What are some specifically American foods (less perishable is better)?
January 8, 2013 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I have a Hungarian friend with whom I exchange a large gift box every year at Christmas. She's moving to Australia to study this March, and so I want to send her a little extra care package when she moves, as I know it will be a hard relocation. In the past, I've sent her mostly non-edible goods (except for coconut M&Ms, which she loves, and Tabasco, sambal olec and Sriracha, as she hadn't tried them and we both love spicy foods). She has sent me a wealth of specifically Hungarian treats, including Erős Pista (a Hungarian spicy paste), poppy and nut cakes, Hungarian chocolates and jams, and even lozenges. I'd love to send her some typically American treats in my next box, but I can't think of what they might be! Thanks!

I live in NYC, so I have access to a huge variety of foodstuffs - rarity shouldn't be a big problem, unless you're talking something like Voodoo Donuts, which can't be shipped. Fruits and veg are also probably not wise, but I think breads and cakes and the like should be OK.
posted by mccn to Food & Drink (57 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think of peanut butter as an almost specifically American thing.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:50 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Peanut butter
Hershey bars
Little Debbie snack cakes (I'd say Twinkies, but they're sadly gone now)
Tootsie rolls
posted by xingcat at 9:51 AM on January 8, 2013

Peanut butter in general and peanut butter and chocolate exactly.

Corn bread mix!
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh and Cool Ranch something, it's called Cool American overseas cause Ranch dressing isn't really a thing elsewhere.
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Vermont maple syrup or maple sugar candies.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:54 AM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Nthing peanut butter. Maple syrup? I'm from New England, though, maybe the rest of the US thinks of that as Canadian...
posted by hungrybruno at 9:55 AM on January 8, 2013

I had no idea some of this stuff was so American! Cool American cracks me the heck up. I'm gonna send some Cool Ranch Doritos just because it will amuse me.
posted by mccn at 9:58 AM on January 8, 2013

Canned pumpkin pie filling
Corn flour or cornbread mix
Mexican hot chocolate
posted by Marauding Ennui at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2013

How about sugary kids' breakfast cereals? I have an English friend who stocks up on Froot Loops every time she's in the US (and in keeping with the peanut butter theme, there's always Peanut Butter Capt'n Crunch).
posted by DingoMutt at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lucky Charms, or other weirdly sugary cereal.

Nthing peanut butter and peanut butter/chocolate cups.
posted by phunniemee at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2013

Saltwater taffy, though that's specific to a region of the US and not found throughout the country.
posted by amro at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by bonobothegreat at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Those little mini apple pies -- my husband loved getting those and the cherry ones when he was deployed.

Rice Krispie treats

Peanut butter anything

Charleston Chews

Saltwater Taffy
posted by spunweb at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2013

Does your friend like cinnamon? There are tons of American cinnamon-flavoured sugary things that you don't get elsewhere. Also things flavoured with wintergreen. And root beer.
posted by pipeski at 10:06 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

N-thing peanut butter!

I have friends who stock up on Rice-a-Roni and Uncle Ben's Wild Rice mix (like it has some seasoning packet) when she comes to the US.
posted by mamabear at 10:11 AM on January 8, 2013

I remember looking into sending things to Australia at one point, and the quarantine regulations for food are fairly strict.
What can't be mailed to Australia has a list which you should check before sending anything.
posted by Azara at 10:13 AM on January 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

Drake's coffee cakes
"Pimento cheese" or "American cheese" or "Easy Cheese" or...
Zatarain's boxed mixes
Microwaveable "bowl" meals -- Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers, Betty Crocker Bowl Appetit-type stuff
Hot Cheetos, Combos, Chex Mix
Pop Tarts in the weirder flavours

