Across the street from where we often catch the city bus is a restaurant that advertises “Tex Mex” in two large signs on the front of their building. We haven’t eaten there yet but we are intrigued to see how one of our favorite meals is translated 8000 kilometers (5000 miles) from Dallas. Much closer than a transatlantic flight, as in a short walk that we take every week or so, is a grocery store that sent us a catalog entitled Taste of America featuring products that they associated with the country where we grew up. This was going to make for interesting reading to see how an international supermarket chain, based in Germany, was going to label and promote to a French audience what they considered representative of the USA.
The first thing I noticed was that most of the packages were red, white, and blue with a drawing of the Statue of Liberty clearly visible on each one. As former residents of Atlanta, it was no surprise to see that a full page of this flyer showed one brand of cola products and included the chance to win a trip to the American West, a definite dream destination for many people we’ve met here.
So, the marketing seemed on-target as far as images that people here might have of Les Étas-Unis, but what about the food products themselves? On the first page I saw fried chicken nuggets, fried fish nuggets, fried onion rings, french fries, and a snack box that contained some of each of these crunchy treats. Opposite that was Hawaii pizza, spare ribs, and a whole page of hamburgers, cheese burgers, and hot dogs. How about something sweet? Your choice of cookies, muffins, brownies, donuts, and even something we see entire refrigerated aisles devoted to: yogurt. Interestingly, even though the label uses that word, the description calls it an American milk product and gives the choices of chocolate muffin, toffee, and caramel popcorn. Maybe the ad says that because the French might not recognize those as flavors for real yaourt?
Time for some “turnabout is fair play” by checking what you might see if you looked for an American supermarket promoting a “Taste of France”. I couldn’t find a special sale or promotion going on at the moment, but I did locate a few online and bricks-and-mortar stores selling to US customers. When you compare them, some similar categories are shared by all: olive oils, vinegars, seasonings, patés, jams, and honey. Those that included fresh products in their inventory always had breads and cheese listed too. It’s not surprising, then, that a survey I read about that asked Americans to name the foods that remind them of France, the top three answers were baguettes, cheese, and quiche. Can you guess the fourth? Wine, of course.