Of all things the most surprising in America was its supermarkets. When I first stepped inside a grocery store in USA three things happened: my eyes widened, my jaw dropped and my mind seemed to get stuck like an old computer unable to comprehend new algorithms. Is this a supermarket or a small airport? It took me no less than 2 hours on my first visit to walk down all aisles in unsuccessful attempts to make up my mind about at least some basic products I needed. It was here that I experienced cultural shock. Below are the things that surprised me the most.
1. So many options
Say, I want to buy milk. There’s whole milk, reduced fat 2% milk, 1% milk, no fat milk. Makes sense, but this is just the beginning. There’s also skim milk, soy milk, lactose-free milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk. All of these would usually have organic alternatives. And don’t forget that these are just types of milk; you also have to choose a brand.
About 20 minutes later you made the painful choice of milk – victory! Now all that’s left is to choose bread, yogurt, meat, and cookies. Do I even need to mention all the types of bread here?
I think you get the point. I will just mention that among 175 varieties of bread I found this one the most fascinating:
First of all, how hard can it be to cut off the crust of your bread? Second, why would you even want to cut the crust off? It’s the best part!
2. Periodic table of elements on ingredients list
Although there is incredible amount of options to choose from, it is really hard to find a truly natural product in any food category. The picture above featuring bread shelves actually shows only half of the options in supermarket. At the same time, having spent 30 minutes in this aisle and checking labels I found only two (!) brands that didn’t have any chemicals on ingredient list. All you need to make bread is flour, water and yeast. What are other 55 ingredients for?
3. Organic alternatives
If you are all for healthy eating and don’t want to consume yellow color №5 and something called guar gum, you can always find an organic alternative. Organic veggies and fruits, organic meat, organic pasta, organic sugar, organic guacamole – you name it! It comes at a higher price but the fact that it is available in a regular supermarket is amazing.
4. The bigger the better
Strawberries the size of apples, apples the size of watermelons. On average most of the fruits and vegetables are about twice bigger in the US in comparison with Russia. It also applies to packaged food. For example, it’s pretty much impossible to find a 1 liter box of milk, normally milk comes in half a gallon box (1,89 L).
5. Crazy flavors
You want kale popcorn? You got it! You want coffee creamer with a flavor of chocolate chip cookie? No problem!
I have also seen bacon flavored candy. The line between creative and crazy never seemed so thin.
6. Weigh it yourself
A section of supermarket where you can fill in a bag with nuts, dried fruits or grains of your choosing, weigh it and print a label all by yourself. How amazing is it that management of supermarket totally trusts its customers? If such a concept was to be introduced in Russia a supermarket would announce bankruptcy in 2 weeks’ time. People would put nuts in their pockets, purses and mouths instead of bags, or switch labels to pay a lesser price.
7. Peeled and cut-up veggies
For those who are very busy or very lazy. Not only do you get your vegetables peeled and cut you can also choose how they are cut: sticks or cubes? diced or shredded? Anything you like.
8. Peanut butter making machine
One thing I love about USA is how everything is made for people to be comfortable and get the best experience with minimum effort. This machine, in my opinion, is the apotheosis of customer satisfaction philosophy. Grind your own peanut butter right in the supermarket – it doesn’t get more comfortable than this! Of course, there is also a choice of honey roasted peanut butter, organic peanut butter, and peanut butter with dark chocolate.
One thing I regret is that I didn’t write all this down when I just came to USA because after 1,5 years you get used to it and most of the things start to seem normal. So if you have anything to add, please comment below!
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AUTHOR: YULIA DYUKOVA
Yulia is a Russian food and travel blogger who found home first in Sri Lanka for 3 years, then in Brazil for a year and is currently based in Austin, Texas. She is the kind of person who starts a research of the new country by googling “what to eat in…” instead of “what to visit in…” Yulia is a self-proclaimed “food nerd” who will spend hours reading on the origins of pecan pie before trying it and who doesn’t consider waiting in line of 50 people to get a cronut a waste of time. She finds it hard to keep her delicious findings to herself and that is the reason why this blog exists.