cheese that her roommate was looking forward to eating.

Several years ago, I hosted a group of Chinese professionals in Houston for a 6-week training program. As one of the only people in my firm with ethnic Chinese roots, I was also in charge of the cultural exchange part of the program. I was so proud when our guests were clamoring for steaks, salads, and stinky cheeses by the end of their stay. Beef is a rarity in China; meat is rarely, if ever, served in big slabs; with a few exceptions, vegetables are not served raw for hygiene purposes; and cheese, whether stinky or not, is a completely foreign concept.

Now I'm living in China, so I'm the foreigner who's having to adapt to new tastes and food customs. You'd think I'd have no problem with this, being ethnically Chinese and having grown up eating Chinese food, but what an American gets as Chinese food can be very different from what food really is in China. It can be really, really great, and it can be downright disgusting. In either case, I'm really looking forward to my next visit stateside so I can chow down on a well-marbled ribeye steak, gorge on some great cheeses, and visit all the wonderful restaurants that have opened in Houston since I left last year!

Sosorry
Sosorry

"Frito pie?"  WTF is that?  I'M American and that is simply disgusting (but not as bad as fried butter....).

Lisa C
Lisa C

This isn't even journalism. Pathetic.

Luchita Rodriguez
Luchita Rodriguez

Corn on the cob is prized in the US, but to Spaniards it might (still) be considered animal fodder--not for human consumption!

glamour kitty
glamour kitty

Wow, the writer's "foreign" friends really need to get out more. 

Sharon_Sharealike
Sharon_Sharealike

If you think salad dressing here is weird, loo at what the Brits put on theirs!

Justin_Tyme
Justin_Tyme

Mayo is fro Europe as is the custom of dipping fries in it.

Paul DuVal
Paul DuVal

So this means we're all OK with Spotted Dick then?

Niton Snsilva
Niton Snsilva

I am in with the person who said gravy, I could bring myself to eat a beef tartare while in Francebut still not able to stomach gravy. and cranberry sauce? you put a pund of sugar to soften up its sourness and it still sour.

3v3y
3v3y

Oh and Iris is absolutely right about the bread too. I grew up in another state where we got our bread from European-style bakeries...supermarket bread is disgusting. Since moving to TX, the only time I eat bread is when I am on vacation in Europe.

3v3y
3v3y

I'm an American and I find some of this stuff pretty weird myself. Certainly the portion sizes are ridiculous, as are the bottomless fountain drinks/iced tea. Agree with Iris about the three hots per day, too. Not all Americans eat that way, btw.  I certainly did not grow up eating like that....Mayo and cheese--well, talk to the Europeans about those two items. Ditto salad dressings.You can keep the Frito pie, biscuits & gravy, etc.--which are both more "Southern" than "American"....America is a big place and Texas is not representative of "American" cuisine by any means...

jk
jk

It would be nice if people from other countries would acknowledge how big the United States is and that the foods we eat varies from state to state, even city to city or (gasp!) person to person.

irritant
irritant

Man, haters gonna hate. I found this funny and even a little bit informative. It also got me thinking about how to make biscuits and gravy with a lighter gravy and chicken or beef. Because that ish is delicious and everyone in the world ought to try it at least once.

Irmtraut Zoerb
Irmtraut Zoerb

Peanut butter is truly american, and my uncle in germany would have us ship him jars of it because he liked it so much and it's not available there.

Me
Me

Lame article, not american foods, everything about this is CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE

Alan Hitchens
Alan Hitchens

Maybe they mean American cheese is weird. Compared to European cheese, it is.

Kurtinsonoma
Kurtinsonoma

Many years ago some distant relatives of my ex-wife came to visit from Northern Italy.  The first morning they were here we served them oatmeal.  One of them began to cry and said in broken english something to the effect that we were trying to make them eat wall paper paste for breakfast.  Well, we took the oatmeal away and quickly made them some pancakes with maple syrup.  The same Italian lady asked us where maple syrup comes from and we replied it's basically tree sap . . . she started crying again!!  They didn't stay too long in the US.

Lance2930
Lance2930

Frito pie?  That is disgusting, as are huge portion sizes.  Cheese is not wierd - why ask someone from China about wierd food when the Chinese eat rat, snake and dog? Remember how they had to take dog off of the menu in Beijing during the Olympics? When you buy canned chicken in China, you also get the beaks and feet - everything. 

In all honesty, most of the really bad American food habits come from the south.  Out here in California the food and eating habits are far superior, and both foreigners and Americans who know about food find it to be some of the best restaurants and markets in the world.  And you won't find a lot of grits, jello, Frito pies, deep fried anything...

Zorp
Zorp

Mayonnaise is French.  Pepper is originally from the Malabar coast of India.  Grits are disgusting, as are biscuits and gravy.   I've never eaten red velvet cake.

Jeremy McGhee
Jeremy McGhee

Sorry to say, but Mayo, salad dressing and cheese are not american.  and black pepper as far as I know doesn't even grow in north america, it's indian.Maybe the salad dressing garbage that is passed off as mayonnaise today is american, but true mayonnaise's origins are Spanish (as in Spain) in the mid 1700's.  Dipping fries in mayo is french.Cheese has been made for centuries before north america was "discovered" I'll also give "salad dressing" that is sugar loaded as American, but true salad dressing also predates america.Also, portion size isn't a "food"

Mishak Gill
Mishak Gill

This is the dumbest article I've ever read. Taking the opinion of one person who happens to be foreign is not a study. Cheese? I am pretty sure there is cheese in other countries.

samurai1833
samurai1833

I'm surprised no one just said McDonalds. I live here and can't eat it any more, ugh!

Stvanic SN
Stvanic SN

This article proves one thing. There are dumb people all over the world!

God's Watcher
God's Watcher

I live here and hate it. I'm a vegan god stuck in hell

Nyctereutes
Nyctereutes

I agree that broccoli and pasta (and only that) is kind of weird. Growing up on the farm we tended to have several vegetables with a meal -- usually potatoes, green beans, corn, a slice of tomato or whatever else was coming out of the garden. Then there would be sweet pickles and a beet slice. The beet juice makes your cornbread purple. 

Of course if there was a lot of heavy work going on we got a bologna sandwich, so I totally understand a family making a meal out of one thing.

ubn12
ubn12

@janesmith110585 I'd say you're a fucking idiot.  I Have family in Colorado, California, New York, and Connecticut... and guess what?  They eat the same thing.  Are you seriously that much of an imbecile?

wcmoore1980
wcmoore1980

@janesmith110585  So... bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, black pepper, and peanut butter are exclusively southern U.S.?


Really?

frito
frito

Frito Pie is AWESOME!!!! Try it once with some mustard on it. All I'm saying.

frito
frito

Right on! It's funny that people like to point out southern food as wierd or gross but open a southern resturant up north (especially real southern food and not just someone cooking a northern version of southern food) and the place explodes with business. Ever ate a chicken fried steak up north? It's hideous. It's hard to find real southern food in the north. Kind of like trying to get real chinese in the states. It doesn't happen. You have to drive south and try the real deal.

James
James

@Lance2930 Pull your elitest head out of your ass. 

kantfeelpietzsche
kantfeelpietzsche

If you were in Italy, your grits would be called polenta.  Very common in the Northern areas of the country.

kantfeelpietzsche
kantfeelpietzsche

Agreed.  Strange article.  But it is true that the Chinese are not big on dairy in their diets.

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