...in re "weirder flavours," lots of stuff is available outside the US but not in the six zillion flavours and varieties available in the US. I do grocery swaps like this with US friends and a lot of what I ask for is just a different flavour of something I can already get in Canada. Your range of goods is absolutely dizzying to outsiders! A lot of standard fare will probably be a novelty if it's not the standard flavour. Also, anything "Southern" or "Mexican"

americansoda.co.uk has some good ideas -- there's a broccoli Rice-a-Roni? I had no idea. Drink mix flavours are strangely regional; Google will tell you what Kool-Aids &c are generally US/non-US.
posted by kmennie at 10:13 AM on January 8, 2013

Real actual not HFCS maple syrup is expensive and difficult to find pretty much everywhere on earth aside from North America and somewhere else quite random that I am completely forgetting.
posted by elizardbits at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2013

I've been told by visiting Germans that Wonderbread (or any other soft white bread) is an American thing.

American cheese. Moon pies. Grits. Big Red chewing gum. Non-standard jerky like deer or elk. BBQ sauce or meat rubs. Kool aid. Cajun spices. Hamburger helper. Packages of dried red beans and rice. Pork rinds.
posted by Boxenmacher at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2013

some type of highly unnatural cheese snack (à la Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Cheez-Its, goldfish crackers)
Girl Scout cookies
Moon Pies
uniquely flavored Pringles (buffalo wing, dill pickle, ranch)
anything ranch-flavored, really
Frank's RedHot or Crystal hot sauce
boxed mac & cheese
microwave popcorn
Pop Tarts
Twizzlers, Skittles, Smarties, &c.
cranberry sauce
beef jerky
Old Bay seasoning
posted by divined by radio at 10:16 AM on January 8, 2013

Reese's peanut butter cups. Not the minis but the full-size ones (not the Big Cups either, mind).

One of my sisters is from the UK. She came to visit the US with her husband and kids, and she stayed with us. We went out shopping, me and her, and I bought a ten-pack of Reese's cups and offered her one. She'd never tried, or even seen, one in her life.

I mostly agree with the usual assertion that American chocolate leaves something to be desired, but mostly all I could think of was the smug Anglophiles I know who insist on the superiority of British chocolate. She took one bite, and her exact words - I am not making this up - were:

"Flippin' 'eck!"

She nearly leapt into the air. It was like a scene in a Roald Dahl book. She asked if she could have another and/or take some back with her. I gave her the ten-pack, happy to send another convert into the wild.

So that's my answer. Reese's cups.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:18 AM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Things that, for some reason, seem very American to this Canadian, who spent a little time in the States as a child:

- Mac and Cheese (the boxed stuff)
- Kraft Processed Cheese / Velveeta
- Jack cheese
- Fruit Stripe Bubble Gum (a fave as a kid; my dentist would roll over in her grave)
- Hawaiian Punch
- Cinnamon Hearts candy
- Tex-mex cuisine, chili (maybe a taco seasoning or chili powder mix?)
- Chicken Fried anything (maybe shake-and-bake style batter/crumbs?)
- Hawaiian pizza, though I don't know how you can send that.
- Southern BBQ -- maybe your favourite sauce and one of those little cloth basting mops that I've seen at rib fests
- Bourbon
- White gravy and biscuits
- Unsweetened iced tea (gak, gets me every time I go down to the [non-southern] States)
- Twizzlers

I agree that peanut butter and corn bread are 2 very American things.

On preview: the helpful list Azara links to might knock out a lot of these. :(
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 10:18 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

American cheese. Moon pies. Grits. Big Red chewing gum. Non-standard jerky like deer or elk. BBQ sauce or meat rubs. Kool aid. Cajun spices. Hamburger helper. Packages of dried red beans and rice. Pork rinds.

Looking at the site I linked above, meat products, cheese, grains, and legumes are not supposed to be sent to Australia by post and are liable to be confiscated when your parcel is checked.
posted by Azara at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Peanut butter? She's moving to Australia, not to the moon. They have peanut butter there, that would be a really weird, pointless thing to send. A lot of American junk food is also available internationally these days, including in Australia, so it would need to be pretty obscure.

