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What are some examples of other products that are presented as being American in some way but really arn't?
October 16, 2012 3:47 AM   Subscribe

I am fascinated by both the ubiquity of American sauce in Western Europe and the tangy substance's complete lack of apparent relation to any of the many sauces that are authentically American. Examples of American products sold as being of dubious foreign styles are easy for Americans to think of, but what are some examples of other products that are presented as being American in some way but really arn't?

It turns out that the American sauce found in Turkish fast food in Europe is a distant descendant of the classic sauce used in Lobster American, but bonus points for including a description of how the product you know came to be associated with the United States

For clarity, I am not looking for examples of American products sold as being of dubious foreign styles.
posted by Blasdelb to Society & Culture (70 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I believe it is called American sauce because of the resemblance to McDonald's "special" sauce — which I believed was Russian dressing. I wonder what it's called in Russian?

Of course, the "all-American" foods hamburgers and frankfurters originated in Germany. Is that the sort of thing you are looking for?
posted by ubiquity at 4:18 AM on October 16, 2012


Filet Americain is not something most Americans have heard of, much less would be willing to eat. (I would give it a try, though.) I can't come up with other examples right off the top of my head, but I feel there are other things with the term"Americain" in them that are to American food and culture what French dressing is to the French.
posted by TedW at 4:32 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


While Franklin & Marshall is actually an American university, it has little to do with the high-end European fashion line that licenses it's name and logo. Is that the kind of thing you are looking for?
posted by Rock Steady at 4:44 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a similar thread which includes some American examples. I've got access to "Cool American Doritos" which are basically Cool Ranch, as far as I can tell, but I've never done a side by side comparison in my mouth. Yet. I have not yet ventured to purchase & make & consume American Muffins.
posted by knile at 4:46 AM on October 16, 2012


"American Hot Dogs" in a jar. I'm an American and totally cringe when I walk by them in Sainsbury's. Technically I guess they probably no different than the plastic wrapped stuff at home, but for some reason they skeeve me. I have never tried them so I don't know if they're the same as an Oscar Mayer.
posted by like_neon at 4:53 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


In Romania, there was a wild array of snacks, which included SNAP NUGGETS: "HONEYMOON WITH HAM," an American original.

I do not remember ever eating Honeymoon with Ham before, but by all means let me know if I'm a bad American for not knowing about this national treasure.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:56 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"American Hot Dogs" in a jar. I'm an American and totally cringe when I walk by them in Sainsbury's.

You can buy hot dogs in a can in the US, though google tells me they're then called 'Vienna sausages' (and are apparently distinct from the rest of the world's Vienna sausages).
posted by hoyland at 5:00 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


some examples of other products that are presented as being American in some way but really arn't?

American Hard Gums. They are not the same as gumdrops and definitely not spice drops, although they may look similar from an American perspective: instead, they are incredibly chewy fruit pastilles.
posted by holgate at 5:02 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Only a non-American mind could conceive of a food product based on the union of 'Texas' and 'bagels.'"

I wonder what it's called in Russian?

Every new Russian immigrant to America is confounded by restaurants offering "Russian dressing." There is nothing remotely similar to it in Russia.
posted by griphus at 5:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is a pizza restaurant in Marburg, Germany called American Hot. It is relatively similar to an American pizza joint, but the names of its pizzas -- for example, Pizza New Jersey, Pizza Las Vegas, Pizza Michigan, Pizza Harlem, and (my favorite) Pizza American Ocean -- have ... dubious connection to the cities or states in question.
posted by jeudi at 5:42 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not a food product, but in Cote d'Ivoire the guys I worked with were wild for 8 américain ("American 8"), a card game that generally approximated Crazy Eights. According to Wikipédia, American servicemen taught it to the French after D-Day. I assume it made it to Cote d'Ivoire by way of French colonialists or soldiers.

