You may have just arrived in the US a few months ago or maybe you have been in US for the past few years as you could not help but notice – food does not taste the same as at home!
First, you thought it was a bad batch of cucumbers that tasted like, should I dare to say, like cardboard? Then, you tasted strawberries, milk butter, sour cream, and bread and you might start wondering: “What is wrong with food in US?”. Should you want to get educated on the subject, you can read the article “The 10 Health Food Documentaries that will change your life”
The truth of the matter is this- the food in the US is just different, in many ways…
This article aims to address the following questions:
- How relationships with food is different in the U.S. vs. Eastern Europe?
- How food is produced/prepared/consumed in the U.S. vs. Eastern Europe?
- What are the sources of high-quality food on a tight budget in the United States?
Relationships with food
In Eastern Europe food unites people. From birthday celebrations to hosting a friend at your house, from a three-day wedding ceremony to a business dinner Eastern Europeans (“Russian speaking folks” or “ Russians” for short) embrace and enjoy the food. Russians love to cook, serve and eat. Women are known for their culinary skills. Russians love food, they do. Check out some of the best Russian recipes to try.
On the other hand, in the United States there seems to be a lot of guilt about enjoying your meals, struggle with and around food. Relationships with food are controversial and complex. The topic is very well discussed in the article “America`s Love-Hate Relationships with Food”.
Food is a charged topic in the US. We all know a person or two who are currently dieting, from keto to paleo, from plant-based to lacto-ovo vegetarians, from Atkins to Blood Type diet. Everyone is following some sort of diet! Americans are in an active war with food. It appears, frequently certain food groups or food categories are declared “off-limits”, for example, low-fat, low-carb, low-sodium diets etc. It seems the strategy of guilt and negativity around food produce food anxiety and banging on “forbidden” foods. One of many reasons relationships with food in the US are so complex is due to uprise of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and cancer epidemic.
Food production, preparation, and consumption
In most of Eastern Europe there are three primary ways to get food: grow your own garden (“dacha”), buy freshly produced food at the farmer market (“rinok”, “bazar”) or if you are in a hurry get it at the nearest supermarket. In smaller towns, most folks tend to have their own garden and grow their own food. In suburban areas, where land is scarce people tend to buy groceries at the farmer market or supermarket. Due to the colder climate in Eastern Europe, a lot of fruits and vegetables during the off-season are imported from other countries and tend to be a little more expensive. Local fruits and vegetables are very affordable during the summer-fall months.
I would say, the majority of Eastern European families tend to prepare and consume food at home. Some of it is due to the fact that overall incomes are lower and it makes more sense, financially to prepare your own food versus stop by the nearest fast-food places. The majority of families cook meals either every day or every other day for an entire family.
Eastern European families tend to buy food every day, or every other day. Partially, it is due to the fact that most vegetables and fruit is not sprayed with additives or food chemicals so they tend to spoil faster, unless consumed within a few days. On the other side, food in US that can last for weeks at the time, if stored properly. Eastern Europeans also have much smaller refrigerators and tend to keep less food at home.
That said, people do enjoy eating out, but it is mostly reserved for celebrations and special occasions. If a couple or a family decide to eat out, they will take time to make the visit memorable, they most likely will dress-up, reserve time, go to a movie and make an entire date out of the experience. They will enjoy the atmosphere and celebrate their special time together.
On the other hand, most food in US is commercially grown. Majority of folks purchase food in supermarkets. Due to long supply chains and long transit times, food tend to be picked, transported and sold before peak ripeness, which affects it`s taste and other qualities. Very few Americans have gardens big enough to provide food for a family and in general, people seem to care a bit less about the quality of food consumed.
For example, for years, I was telling my spouse that tomatoes supposed to taste different than those we bought at local Safeway. He would take a bit, rolled his eyes and say” “Honey, tomatoes taste fine!”. I was raised by 4th generation farmers, and I tell you, when I think tomatoes, I don’t think about the tasteless, colorless, dry and hard fruit you purchase in conventional grocery stores.
Food preparation and consumption in US is typically hurried. Many families schedules, a division of labor and budgets are not set up to cook a fresh meal every day. Typical work day and work week in US is longer than in Eastern Europe, so folks have less time to spend purchasing, cooking, serving and cooking meals.
Sources of high-quality food on a tight immigrant budget in the United States.
If you wondering where can you find great fruits and vegetable, high-quality seafood, rye bread and Eastern European deserts I am about to share a few resources our family uncovered during my 15 years in the United States. I, just like you, struggled to simply accept what I could buy in grocery stores. I felt that despite the barrage of different options in our grocery stores, the quality and the variety were lacking.
So, where can you find food that you used to eat?
Sources of high-quality food on a tight budget
Fruits and vegetables:
- Colorado – Miller Farms (amazing, pesticide-free produce)
- Get Costco/Sams Club membership, choose organic options only
- Grow your own garden or join local community garden
- Buy from local growers via farmer market (CO farmer markets)
- Check out Asian/Middle Eastern stores (Hmart)
- Vitamin Cottage (on sales isle, organic sections)
- Russian grocery stores
Grains and spices:
- Buy in bulk on Amazon (like bay leaves, dill etc)
- Check out Vitamin Cottage, Big Lots
Meat, poultry and seafood
- Sams Club, Costco, organic options
- Russian grocery stores (Colorado Russian Food Stores)
- Amazon: canned fish products (Wild Planet Seafood)
- Local slaughterhouses (Colorado Slaughterhouses)
- Local cattle growers (Colorado free-range, grass-fed cattle growers)
Milk, diary products
Bread, bread flour
- Great River Organic Milling Organic Whole Wheat Bread Flour on Amazon
- Bread Village imported flour products
- Bread Village breads on Amazon
- CO- imported German Flours store
- Add storage space:
- Buy a small freezer
- Add shelving units in your basement or a cool place in a house
- Connect with other Russian gardeners to share home-grown veggies
- Meet your local farmers, ask for self-pick options
I hope the article helped you to answer the question about the food in US and how is it different from what you are used to back home. This will help you to find high-quality food that tastes better on a tight budget. Of course, depending on where you live in US you may have additional options.
If you want to help, please kindly share your own tips and findings in the comment section below. This will help our readers to seek other opportunities in their locality. By sharing resources and knowledge we are helping others.
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