For all the times I took you inside supermarkets around the world and showcased local delicacies, I realized that I had never taken pictures of common North American products. By the time I started blogging, I had already been in Canada for a few years so maybe the novelty had ran off… or maybe when I shop I actually buy groceries instead of wandering around with a camera.
But today, I felt like taking pictures.
Two notes to start. First, picture quality is what it is. I snap the shots with my phone’s camera because going to the supermarket with my DSLR felt a bit too much (hey, don’t judge, I live here!). Second, no need to get worked up over the “North Americans only eat shit!” topic. I purposely took pictures of many items that could be classified as “junk food”, but there are tons of vegetables and healthier products around, it’s just that broccoli isn’t too exotic. Don’t take the tone of the article too seriously—I’m making fun of the products, not the people who buy them!
For most people, it starts with breakfast. For some reason, at one point, Big Food decided that there were two acceptable ways to start the day: with cereals, or with bacon. I won’t come back here on the annoying bacon-mania, but I did linger in the cereals aisle—yes, there is an entire aisle dedicated to giant boxes of morning happiness. We don’t even eat breakfast at home but somehow, we have like three boxes of cereals on top of the fridge. That’s the power of marketing.
Cereals marketed to kids are at eye level and if this is not enough, they are colourful and feature animals or other likable characters and have cutesy names like Alpha-Bits (the cereal equivalent to the alphabet soup), Cap’N Crunch or the very honest Sugar Crisp (what’s in there? Yes, sugar). As you walk down the aisle, you will notice boxes becoming more serious and flaunting health benefits. These are cereals for adults promising fiber, energy and Olympic medals.
One of the most popular brands of sliced bread is Wonder Bread, also known in Latin America as “Bimbo” (I never get tired of this one!). It’s predictably bland, slightly sweet (even though it’s not sweet bread) and unremarkable. It kind of tastes like “miga” in Argentina, since the crust is almost non-existent.
What do you put on bread? Peanut butter! The classic North American sandwich is “PB&J“, peanut butter and jam—no, not one or the other, both. There are different schools of peanut-butter lovers: some like is crunchy with bits of peanuts, some like it smooth. There are healthier (and more expensive) versions in the “organic” section of the supermarket, but Kraft Peanut Butter and Skippy seem to be the most popular brands—that is if you’re not allergic to nuts.
Oreo Cookies are like Choco in France, Tim Tam in Australia or HobNob in Britain. You can find Oreo-flavoured everything: ice cream, drinks, etc. “Milk’s favourite cookie” also comes in a number of seasonal or limited-edition flavours, such as cookie dough, marshmallow crispy, Reese’s peanut butter cup, pumpkin spice, etc.
Alright, let’s move on to Little Debbie, a brand of cookie and cake-based dessert snacks, similar to the now bankrupt Hostess brand. I must admit I have never tried them because they look too soft and sugary for me (why does everything have to be so “chewy” here? I like to bite into my food!). Besides, the boxes are pretty big: I wouldn’t mind tasting one but I don’t need an entire pack of “Cosmic Brownie” (is it me or it sounds like they marketed the product to potheads?)
Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme is a white candy bar with cookie bits similar in taste and texture to an Oreo. Like most North American chocolate bar, it is super sweet.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a milk chocolate cup confection made of chocolate-coated peanut butter. They seem to be a very popular holiday treat (I’ve seen kids fighting for it at Halloween!).
Don’t worry, if you don’t have a 24/7 Tim Hortons in your block (do you live in Nunavut by any chance?), you can get your donut fix at most supermarkets.
Maybe you’d rather have cupcakes? I know, they look good… but they are often way too sweet.
Finally, this is what I call the “classic supermarket cake”, a basic sheet cake with frosting—a lot of frosting, layers and layers of it. This kind of cake often pops up at the office for various celebrations and I always looked virtuous by giving my slice to someone else. The truth is, I hate these cakes. The base isn’t particularly tasty, it’s somewhere between angel cake and sponge cake. Frosting is just pure sugar with artificial colouring, and I don’t particularly like sugar, I enjoy buttery treats better. And check out the ingredient list! Yes, that’s the thing taking most of the sticker on the box. I’m not a health freak but still, I draw the line at supermarket cakes. Yes, I smoke, why?
You will find all the “food around the world” articles in this category. More products to come… I still have some stuff to show you!