(They also played Mille Chinois,"Chinese 1000," a card game which approximated nothing I'd ever played before. I assume that has a different etiology, because there's not a long history of Chinese intervention in Ivorian or French culture.)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:44 AM on October 16, 2012


the ubiquity of American sauce in Western Europe

Where is it ubiquitous? Are you sure this isn't confirmation bias? I've never heard of it.
posted by devnull at 5:47 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bright yellow mustard you put on hot dogs is called "American Mustard" here in Australia (I love it!).
posted by thylacinthine at 5:50 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find that foreign fast food places like to use random American city names for their products, but the average American would find the associations to be a little...incongruent.

When I was doing my masters degree in France, my friends and I often relied on Speed Rabbit pizza delivery. Here is their menu. While some of them make sense, I don't really get why there's barbeque sauce on the New York pizza, and nor do I associate any food in particular with either Indiana or Montana.

In Asia, I've seen McDonald's name limited time burgers after cities in the States as well. I can't find the one they did in HK recently, but here's an example of the concept in practice in Japan.
posted by C^3 at 5:51 AM on October 16, 2012


"Where is it ubiquitous? Are you sure this isn't confirmation bias? I've never heard of it."

At least in France, BeNeLux and Germany you can go to your local Turkish fast food joint and ask for it on your Doner Kebap, it can be found in at least larger grocery stores, and at least in Belgium it is a obligate option for going with your Frituur or most anything that students eat. My understanding is that the Salsa Americana that can be available in Spain is somewhat different.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:01 AM on October 16, 2012


I the Netherlands I've seen a sandwich labeled 'American', it was a rye roll with raw hamburger and lettuce...nothing American about it.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:03 AM on October 16, 2012


In Germany, there is a particular type of cookie called an "Amerikaner" sold in bakeries, but in the US, it's apparently only found as a black and white cookie in the New York region.

But I'm going to the grocery store in a few hours, so I'll see if I can find a weirder example for you.
posted by cmonkey at 6:06 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


you can go to your local Turkish fast food joint

So it's ubiquitous at Turkish fast food restaurants? That would explain it then :)
posted by devnull at 6:07 AM on October 16, 2012


In the mid-1990s, you could get a heavy, chocolate-covered granola-bar type thingy in England called a "California Flapjack." No relation to American-style granola bars of the period, let alone to anything from California (and, despite my understandable confusion at the time, certainly not to pancakes).
posted by thomas j wise at 6:07 AM on October 16, 2012


Australia's Chicken Maryland.
posted by zamboni at 6:08 AM on October 16, 2012


devnull: Where is it ubiquitous? Are you sure this isn't confirmation bias? I've never heard of it.

When I was in the Netherlands many years back, we found a product in the supermarket called "Freak Sauce." It was a brand of American sauce and had the Statue of Liberty and Old Glory on the label. I assume the name was chosen as an aural cognate to "Frites" as in "Pommes Frites" but I never could be sure.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:10 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


No relation to American-style granola bars of the period, let alone to anything from California (and, despite my understandable confusion at the time, certainly not to pancakes).

It's the other kind of flapjack.
posted by zamboni at 6:11 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I lived in France we had French friends use the term "Gateaux American" (american cakes) to describe chocolate chip cookies when we made them. Bizarre.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:24 AM on October 16, 2012


Pizza Las Vegas

But surely the subject of famous song - I have on the radio many times hearing it been.
posted by Segundus at 6:24 AM on October 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I find that foreign fast food places like to use random American city names for their products, but the average American would find the associations to be a little...incongruent.
There's a chain called New York Pizza that does not serve New York-style pizza.
posted by knile at 6:26 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bright yellow mustard you put on hot dogs is called "American Mustard" here in Australia (I love it!).

In that case, the description is accurate; the "French" in "French's Mustard" is an American named Robert French, not French-an-in-France.
posted by mhoye at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and on the topic of things named after America - if you are in Germany and see "American Dressing", don't fear - it's basically a blander version of Thousand Island sauce.
posted by cmonkey at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2012


Vermont Curry
posted by Ideefixe at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ideefix that better be a curry covered in maple syrup. Where did you see that?
posted by koolkat at 6:54 AM on October 16, 2012


Vermont Curry is "Japan's most popular brand". Why Vermont?
posted by knile at 7:03 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the mid-nineties there was a very British hoohah - that is to say it was conducted almost entirely on the letters pages of a broadsheet newspaper - around retailer Marks & Spencer labelling their banoffee pie as American alongside their mud pies and cheesecakes.

