The Food:

Generally we found it to be not all that different to back home.  There are some differences though.  For example, the kids are amazed by the cheese being orange, not yellow.  At a buffet salad bar early in the trip (Las Vegas) they scooped a pile of it onto their plates, thinking it was shredded carrot!  It really does look just like it. We’d always ask for ‘Swiss’ from them on, and that was fine.

 

We've found you can buy Swiss cheese, in blocks, packets of
deli-style real Swiss cheese slices and also packs of processed slices.
The deli-style Swiss cheese is quite OK.  Of course it is also possible to
buy the specialty cheeses such as Edam, Gouda and so on.  The same

European cheese types are available as back home, and in the same fashion

as in Australia are sold in the deli part of the supermarket.

Throughout the South we tried to save money by buying bread rolls,
tomatoes, salads etc and making lunch at a park where possible. This
worked pretty well, but it can be difficult to find the crunchier bread
rolls we are used to from the bakeries at home.  You can usually find them
easily enough in a large supermarket in any decent size city, but in a
small store in the rural South they may only have the really soft ones.


They even have the French style baguettes (and also what is called on the packet 'Real Italian Bread') but in each case made of soft bread like the 'dinner rolls'.  However you can also usually get the genuine Italian loaves of bread that we can also buy at home which are sold unsliced. If the packet says 'Crunchy French Baguette' (as opposed to simply 'French Baguette'),

then it will be something close to the real thing.

The servings of food in restaurants are enormous, even for kids.  Often it
can be hard to finish the meal, which I can usually do easily at home.  If
you go to one of the numerous burger chains, a 'medium' serving of fries
or a ‘medium’ drink will equivalent to a 'large' one at home.  Early on in
California I ordered a 'large' meal and ended up with a Coke in a 1.4
litre (44 US Fl Oz) cup! This huge bucket was, however, thoughtfully tapered

at the bottom so as to fit into the cupholders that are a standard feature in

every American car…

 

At restaurants they also give the kids unlimited soda (any fizzy soft-drink) refills.  I didn’t know this, and at first worried that I’d be charged for all those drinks!

They do have a wider variety of fast-food places that at home – especially lots of Mexican type places.  Also many different burger joints other than just McDonalds and Hungry Jacks/Burger King.  Some of these, such as ‘In n’ Out’ in Cali, are supposed to be quite good.  However, one thing you don’t see much is the Middle Eastern takeaway food popular in Australia such as Kebabs, although these do exist in NY and LA, under the name of Yeeros.  I recall they are also known as Yeeros in some Australian cities such as Adelaide.  Anyway we like Kebabs and missed having them.

 

You also don’t really see the ‘milk-bar’ or small fish-and-chip type shops in America that much, although they do exist in some places.

 

There is a good variety of ethnic restaurants in the cities, Thai, Indian, Japanese, etc, similar to at home.  Also similar to Australia, the small country towns will usually have the same sort of cheap Chinese restaurant that we get in our small towns.

The 'low-carb' Atkins diet is absolutely a huge thing here.  I know a lot
of Aussies are into this too, but nothing like to the extent in the USA.
Most restaurants have listed on their menu certain items that are
especially low in carbs.  At the fast-food places you can actually buy
what is basically a beef or chicken burger without the bun, just wrapped
in waxed paper!  The thing being that under the Atkins diet, protein is
seen as good but carbs bad. 

 

Lite beer here is not lower in alcohol content than normal beer, but has traditionally just had fewer calories. Now of course it is promoted as low in carbs.  Tonight they ran an article on the late news saying that a low-carb wine had been released on the market. You can get it in Chardonnay or Merlot, apparently.

As to prices, restaurant meals are probably no cheaper and very likely a
little more expensive than at home, once the taxes and the 15% tip is
added and the currency converted.  Fast food or buffet-style dining is
somewhat cheaper than at home, probably due to there being no tip
involved.  For some reason Americans refer to the main course at a restaurant as an ‘entrée’.  What we would call an entrée is called an  ‘appetizer’.


Probably supermarket prices are about the same for most things.  Prawns/shrimp are cheaper, maybe also fruit and veggies, although it varies a lot.  Meat, about the same.  If you want frozen dinners, they have an enormous variety, some quite reasonable.  For example, you can get a Cajun variety called ‘Zatarains’, I think.  They were nice and also quite good value.   These are known as ‘Frozen Entrees’ in the supermarket.  We had a fair few of these towards the end of the trip, as we were trying to save money and keep the kids satisfied!

 

One thing you don't see much is the basic Aussie-style sausage. I know they're mostly rubbish, but I quite like them, as does Zac. Here they have some interesting looking ones that are usually smoked or are of some ethnic variety.  They sound OK but Zac would not touch them, so we didn’t really try many.

 

You hear a lot of Aussies bagging the food in America.  I really had no problem with it - then again I’m not that much of a ‘foodie’ I guess!   Sometimes when other Aussies would tell us how they did not like the food, I’d ask them exactly what it was they found inferior to home.  They were a bit vague about this, but a couple commented that in their view the food was not prepared as nicely as at home, or the ingredients were not as fresh.  It’s true that Australia is well known for our fresh produce…

 

My wife found that the salads were not that good, except in places like New York City.  Apparently they tended not to have as many different ingredients in them as they would in Australia.

 

You do get really nice food in New Orleans and also in New York City, especially at the many delis.  We tried to sample the local specialty wherever we went, and I found that we could eat reasonably well in most places.

Hard to get a good cup of tea here, Narrelle says, but it can be done if
you are keen.  I don’t drink it, but apparently one of the problems is they serve it with luke-warm water rather than boiling.  Also in your accommodation you wouldn’t necessarily get a jug to boil water that you’d get in an Aussie motel. The Brits we've met generally bring their own tea with them.