A lot of American television and movies are shown here in Australia, and for the most part any Stateside pop-culture references made are either previously known or easily decoded. Food and beverage references, however, are an entirely different matter. A lot of the bigger and better brands are already out here—Oreos, Big Red, we’ve even got a few McDonalds. A lot that aren’t available here are still easy to work out—Drake’s Coffee Cake and Junior Mints, for example. But buffalo wings? Bear claws? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? What are you doing, shots of sandwich spread now? Here’s a few of America’s unexplained foodstuffs deciphered by an unknowing Australian.
This one… I have no idea. They eat it in The Shawshank Redemption so I can guess it’s from the southern U.S. and it’s probably some kind of food for the poor and downtrodden. So is it just what it sounds like? Are you just sitting in front of a bowl full of grit—basically just bits of rock—and spooning gravel into your mouths? Do you put sugar on it? I don’t even know if it’s a savory or sweet meal of pebbles. Unless you’re that guy from The Neverending Story, it’s simple—don’t eat rocks.
Educated guess: Maybe a cereal byproduct—like porridge, but with texture
Instant assumption: A mouthful of sand
In Australia, Hush Puppies are a brand of shoe. We also have a brand of shoes called Grosby’s—whose mascot is a dog. I get the two companies confused. And as Grosby’s is a brand of shoe mainly for old people (most of their shoes are gray and have a zipper up one side), all I can picture when people describe or mention eating hush puppies is a couple of old people, dressed in suits on really hot days, tucking into a meal that is identical to what’s on their feet.
Educated guess: Something like hash browns
Instant assumption: Loafers for lunch
These I think are lollies, just because in an episode of something I saw someone carrying a packet of them. I think they bought them at a chemist, which gives me the inclination that they’re crappy chemist lollies, like Fisherman’s Friends—high-strength, sinus-clearing, disgusting tabs of torture; I think one of their flavors is horseradish—or jelly beans. And not those luxury popcorn and peanut butter and pina colada jelly beans. No, I’m thinking of the ones that taste like Benedrine—a cough-related gargling syrup that tastes like the sea is bleeding into your mouth. But ‘Tums’ also make me think of ‘gums’ which remind me of babies, so following that train of thought I’m imagining some sort of milk-flavored Altoid.
Educated guess: Vaguely medicinal candy
Instant assumption: A tin full of edible teeth
It’s a drink. That is all I know. It sounds really old, like ‘soda fountain’ old. (I still don’t know whether you guys have actual fountains of soda. Please say you do. It would mean that every town had its own little Wonka Factory at work, and a guy in a paper hat would just hand you a glass and say, ‘Go nuts,’ and you’d go ahead and dunk the glass into the soda fountain and drink away until you popped—which, I believe, is where ‘soda pop’ came from.) So if it’s really old then it’s probably one of those ridiculous flavors like sarsaparilla or root beer or even cola, because god knows you couldn’t just use something like strawberry in those days. But it’s such a nerdy sounding drink that I can’t imagine drinking it out of anything but a really, really thin straw that matches my tie and suspenders.
Educated guess: Cheap Dr Pepper
Instant assumption: Mr. Peabody on ice
So we’re talking vegetables, I think. ‘Collard’ reminds me of ‘colander,’ so I would say that what you’ve done is boil up a whole bunch of spinach and served it to the table still in the colander. What results is a big, wet, wilted mess of green, still steaming and in danger of wetting everything else on your plate. Or because ‘collard’ is also like ‘collared,’ and that means a shirt with a little more class, maybe it’s all these stalks of something in a little pyramid of neatness. Wet, steaming, wilted neatness.
Educated guess: Slop of silver beet
Instant assumption: Slop of spinach
When you have bacon you have the pink bit, which is gold, the white bit, which if you’re especially health-conscious you’ll cut off, and the yellow bit, which you’ll throw out. Unless you’re Homer Simpson, and therefore in America, where you buy it as a snack. This is what they are, isn’t it? You guys invented jerky (whoever says it was invented by desert people or sailors is very wrong, because unless you package it and sell it at petrol stations, you haven’t invented crap), so I wouldn’t put it past you to just go around filching crackling off everybody’s Christmas dinner plates and selling it. Big fatty lumps of hard, chewy, hair-encrusted pig skin. Mmmm mmm.
Educated guess: A crispy fried snack with pork flavoring
Instant assumption: A bag of gristle
This has to be the most boring sounding chocolate bar ever. Unless it’s not—it might be some muesli and dried-fruit concoction for all I know, which would make heaps more sense. I’d guess it was invented in the ‘50s, before people had exciting adjectives or the predilection to simply invent words when naming products, like ‘Blammo!’ and ‘Wazchunk!!’ Thus, it’s the worst-named candy bar ever. If you wanted to entice kids you would name the chocolate after the superhero, not the bland alter-ego. But again, I could be completely off the mark. Maybe it’s a chocolate bar aimed entirely at Fred MacMurray.
Educated guess: A simple bar of chocolate. Maybe with licorice
Instant assumption: A piece of cardboard with ‘CANDY’ written on it
This is just juice, isn’t it? People, i.e., characters on Seinfeld, carry on and on, but it’s only fruit in liquid form. I’m on to you. Do you know in our country we have a juice called ‘Just Juice?’ It’s honest and doesn’t show off and tastes pretty good. But admittedly we don’t have a big juice market. We don’t even have a big soft-drink market. Once I went to a Pakistani restaurant and they had way cooler drinks than we do, like this one that tasted like a fairy-floss cloud rained into a bottle. But back to Snapple: It gets big-ups on a lot of shows and movies, and you assume it must be something brilliant, but I’ve learnt not to expect too much. Dominos cream-cheese pizza crust taught me that.
Educated guess: Fruit juice with a good marketing team
Instant assumption: Elixir of the gods, ambrosia from a vending machine