The chef that invented it wrote into the newspaper and M&S then relabelled it, without the American labelling.

Gant is presented as "American" style and Ralph Lauren-esque use of red, white and blue. While it started as a US brand, it was basically Swedish for the last 30 and is now owned by a Swiss company. It is still headquartered out of Sweden.

It's also worth adding that US beer brands and soft drinks brands are advertised with strong American imagery, even where they are produced by local bottlers to a slightly different recipe.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:03 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


In German grocery stores you can buy this sort of strawberry marshmallow fluff spread which purports to be the "original American recipe," despite the fact that I've never seen anything remotely similar for sale in America.
posted by valkyryn at 7:05 AM on October 16, 2012


In German grocery stores you can buy this sort of strawberry marshmallow fluff spread which purports to be the "original American recipe," despite the fact that I've never seen anything remotely similar for sale in America.
posted by valkyryn at 10:05 AM on October 16 [+] [!]


Ah but it does exist
posted by Gungho at 7:07 AM on October 16, 2012


The cafeteria at my English workplace would occasionally have "Texas meatloaf," which appeared to just be regular meatloaf.
posted by grouse at 7:11 AM on October 16, 2012


valkyryn: "In German grocery stores you can buy this sort of strawberry marshmallow fluff spread which purports to be the "original American recipe," despite the fact that I've never seen anything remotely similar for sale in America."

Maybe Marshmallow Fluff is a New England thing.
posted by mkb at 7:20 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


When my dad was a peace corps volunteer in Iran in the early 1960s he and his friends went to a baker and had him make them a western style birthday cake for a firend's birthday. The baker, having never heard of such a thing had to be carefully instructed on recipe, icing, and decoration. My father spelled out "Happy Birthday John Smith!" as a template for the baker who only spoke and read farsi.

Years later my father returned to Iran and was walking down a street in Tehran when he saw a sign in a bakery window in farsi that read "We Make Traditional American Birthday Cakes!" and below it a display of lovely cakes, all exactly like the one they'd had made including the words "Happy Birthday John Smith!"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:25 AM on October 16, 2012 [89 favorites]


Many restaurants across the US will serve some sort of "California" sandwich, which usually comes on wheat bread and includes avocado. In California, this only really shows up at national chains.

Meanwhile, if you go to taco shop in San Diego (it may have spread to other places), while a carnitas or carne asada burrito will generally include guacamole, a California Burrito will not.
posted by LionIndex at 7:42 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a chain of pizza delivery places in Canada called Boston Pizza. Seeing ads for this never fails to befuddle my Brookline-born wife.
posted by awenner at 7:43 AM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I was in the Netherlands many years back, we found a product in the supermarket called "Freak Sauce."

That was a cheap knockoff of socalled "Mad Sauce" which MickeyD's started to use instead of proper mayo sometime in the nineties and which for a while was popular enough to be available in supermarkets as well. IIRC freak sauce might still exist...
posted by MartinWisse at 7:54 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is diverging away from your question, but as I was walking around the grocery store looking for amusing American-branded products, I remembered that Lidl often has theme weeks selling foods associated with different countries, and although you've probably encountered it living in Belgium, I thought Americans might get a kick out of seeing what Europe thinks are traditional American foods: a Google Image Search on the brand they sell that week.

And their British and Mexican food stereotypes for comparison. Note that if you add corn to anything, like pizza, it becomes "Mexican".
posted by cmonkey at 8:15 AM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Honeymoon with Ham

Wondering if there's some relation to the breakfast sandwich on the Denny's menu, "Moons Over My Hammy".
posted by Rash at 8:15 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Canadian equivalent to this is a "Canadian" bar in Covent Garden called The Maple Leaf. The menu's full of foods named after random Canadian places with zero connection to said places. My favourite was the Nova Scotia Burger, which features pineapple and teriyaki sauce. Nova Scotia is located in the north Atlantic.
posted by SoftRain at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Don't forget the French sandwich Américain, which is a baguette with ground beef topped with French fries. Just like we eat at home, right?
posted by purpleclover at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2012


Oh god I forgot the worst of all

The worst "American" food I have ever tasted was packaged by Walkers during the World Cup, because they had a series done up with flags and with some sort of "traditional" flavor.