Brand name things for cooking dinner with would probably be a better bet, weird flavoured packet mixes and things. But not generic easy to find stuff like Betty Crocker (which I assume is in Aus since it's in NZ). If it's some kind of spicyness that's more common to the USA then even better, cajun spices are a good example. But definitely look at the list Azara posted above because the rules are quite strict and don't always make sense on the surface.
posted by shelleycat at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by charmcityblues at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

onion soup mix!
posted by misspony at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2013

FAMOUS MONSTER: Reese's peanut butter cups are available in the UK at Waitrose supermarkets.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 10:26 AM on January 8, 2013

These questions of mine (American things to send to Poland and New Zealand) got some good responses.
posted by troika at 10:36 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

@troika - thank you! I had tried to find this question on MeFi earlier, and wound up with souvenirs only.
posted by mccn at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2013

Fruit roll ups
posted by bq at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2013

Grape jelly.
posted by cecic at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2013

Are you actually bothered by sending her things that are available in Australia? Because probably something like half the things listed here at least are fairly easily found over there (onion soup mix? really?). But given she's not Australian or American and will be new to Australia in general (so won't immediately know where to buy everything anyway), maybe that's not so important to you? It would make a difference to what kinds of things would be good to send.

But still don't send peanut butter.
posted by shelleycat at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2013

Root beer, or root beer flavored hard candy.
posted by fontophilic at 11:00 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is a wide range of peanut butter available in Australia so I wouldn't bother paying to ship jars of that as I am sure she can find something she likes over there. Peanut butter chocolates though are pretty rare.

Other things that I've seen listed here that ARE available in Australia in most supermarkets, though brand names and packaging may be different than they are there.

Onion soup mix. Hamburger helper (it's sold under a different name). They have mac and cheese there but not the scary bright yellow kind. Bourbon, Hawaiian pizza, iced tea. most sorts of chips and crackers, soft white bread, fruit roll ups, microwave popcorn, poptarts, beef jerky, various pringles flavours, cranberry sauce, shake and bakes, while they don't have Kool Aid as such they have liquid cordials which can taste the same if she hunts around, grape jelly.

Things that weren't found in Australia according to my US born husband who visited there with me in December 2012.

Ranch flavoured items. Scary bright orange cheese, though he found some that tasted the same it was the "wrong" colour, cinnamon gum and lollies where hard to find but he found one packet in a service station, peeps, tootsie rolls, Reeses, maple syrup at a price that won't bankrupt you, corn bread mixes, BBQ sauces with the same flavourings you are used to in the US, BBQ flavoured in Australia is a different flavour. Rice Krispy treats, Hersheys bars, but once she tries Cadbury chocolates made the right way, she might not want to eat Hershey again. Buffalo flavoured anything. Cooking mixes she is used to using such as a spice blend. Good mexican food can be hard to find outside of large cities in Australia. Breakfast sausage, biscuit mixes. He fancied biscuits and gravy one morning and you'd have thought the world had ended when he couldn't find the ingredients.

I am basing this info on what I've learned as an Aussie now living in the US, products etc may be different in different parts of Australia as they are in the US. Is there anything from your part of the US that is particular to there as that is the sort of thing that is going to be harder to find in another country. Or something you both liked doing or eating together that has nice memories attached.
posted by wwax at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

If not peanut butter, then Fluff
posted by Gungho at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2013

@shellycat (et al) - I don't mind sending her things it's possible to get in Australia - especially in this global economy, I'm guessing that's a lot of stuff. I've bought Greek Cheetos and other weird things online, myself! But I'd like to send her something that is rather distinctively American, just like the things she sent me - I can buy Eros Pista myself on Amazon, but it's still Hungarian!
posted by mccn at 11:20 AM on January 8, 2013

