A common complaint of the British when visiting the US is that the bread and the cheese are terrible. British people I have spoken to often seem to think most American cheese is that really processed rubbery stuff or at least of poor quality generally.
Now, I think the cheese is actually a minor difference between not Britain and the US overall, but Britain and certain parts of the US versus certain other parts of the US. My favorite thing that my home state of Wisconsin produces is cheese. Wisconsin cheese is absolutely amazing if you are into things like very mature/sharp cheddar. Should you be in Western Wisconsin, buy some sharp cheddar, ideally made by the Amish. It is fantastic.
The UK is also known for amazing cheese. England is the home of cheddar and makes several other properly delicious cheeses including stilton and red leicester. When Chris first came to visit my parents in the US, he was very skeptical Wisconsin cheese would be as good as I said it was. He was happily proved wrong after several taste tests.
As the UK is very centralized in many respects, including grocery chains, the cheese selection is fairly uniform across the country. You can get good cheese at any of the major chains i.e. Sainsburys, Asda, Tesco, M&S, etc. regardless of the overall quality of the shop.
Although we are really enjoying living in Arizona, it is *not* known for its cheese. We have had to put a considerable effort in to get anything that is any good. A normal grocery store will sell cheese that is at best good enough to be melted and at worst inedible and rubbery.
I finally get what British friends of mine were talking about. The US is both amazing and horrible at cheese, depending on where you shop and what state you’re in. In Wisconsin, you can even get good cheese at a service station and virtually any grocery store. In Arizona, not so much.
We attempted Whole Foods, a posh grocery store, which had some English cheddar, as well some Vermont, but the English stuff was naturally expensive as it was imported and honestly, I don’t think it’s state pride, but the Vermont stuff I’ve tried has always seemed weak to me compared to the best of the the Wisconsin stuff. Chris and I prefer extra mature/sharp cheddar, so the mild Vermont would not do. They did not stock any Wisconsin cheese, shame on them. Their clientele are missing out.
We finally found some reasonably good cheddar in a sort of fancy hippie chain grocery store called Trader Joe’s. They not only carried imported British cheese, but had cheddar made in the US from both California and Wisconsin. Both were fine, certainly better than other locally available cheese, but we are still looking forward to my parents bringing us ‘the proper stuff’ in the near future when they visit.
Bread, on the other hand, is something that as far as I can tell is different across the whole of the US from Britain. I think it may be a difference of the US and much of the world actually, or, at the very least, between the US and Europe and the UK. The main difference is nearly all American bread has added sugar. The first few types of bread we tried even had added high fructose corn syrup. You really have to read labels here to get something of a different quality. Even at Trader Joe’s, they had trouble guaranteeing something was sugar free bread. I know that an Australian friend of mine has complained about a similar problem with bread in Korea, saying their bread was dessert-like. I have never tried this myself, so I don’t know how it compares to American bread. I actually can’t tell the difference as much any more as I have eaten both British and American bread for years, but Chris and several of our friends and family from the UK can definitely tell the difference. They are generally not fans of the sweeter bread as they associate bread as being very much an exclusively savory affair. Any sugar should be added in the form of things like jam to satisfy the British palate.
Our best attempt so far at finding less openly sugary bread has been a café actually. The US has a few chains of bakery/cafés that sell coffee, soups, sandwiches and bread you can take away in the form of a whole loaf. A big national one is Panera, while there is a local Arizona chain which is nearer to us called Wildflower Bread Company. I would not have thought of a café in a mall as the right place for one’s weekly bread needs, but as it’s very nearby in places we go to frequently, and more than that, the bread is made fresh and cut up in front of you in the shop, it seems to fit the bill even if it’s not what I was expecting.
If you are in the US, what do you think of your state’s cheese and bread? If you are from elsewhere and have visited the US, what and where were your experiences?
No video this time as you all hardly needed a video of us eating cheese 🙂