The American flavour*? Was "American Cheeseburger." Do you notice all the quotation marks? I am questioning, because I am not sure this was actually a "food" product. It tasted like Special Sauce scraped off the bottom of a Burger King's floor at 2 AM. If there was any cheese involved, it was produced in bricks during the Great Depression and shipped to England during the Marshall Plan.

Worst of all? They were vegetarian. (Unlike the Yorkshire Pudding option, which contained actual bits of cow-- clearly stacking the deck!)



*Yes.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is may not be quite what you're looking for, but here in Canada we have a few restaurants with American-style names, despite having no connection to the US. The two examples that immediately spring to mind are New York Fries (which, in recent years, has become notable for its unique twists on poutine, which is not exactly an American tradition) and Boston Pizza1 (which has no connection to Boston; and Boston isn't exactly thought of as a mecca for a particular style of pizza in the way that NYC or Chicago might be).

---

1. BP is apparently in the US, as well, operating under the name "Boston's: The Gourmet Pizza," but they are a Canadian company.
posted by asnider at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2012


The worst "American" food I have ever tasted was packaged by Walkers during the World Cup, because they had a series done up with flags and with some sort of "traditional" flavor.

Walkers makes crisps/chips. The offending article.
posted by zamboni at 9:13 AM on October 16, 2012


Amerikaner ice cream cones in Denmark. Waffle cone, vanilla ice cream, and -- as I recall -- a Sambo on top. (I suspect they're not called Sambos any more; in the 1980s they were marshmallow and chocolate cookies.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:21 AM on October 16, 2012


devnull: I think what Blasdelb is talking about would be called burger sauce in the UK.

"Americano" is a style of coffee that is served all around the world. Mainly to expat Americans. It's an expresso with lots of hot water added to it so that it tastes a bit like filter coffee.
posted by aychedee at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2012


While in London, just a little ways north of the Tower Bridge, I encountered The Missouri American Grill and Restaurant. While I'm sure it sounds fabulously exotic to Londoners (I almost can keep a straight face throught that) the menu did not succeed in making my homesick.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Though now available at Starbucks everywhere, Caffè Americano isn't the way most Americans drink coffee.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2012


Don't forget the French sandwich Américain, which is a baguette with ground beef topped with French fries. Just like we eat at home, right?

This one's another miss - you do eat that at home; variations include the Illinois Horseshoe sandwich or the Pittsburgh's Primanti.
posted by mhoye at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Café Americano is known by the French as jus de chaussette (sock juice). I'm quite confident this would not be true were it originally called Café Canadien, and therefore I think this is a meta-version of the same phenomenon.
posted by cromagnon at 11:44 AM on October 16, 2012


I was amused to see Pizza Hut restaurants in England that had posters in the windows saying "authentic American-style pizza", since in the US "authentic" pizzas are always advertised as "Italian-style."
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:47 AM on October 16, 2012


I was amused to see Pizza Hut restaurants in England that had posters in the windows saying "authentic American-style pizza", since in the US "authentic" pizzas are always advertised as "Italian-style."

American-style pizzas and Italian pizzas are very, very different things, and both can be authentic. But on the other hand, I've seen "American-Style Pizza" used to mean some approximation of a Chicago-style pizza. The result being, not so much a pizza, but an homage to the idea of pizza in casserole form.
posted by mhoye at 12:02 PM on October 16, 2012


In London, more than one place had "American Hot" pizza, which is pepperoni and jalapenos.
posted by Clambone at 12:23 PM on October 16, 2012


1000 island dressing was named for the place in new york state, but almost nobody there knows what you mean when you ask for it.
posted by brujita at 12:28 PM on October 16, 2012


In New Zealand you can buy a "Hawaiian burger", which is a beef hamburger with a pineapple slice (usually ungrilled). More common is Hawaiian pizza, which is usually ham and pineapple. I know Americans who've lived in Hawaii who think this is crazy, but I also know one or two Americans who say it's legit.