You could send some packaged black and white cookies. Proper black and white cookies are made with fondant. They're not the same as the weird frosting-covered "half moons" you can find in New England. But I guess those are an American thing too.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:30 AM on January 8, 2013

Since it's something that just came up in another thread, what about pralines? They ship well and are very common in the Southern US. I bet you can get them at a specialty bakery in NYC or at World Market. Other New Orleans-type foods available packaged are Tony Chachere's seasoning and Zatarain's boxed dinners.
posted by radioamy at 11:51 AM on January 8, 2013

When I lived in Denmark, Danish people found American pancake mix (like, Bisquick) really novel. Apparently American style pancakes are distinctly American. A lot of the people in my study abroad program brought some pancake mix for their host families. Also, maple syrup is very American (unless you count it as very Canadian, in which case Canada probably wins that one!)

I also think Girl Scout Cookies are a good suggestion!
posted by mermily at 12:17 PM on January 8, 2013

Goo Goo Clusters!
posted by jquinby at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2013

Peanut butter cups. My coworkers in Australia go nuts whenever I bring them down. That is the one place food-wise where America seems to win.

As said above, make sure to read the "what can be shipped to Australia" list quite carefully. I have had things confiscated when I've brought them down.
posted by rednikki at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2013

Whoopie pies and Butterscotch Krimpets.
posted by Lieber Frau at 1:31 PM on January 8, 2013

Boiled Peanuts!

You can get 'em in a can: http://www.nuts.com/nuts/peanuts/boiled.html?gclid=COyD0pDc2bQCFQU5nAodz0gAIQ
posted by NoAccount at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2013

or chocolate-covered peanuts?

i got a jar of these for christmas and they are to die for. almost like a reese's cup only...richer/better.
posted by iahtl at 3:05 PM on January 8, 2013

Peanut butter cups are quite widely available here in Australia now (I know because I have an addiction). Almost every supermarket in Canberra, plus a lot of smaller grocery shops and snack shops sells them. But they are very expensive (like $3-4 for a 2-pack). And the combination of peanut butter with dessert food (peanut butter flavoured cookies, chocolates, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, etc) is still seen as a very American thing. And it freaks many of my friends and relatives right out, which is good, because I don't have to share my Reese's PB cups.
posted by lollusc at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a subreddit on Reddit called SnackExchange, where people trade care packages of snacks. They have a spreadsheet that details some of the most popular items from different countries.

Look for the tabs on the bottom to browse by country of origin.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:05 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Kettle corn. Maple syrup made from trees. Bourbon vanilla extract. Spice blends.

but really the correct answer is

posted by jetlagaddict at 5:05 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spam! If you're feeling energetic, you could include a recipe for a Spam "crown roast."
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:07 PM on January 8, 2013

I always thought that graham crackers were distinctly American - aren't they the base of new york cheesecakes? - and you CANNOT get them in Australia (not even in costco)
- if you can I need to know where.

A huge bag of coconut M & M's would also be cool. I have only ever found them here in speciality lolly shops (candy stores!) and only in the 55 g packets.

Saltwater taffy would be another item to send that can't be picked up at the local grocery store. I don't think I have seen any commercially available.

+1 on the the girl scout cookies
posted by insomniax at 5:47 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

For Girl Scout cookies, get in touch with griphus. He's in NYC and is currently (we're discussing this on facebook at this moment) trying to track down vegan thin mints. I'm sure he's hot on the trail of a local source.
posted by phunniemee at 6:11 PM on January 8, 2013

A huge bag of coconut M & M's would also be cool. I have only ever found them here in speciality lolly shops (candy stores!) and only in the 55 g packets.

This might vary by state, perhaps, but Woolworths and Coles both sell the 200g bags here in Victoria.

