Grocery shopping and Doritos: an outsider’s experience
Grocery shopping in a foreign country even if that country is America, is a unique and confusing experience. Apart from the obvious problems with locating familiar brands at a grocery store, there’s also that feeling you get when you realise you aren’t going to find what you’re looking for, because it doesn’t exist.
Like Doritos for example.
Doritos Australia market a total of four Doritos products to their consumers; Cheese Supreme, Nacho Cheese, Original and Mexicana. The U.S market for Doritos has a remarkable 19 different flavours (remarkable to me perhaps) among them; Jalapeno, Fiery Buffalo, Spicy Nacho, Pizza Supreme and even Cheeseburger.
To my disappointment, this list of 19 doesn’t include one of Australia’s most commercially successful (and incidentally my favourite) Doritos flavour; Nacho Cheese. The yellow packaged Doritos (Nacho Cheese is actually packaged red in the United States and tastes completely different, just to be confusing). The experience of not being able to find Nacho Cheese is not the most impressive cultural slap across the face, but it’s still pretty mind-blowing. People tend to think of Australian consumers in much the same way as American consumers, and to be fair we are reasonably comparable; we eat fast food, we watch Hollywood films and listen to American produced music. But geographical and cultural influence still drives the market for some things, and I find that many of the goods available here in the States, would probably not enjoy a successful launch in Australia. Due to the Mexican influence here in California, the market for spicy foods is very wide. The standard flavour is almost always some variety of seasoned chilli, and as a white person with very limited tolerance to spicy food, I’ve suffered at the hands of Mexican cuisine. But of course, Americans love it. Spicy food in every form; sweet, savoury, cold-serve, warm-serve is available in excessive abundance.
Fortunately for me, Australia’s limited knowledge of Mexico and the wide variety of spices found there, means that we will remain with a single spicy version of Doritos, (which I didn’t know existed until I sought help from Google), and that’s okay by me since I can’t obtain any benefit from heterogeneity in spicy corn chips anyway.
This is one that I suffered from in reverse, coming from the US to Australia. I was MORTIFIED at the way ‘Mexican’ food was prepared in Australia, especially the odd way (at least in my mind) that SEAsian style sweet-spicy things were added to ‘Mexican’ foods.
I very clearly remember getting a ‘Mexican’ something or other — like a roll or something — and taking one bite before feeding it to our Labrador. I think I would have been okay to eat it had it been called a ‘sweet chili’ roll rather than ‘Mexican.’ I was just so disappointed that it didn’t resemble anything I had ever experienced as ‘Mexican,’ and was instead kind of sweet and insipid, certainly not spicy enough to rate a second bite.
At least the Labrador was happy about it…
April 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm
Yes I’d say Australia has no idea about Mexico and evidently most of South America!
April 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm
Your blog brought back a world of memory for me of the time I spent living in South Carolina with my family. The supermarket shopping experience was like entering a completely different world; I mean, how many styles of mayonnaise and salad dressing do you really need, for heavens sake? And my kids, craving comfort food, woud have killed for a sausage roll or a regular British style sausage – but no!
What I did come to realise though was just how very very British our culinary traditions are in Australia. Once I started to reflect on this, I learned as much about Australian food as I did about American, in fact. Yes I know that since the second world war (this is the historian speaking here) we have become increasingly multicultural, but even so, many of us have that basis of British culture in terms of the food we eat – eg those sausage rolls and sausages. So the Jewish food, the eastern European influence, the spicy sausages and the Mexican influences were just so foreign – but just so good to explore. And that’s before even starting on the Gullah (African American) food from the Carolinas.
But I have a question for Greg: before you sling off at Australian ‘Mexican’ food, Greg – and I certainly don’t disagree with you about how poorly we do this here in Australia! – can you tell me how you would categorise America’s favourite Mexican food chain, Taco Bell’s? Mexican it might be – but food it ain’t! I would not feed it to a dog – and I am sure your self-respecting Labrador would not eat it if I did!
April 15, 2011 at 6:25 am
Just imagine how my cultural shock was.. I AM MEXICAN and came as exchange student… the surprise of finding beans with (sweet) chili! JAJAJA, for dessert!
Squared big tortillas?! ah no, sorry those are wraps… WHAAAAT?? and then “Montezuma”, yes its great! but I feel like a better name “MoCCCCtezuma”! well… no proper tortillas here, no proper food here, no tacos at all, but… nice to be here (whaatever)
cheers my culinary friends!
March 11, 2013 at 7:27 am