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Aug 4, 2011 04:24 AM

Finding American Food Overseas [split from the UK]

(Note: this thread was split from the UK board at: -- The Chowhound Team)

I think there is wider issue here though - I don't expect to get roast beef and Yorkshire puddings when I go to France, but it seems that many people from the States expect everything they get there to be available here, and to be of the same quality. So while there may be the odd place that does Buffalo Wings or Mexican food, for example, the availability and quality is not likely to be the same as in the States, where they are almost national dishes.

I can understand expats craving foods from back home, but that is just the way it is - and I am glad that not everything is available here, because the increasingly globalised nature of things is gradually eroding the beauty of national and regional cuisines, and by default, the differences between cultures. The ubiquity of "full English breakfasts" in parts of coastal Spain has really diluted the food culture of those areas.

I might be contradicting myself here, as I do enjoy the fact that there have been many influences from different countries in British cuisine over hundreds of years... The availability (and quality, I guess) of non-indigenous foods in every country is generally dictated by the history of immigration and the settlement of people from other countries - thus Mexican food (as the example i used above) is readily available in the States, but not in the UK.

Sorry if this is a bit long-winded and off-topic, but (while this may not apply to you as someone who lives in London) I think it important that travellers recognise this and enjoy what London does well, rather than seek out what they can get at home, which will either not exist, or will be a disappointment.

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  1. I have to agree Theresa. I don't want to rock the boat but it does seem a lot of Americans do come to London and ask for food they can get at home or complain certain types of food aren't as good, your examples of Mexican and BBQ being case in point. We don't hear of the French coming and saying the cassoulet isn't as good, or the Spanish moaning the paellas aren't authentic!

    I say embrace it the differences! When I moved to London from New Zealand I complained I couldn't find decent places for breakfasts and coffee - i.e. the type I was used to at home, but soon realised it was me that needed to adjust and London has many other offerings, some things are better, some things not but I shouldn't expect it to offer everything just the way I want it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: pj26

      Agreed. When I moved here and realised how good I'd had it for coffee at home (NZ), I renewed my love of tea.

      1. re: pj26

        I'm not going to stick up for Americans, but do you mean tourists or those who come and actually live here? I don't find that any of my friends or relatives ever come here wanting to eat familiar food - they want to taste what's good in London, period. Maybe it's just the people I associate with. :-)

        I think those of us who settle here permanently quickly learn that some hometown favourites are not going to be available and we search out what's unique and fun to cook in England. But... there are some times that there's a craving for something from 'home,' and I guess that's why those online stores have a market.

        1. re: zuriga1

          Zuriga makes a good point about those who come and settle in another country and then occasionally crave things from home. Family members went to live in America and would satisfy their occasional cravings from the online suppliers (often across the border in Canada) - Chistmas pudding, British chocolate and Easter eggs were the main items.

          And one only needs to go to those areas of, say, Spain where there are lots of British ex-pats to see local supermarkets stocking familiar items

          1. re: Harters

            The other factor is that the craving gets so strong that you will happily consume substandard food rather than not satisfy the craving. Hence, the "it must be good because is full of people from that country" is one of the least reliable ways of choosing a good restaurant.

      2. Hmmmmm OK......A little off topic to wings ;-)

        But, I mean yeah i see where your coming from etc - and yeah, it doesnt apply to me at ALL having lived and breathed London all my life - but London, like NYC, SF, Shanghai, Mumbai, Toronto (need I go on?) markets itself as a cosmopolitan city with a developed and further burgeoning food scene. I think you may be placing too hard a disctinction between the idea of a cosmopolitan city against the national country identity through cuisine which could be a little too extreme...

        Obviously every city has a distinct plethora of restuarants that serve cuisne from its native shores but some, like above mentioend also have a well known reputation for multiculturalism.

        If I can get like you said, non indigenous food of other regions here then I would expect that SOMEWHERE, in a place like London that markets itself thus, I could get something akin to what I was looking for.

        Saying all that, in the case of, as you mentioned - the variety we get being largely due to immigrant settlements providing good authentic indiginous food - you do have a valid point and some immigrant populations arent as concentrated here as they are elsewhere - hence the lack thereof.

        And yes, you do have another valid point about globalisation taking the novelty away from certain national cuisines but I think that is a delicate thread as then we get into immigration rights etc etc - I think the best way to look at it is, take a cosmopolitan city for what it is. If it is globalised then it would be great to get most things readily available at good quality and I would welcome the opportunity to try more.

        IMO though, "but it seems that many people from the States expect everything they get there to be available here, and to be of the same quality. " - I think that is certainly a generalisation targeted at Americans, especially as most of the fussier eaters I know are from very different and much closer climes. Not that other people's tastes matter to me in the slightest. But, I for one would welcome more American food (done WELL, mind) in the UK.

        We have such amazing, delicious, great local produce like Red Poll Beef and Sutton Hoo chickens (you can tell I live in East Anglia hah) that I would welcome a proper BBQ place or somewhere to utilise this that can satisfy my wing craving!

        3 Replies
        1. re: ShekhaV

          Back on topic, the wings at the Red Dog Saloon in Hoxton are supposed to be pretty good - caveat that with 'by London standards!

          Alternatively some friendly American folk over on the Home Cooking board gave me a great recipe for some wings, as I had a bit of a craving for them a couple of weeks ago. Pretty good they were too - I cooked them in the oven then finished off on BBQ.

          1. re: ShekhaV

            I think the belief that the great world cities do a big range of food well is not well founded. Try finding great pork pies or dim sum in Sydney, good Thai food in Hong Kong, or British Gastro-Pub food in Mumbai. Similarly London is great for some things but not all.

            But having said that I always remember East Anglia as a place for reasonable American food - but maybe this has changed since the big US airbases have downsized. Is Zak's still going in Norwich? Its van next to the castle car-park used to do great burgers cooked to order (preceding the current craze in London by a number of decades). If they are still going they may do decent wings.