Since you say you don't mind that they're fairly easily available here, the snacks I think of as very American are things like Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Twizzlers, the Reese's peanut butter stuff, Jolly Ranchers, Twinkies, Hershey bars. Some of them, like Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, have equivalents here that are quite similar, but I think the brand matters - perhaps it's a sign of overexposure to American television but I think it's fun to eat for the first time something you've seen referenced countless times on TV or in books but never seen before.

Boxed macaroni cheese, too, especially Kraft. They do sell a Kraft one here, but I'm not sure if it's the same actual product - it seems to lack the nuclear orange colour, although Easy Mac has that.

I would think twice before sending anything chocolate, by the way. I have a few overseas friends with whom I exchange care packages from time to time and whenever they send chocolate, it always seems to end up melted beyond recognition by the time I get it. Although it's possible I'm just very unlucky.
posted by lwb at 10:22 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I once sent a penpal in Finland a bag of marshmallows, along with detailed instructions on how to properly toast marshmallows and make S'mores (it was funny writing down the marshmallow toasting instructions, particularly, though now there are tons of youtube video how tos to use as a guide). In her case I just told her to substitute local chocolate and to use digestive biscuits instead of graham crackers for the S'mores. So, you could do the same, or send both the marshmallows and the graham crackers.
posted by gudrun at 10:35 PM on January 8, 2013

Easy cheese, easy cheese, easy cheese. Did I mention easy cheese?? Oh yes, I think I did! You can't beat orange liquefied cheese that squirts out of a can. It even says "American" on the label.

Kraft "handi snacks" cheese & crackers are also something I remember as a kid, and still enjoy to this day. I know children currently who also delight in it's processed goodness.
posted by readygo at 3:11 AM on January 9, 2013

Australian here.

For god's sake, don't send peanut butter. It'll be heavy and expensive, likely to be confiscated, and we sell it in basically every you can buy food. Supermarkets, corner stores, petrol stations. It' common to the point of being banal. If she can buy food, she can buy peanut butter. It's really not hard. We also have boxed mac and cheese and Kraft cheeze block stuff too, also in basically every suburban shopping centre.

Really check that food restriction list. No animal products full stop, so no cheese, jerky, whatever. Just forget about it. Anything aerosol has a habit of being seized. Nothing containing whole seeds or dried fruit. Customs is really tough on it, so just don't bother. You won't sneak it past them. Also it's summer here, so while Peanut Butter Cups and M and Ms are processed enough to not count as food, it'll be a liquid by the time it actually gets to her. Post office handling is not cool enough to preserve them.

There's a reason why most of the time people send us Aussies non-food souvenirs.

What I have had sent over that has been well received: Kool Aide powder, hard candy (what is this Big Red gum of which you speak?), graham crackers do not exist here, real maple candy would be awesome too. lwb's list of sweets is gold too, though without the chocolate. I'd also suggest you keep sending her Hungarian stuff, as the Hungarian communities here in Oz tend to be limited to major areas and she'll have a much harder time finding that than any American foods, especially if she's going to one of the less metro areas.
posted by Jilder at 4:53 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

vegan thin mints

Oh my god I have been betrayed. WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED.
posted by elizardbits at 6:04 AM on January 9, 2013

You guys are amazing. I note and will be very careful about the restriction lists, and also in completing my customs form. (E.g., I really thought EZ-Cheese would be great, as I think it doesn't actually contain animal products, but I am going to DK it on the aerosol front.) Thanks for the lists, thoughts, and polite contradictions!
posted by mccn at 6:06 AM on January 9, 2013

I live in Japan and import the occasional foodstuff; I just went back to America for the first time in over a year and so this has been in my head.

Old Bay is great for this - it's only recently become available in Tokyo international groceries and they've all put up a special flag for it.

Ginger Snaps are different from their European equivalents and shelf-stable and customs friendly - I bought three boxes (would have gotten the bags if I could find them) and they were a big hit. It looks like some maple syrup companies manufacture their own, too, so that could be worth a shot.
posted by 23 at 9:58 PM on January 9, 2013

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