Food and Drink: 10 Things That Taste Different in the U.S.

American “buddur” just doesn’t have the dense creaminess of the British variety (seen above). (Photo via BBC Food Blog)

From bread and butter to bangers and beer, so much American produce tastes nothing like the goods back home in Blighty.

Chocolate
American candy bars — at least the mass-market types they sell in supermarkets — are brown like British-bought chocolate, but that’s where the similarity ends. Even the filthiest European brands are velvety and complex compared to the vomit-infused, fructose-y chalk that somehow passes for chocolate here. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Hershey’s.

Tap water
H2O is different the world over, but so long as there’s no dungy, diphtheria top-note you’ll probably be okay to glug away. Just accept that it might take a while to bring round your taste buds. When I moved to New York, the water was bitter and acrid compared to the stuff I supped in southeast England. Nowadays, I’m a convert, and it’s Aqua London that’s offensive. Tastes like soapy dishwater.

Butter
Americans like to whip their diary products and unfortunately butter — or “buddur” as it’s better known — hasn’t escaped a beating. Proper dense and creamy European varieties are available in most food shops but the stuff that comes with your pancakes is always despicably fluffy and flavorless. I’m constantly tempted to smuggle blocks of Lurpak into diners.

Bread
High-fructose corn syrup is in EVERYTHING. I suspect the U.S. corn lobby would dearly love us to bathe in it. So, it’s not surprising that the humble loaf has succumbed to its sweet embrace. If you don’t want your savory sandwich filling not to taste like it’s held in place by sponge cake, you’re out of luck. Expensive, artisan bread is the only solution.

Cranberry juice
Again with the cloying sugar content. The other day, I ordered a cranberry juice in a bar and was handed glow-in-the-dark red syrup. Back home, cranberry juice is so pleasingly dry and tart you can feel it strip the skin off your esophagus.

Bacon
Vive la difference on this one. British and American bacon are two of my favorite things. If I were Julie Andrews, I’d sing about them almost exclusively. So, it’s disappointing that in this land of all the stuff, nowhere can you find U.K.-style back bacon which, when cooked correctly, tastes like caramelized, smoky pig and has the texture of lightly charred leather. It’s a completely different beast from crispy American meat strips.

Sausages
Sludgy, sweet links purporting to be posh and British-inspired are easy to find, at least here in NYC. They’re usually fifty percent fennel seed and unfathomably revolting. A good banger should be dense, slightly gelatinous and pork tasting. It should never feel like you’re chewing on a liquorice-infused nappy.

Cheese
I’m not even going to mention those heinous orange squares that are really only good for tiling public lavatories; I’d rather focus on the U.S.-made yellow slabs that pretend to be cheddar. Mature varieties here are the equivalent of our mild to medium. You have to go to a specialist deli to find anything with bite.

Beer
Warning: artisanal American ale contains more hops than a Dr Seuss picture book. The rule seems to be: the smaller the brewery, the hoppier the product. Basically, it’s just not British. There’s plenty is good stuff here too but it won’t remind you of home.

Shrimp
British prawns — usually found in the supermarket freezer department in thick plastic bags — are stringy, shriveled and taste like mildly fishy sponge. In contrast, America shrimp are the size of Chihuahuas. They’re sweet, meaty and taste like they recently lived in the sea.

Join us Friday, July 26 at 1 pm ET on Twitter for a #MindTheChat on the best and worst of American food items. Follow us on Twitter.

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis