Here are just a few:
1. Baked Beans
An English classic which we generally eat as a breakfast food alongside bacon and eggs, but which go just as well on toast or a baked potato for a quick supper. In England, this staple tastes slightly sweet and tomato-y, less potent than ketchup but not dissimilar. The American cousin of the baked bean, however, comes in a dark, syrupy sauce reminiscent of HP sauce with a rich helping of molasses. Not bad, just very weird when you’re expecting something else.
It’s not surprising to find different brands of chocolate in America, but anyone who thinks all chocolate tastes the same can think again. Whereas an Englishman’s go-to chocolate is Dairy Milk or Cadbury’s, which taste subtly different but still recognisably chocolatey, Americans favour Hershey’s, which is a real shock to English tastebuds. Hard to describe what differs, exactly, but the first time I tried a Hershey bar, I pulled a face at the sweet and sickly substance. Still, great in s’mores.
All right, this is another obvious one. You can buy many different kinds of cheeses both in England and America, but the go-to in England is undeniably a sharp, creamy cheddar – simple and tasty. When an Englishman says ‘cheese,’ he almost always means cheddar. Although cheddar is common in America too, the taste is much milder and blander, and ‘cheese’ often just means an orange square on top of a burger or in a sandwich. It didn’t take me long to find a great cheese specialty store in my neighbourhood where, thankfully, the selection was much more satisfactory than the supermarket’s.
We Brits love our sausages, and to us it means a thick, greasy pork sausage, lumpy and unappealing but tasty and satisfying, often with onion, sage or apple as an added flavouring in the fancier versions. (The cheaper ‘banger’ is also a common choice.) The first time I ordered sausage with my breakfast in America, they gave me what looked like a tiny hamburger patty and tasted nothing like any sausage I’d experienced. Trips to the supermarket were just as disorienting. Sweet or hot Italian sausage, Polish kielbasa and this mysterious new ‘breakfast sausage’ line the shelves, with no hint of the thick greyish sausages I grew up with. It’s not all bad, though. After tasting spicy Italian sausage, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the plain old English kind.
Pizza is great. In England, I’d never miss the opportunity to eat at a pizza place or Italian restaurant. Chains like Pizza Hut aside, English pizza usually comes on a thin, crispy base with a light sauce, and is not overwhelmed by toppings. Delicious and not too guilt-inducing. In America, though, pizza is a different food with the same name. Greasy, soggy and oozing with cheese and toppings, it’s delicious, but in a totally different way. After methodically trying all my local pizza shops, I can say that my pizza expectations have been completely overhauled.
Ask for a pancake in England and you’ll get a thin, crepe-like creation, probably filled with something sweet like lemon and sugar, Nutella, or fruit compote. My first experience with American pancakes blew my mind. Thick, fluffy, and often stuffed with chocolate chips or blueberries, a stack of American pancakes drowned in maple syrup changed my views of breakfast food forever.
I honestly couldn’t pick one country over the other in terms of food. All I can say is that I’m ruined forever either way. No matter which country I am in, there’ll be foods I greatly miss. Thank goodness for specialty food stores!
Emily Nemchick is an English expat living in America with her American husband. She is a writer and editor who loves baking, drinking tea and exploring new places. You can read more of Emily’s writing at http://emilynemchick.weebly.com/.