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The 'Merica Shelf!

I know. It’s been a while. Turns out growing a human is tiring work and leaves one with little energy for humor, aside from poking fun at the freak show that is my growing body. Additionally, I just don’t have much to report these days as I’ve mostly just been laying low at home, reading, sleeping, cooking, eating, and sleeping some more. These are not necessarily activities that are much fun to read about so I have spared us all from blogging about them. I did however happen upon a pathetic sight the other day and wanted so much to share it with you so here we are.

In the large Galeria Kaufhaus at Alexanderplatz (think large shopping center in the middle of a very touristy area) I was perusing the food court which is basically a beautiful, big, overpriced grocery store, and came across their American food section. There, some German purchaser had curated a special collection of delicacies from the USA to sell right here in the middle of Berlin. How great! However, upon closer inspection, it became clear to me that the German opinion of American cuisine leaves much to be desired. This sad, small shelf was stocked with products that did not satiate any homesickness, make me nostalgic, or ease any feelings of being a much-maligned American in Germany. It did, however, make me laugh and I probably have diabetes now just from looking at it. This is what I found:

So what does it all mean? Well, clearly in America, syrup is the name of the game and we obviously love marshmallows in all their various forms. We also can’t get enough Clif Bars or Pop-Tarts. Brown, packaged rectangles? Yes please! But hey y'all! You forgot the Twinkies and the Ho-Hos! Additionally, I think dedicating half a shelf to squeeze cheese—and four different kinds at that—is a bit egregious. We get it. You think we're gross and have no taste. But come on. We like our freedom and our giant freeways but we're not all heathens. This is more squeeze cheese on a shelf than many American grocery stores even offer. This is an obscene and inaccurate depiction of my homeland by way of squeeze cheese and Clif Bars and I'm not going to stand for it! Clearly, I was expecting some other types of foods here, maybe some more useful things, things more along the lines of either ingredients that are harder to find in Berlin (like brown sugar, vanilla extract, molasses, and Kosher salt) or some classic American foods (i.e. anything filled with peanut butter, popcorn, tortilla chips, BBQ sauce, Old Bay seasoning, ranch-flavored stuff, etc.). Perhaps that would be asking too much of this particular purchaser as they desired a far more stereotypical, Make America Great Again, land-of-the-obese, home-of-the-how-can-we-even-take-ourselves-seriously snack selection. I'm always interested in hearing how others, currently the Europeans I encounter here in Berlin, perceive the United States of America and its population. Likewise, it was interesting to see how this particular venue views the culinary legacy (or lack thereof) of a country of 328 million people. They've boiled it down to these twelve, mostly pathetic, culinary categories, four of which are readily available in groceries in Germany (maple syrup, mayonnaise, hot chocolate mix, and baking soda) making them not really any more American than they are European. And I bet that maple syrup is from Canada anyway.

But this store also had several other displays full of shelves of packaged products representing other countries. Of course, next to the USA shelf was Mexico and, unfortunately, it was even more sad than the USA shelf. It was sparsely stocked with only Old El Paso products (taco shells, jarred salsa, canned beans, etc) which skew more Tex-Mex than Mexican and aren't even from Mexico. Old El Paso is a label owned by General Mills, which is an American company. Judging by how little Mexican food there is in Berlin, I don't think Germans are very interested in it, but as I've explained on this blog before, should a Berliner want some authentic Mexican ingredients, they should head to Chili & Paprika, not Galeria Kaufhaus.

While the USA shelf was only slightly less insulting than the Mexico shelf, I can't help but wonder if the person that makes these decisions (what to put on these shelves) has ever been to these places, met anyone from there, eaten the food, or visited a grocery store there. Judging from the Germans I have met so far, my guess is probably not and until they do, at least I know where I can buy squeeze cheese, in four different varieties, here in Berlin.

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