WW Presents another installment of our Australian music intern's diary of moving to Portland.
When Australians visit America, the first question everyone asks when you get back home is: “Was everyone fat?”
I wish I had something nicer to report, but this is a fact.
And it's true: according to the World Health Organization, 66.7 percent of Americans are overweight.
But 66.5 percent of Germans are also obese, and when you holiday there, everyone asks about the beer.
62.7 percent of New Zealanders are fatties, but people usually ask if the weather was terrible and make sheep-shagging jokes.
And a whopping 93.5 percent of Samoans are apparently lard-asses, but all anyone ever talks about is rugby.
Australians themselves are hardly the chiseled, croc-wrestling hunks and bikini-clad beach bunnies they'd like you to think of them as: about 60 percent are porkier than a deep-fried Dim Sim.
So why did America get so short-changed in the international stereotype stakes?
After some serious investigative research, my conclusion is this:
Number one: your food is so damn big.
I'm constantly asked by folks back home whether American meals are as ridiculously large as they've heard.
This is also true. Food here is big. But people back home don't "get" doggie bags. Doggie bags are generally illegal in Australia. Something to do with suing restaurants if you get sick from eating three-day-old room-temperature fried rice. Some low-end joints may do it on the sly, but generally speaking, it's a no-no, and it would be considered terribly gauche to ask to take leftovers home in a nicer establishment, anyway. You order only what you can eat, but you eat everything you order.
Here, I regularly go out to eat with people who have no intention of eating everything they order. In fact, they order the biggest thing on the menu for the very reason that they will get several meals out of it. This actually makes good economic sense to me, but it is an idea simply beyond the experience of many of my compatriots, and thus they presume you're going to eat everything that's put in front of you.
Number two: your unashamed fetishization of junk food.
Here's the thing: Most Australians—and most Brits, Germans, Indians, you name it—love fatty deep-fried food as much as you do. One of our favourite national dishes, the Chiko Roll
, is an oversized eggroll filled with beef, then battered, deep-fried, and covered with salt and tomato sauce. The Brits deep-fry sausages and pizza. Germans love a schnitzel. India, for all its starving masses, is a veritable haven of greasy deep fried snacks: pakoras, samosas, pappadums, jalebi, puri...
I'm convinced that regular folks in all these countries would lose their shit over maple bacon donuts
, pork sandwiches stuffed with fries and béchamel
, deep fried peanut butter and chocolate pies
, or double-decker pastrami, salami, turkey and beef sandwiches
. We'd just never admit it. We'd publicly tut-tut about "American rubbish" and wheel out our finger-waving nutritionists while secretly salivating over it all.
Here's how I know. Earlier this year, I wrote a little post
about KFC's Double Down (you remember: the sandwich with fried chicken in place of a bun, which became quite the internet meme). I didn't spruce it much, just threw it up quickly about halfway down the page. But it was one of the most viewed articles on the entire site (and we're talking on a serious political website with over 10,000 paid subscribers.)
Now, I'd like to think that was just a reflection of my riveting writing, but I know better. While the public response was: “Oh, those fat Americans, with their plastic orange cheese and deep fried everything...” the truth was that everyone was secretly fascinated and wanted to try one. Hell, I
wanted to try one, and I'm a vegetarian.
But if there's one thing I love about Portland in particular, it's that people here unashamedly celebrate equally the gastronomic beauty of a plate of locally-grown, sustainable, organic salad as they do a plate of pastrami cheese fries.
So ignore the disapproving looks from foreigners and hold your chubby heads and double chins high, I say. The truth is we're ALL fat Americans at heart
. You guys are just the only ones with enough guts to admit it.
Check back in next week for another installment of
Diary of an Immigrant. Follow more of Ruth Brown's adventures in Portland at her blog Stump'd.