There's also a chain in NZ called Burger Wisconsin. I have it on good authority from several people from Wisconsin that there is nothing Wisconsin-style about it.

There are loads of places in London which use the "Kentucky Fried Chicken" formulation - "Kennedy Fried Chicken", "Tennessee Fried Chicken", "New Jersey Fried Chicken" (?!).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2012


Yeah, that combination is generally referred to as "Hawaiian" stateside as well.

There's also places all over NYC that do the "Kennedy Fried Chicken" thing you describe (although "New Jersey Fried Chicken" sounds like some sort of horrible euphemism.)
posted by griphus at 12:37 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


At one place I visited in rural southwestern France, the main restaurant in town was offering "PORC STEAK MICHIGAN" as their plat du jour that day. I don't think this was a specific item you'd find commonly, I got the impression it was something someone made up on the spot. No real relationship to Michigan that I could tell (although it was tasty).
posted by gimonca at 12:52 PM on October 16, 2012


There is a place in Paris, France called Café Indiana that specializes in... Tex Mex food. As a native of the Hoosier state, you can imagine my befuddlement when I saw that on vacation in 2003.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 1:10 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the Netherlands, Dr Oetker sells an American Hot Dog Style pizza that's topped with pieces of hot dog, pickles, those little crispy fried onion bits, cheese and honey-mustard sauce. *shudder*
posted by eendje at 2:05 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't remember the name, but I went to a Tex Mex place in Krakow, Poland that served two heaping scoops of cabbage (white and purple) with my enchiladas. Fancy!
posted by stompadour at 2:55 PM on October 16, 2012


In São Paulo, Brazil, an Americano is a sandwich with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg.
posted by Tom-B at 6:20 PM on October 16, 2012


Also in bars all over Brazil, a copo americano is used to serve everything, from coffee to beer to cachaça. It is actually a brazilian design.
posted by Tom-B at 6:24 PM on October 16, 2012


I live in Mumbai, and saw "American Chop Suey" on a menu... it is lo-mein noodles covered in ketchup, topped with a fried egg.

You know, just like mother used to make.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 2:30 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


In toronto we have a place called New York Subway that makes delicious not-at-all-mexican-or-amreican burritos. they're sort of satay-roti-urritos. tasty, though
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:29 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're looking for American examples, but I have a Canadian one. Maybe you will also find interesting. In Berlin there is a "Canadian Pizza" place called Ron Telesky's, run by two Germans (one of whom has never visited Canada, both of whom are not Ron Telesky). They serve very large, thin crust pizzas, sometimes with bizarre toppings (hot dog, poutine). They have maple syrup infused with chili, which you can drizzle on your pizza and ruccula (rocket?) is available on demand for slices. Although the restaurant is delicious, there is in fact no Canadian-style pizza, and the spicy syrup thing is also made up. Oddly, they also serve American Mountain Dew (which has caffeine, while the Canadian version does not), and they also sell Reese's peanut butter cups -- but again, the American two-cup version (whereas in Canada you can almost only ever find three-cup packages).
posted by molecicco at 12:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are loads of places in London which use the "Kentucky Fried Chicken" formulation - "Kennedy Fried Chicken", "Tennessee Fried Chicken", "New Jersey Fried Chicken" (?!).

And there's a chain of pizzerias in Argentina just called Kentucky (with a half-assed Derby theme). The pizza itself is aimed to be more traditional Italian than American style, but it's roughly like your local Fat Slice in quality.
posted by psoas at 10:30 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anybody can explain why this Dutch carnival/fair/kermis ride is called an American Wipp, I'll buy you a beer or a ride on the Wipp. But not both.
posted by knile at 2:32 AM on October 27, 2012


A lot of places in Britain serve something they call Tennessee toffee pie.
posted by Human Flesh at 6:18 AM on March 19, 2013


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