Tag Archives: shopping

American ‘candy’!

As I faced the possibility this summer that our American adventure might be coming to an end, it suddenly struck me that I hadn’t fully explored the wealth of American candy out there. As you can see from the photo below, not all American candy is unfamiliar to the British eye. Both countries have access to Mars products like Snickers, Twix and MnMs, and I’ve definitely come across Reese’s cups in the UK. But look closely and you’ll see that American Milky Ways don’t look quite the same as British ones, and then there’s the puzzle of the intriguingly named 3 Musketeers…

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So for the good cause of this blog, I carried out some research into all the chocolate that was unfamiliar to me. I may have to wait a few months for my waistline to recover before I repeat the experiment for non-chocolate candy (or as we say in the UK, sweets)! Anyway, while I’m sure I’ve missed plenty, the preliminary results are now in. I now have a good idea what the different sorts of candy are, and which I would walk to the store to buy in the event of a sugar crisis. In other words, I’ve tasted a variety of Hersheys and other products, and scored them (highly subjectively) out of 5.

Firstly, I can report that, in fact:

  • US Milky Ways are actually like Mars Bars (I’d give them 4/5).
  • And the 3 Musketeers bars are, in a pleasantly surprising way, what UK milky ways used to be like in the 80s/early 90s (these score a perfect 5/5, partly for the nostalgia value).

Another one that made me nostalgic was the Heath bar, which I discovered is like the UK’s dime bar! Toffee in the US is pretty much always hard. Unfortunately this is Hershey’s – I don’t like the after-taste of their chocolate – so I can only score it 2/5.

The York Peppermint Patty is famous from Charlie Brown cartoons. It’s pretty good, not too sweet, and comes in mini or standard sizes. 5/5

There are a few brands that come in boxes, and seem to have been popular cinema snacks:

  •  Milk duds – not at all what I expected from the name. These are like the chocolate covered toffee you get in a tub of Quality street. After a while all the chewing gets tiring (2/5).
  • Junior mints – nice, small chocolate covered mint creams. Pleasant, but not much to write home about (4/5).
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These were devoured before I remembered to take photos…

As you might know, there’s a wealth of peanut themed sweets in the US, so I thought I’d give them their own section. Here’s my observations so far:

  • Reese’s Cups – I always loved these when I could get them in the UK. Chocolate over peanut butter cream – how can you go wrong? In the US they don’t just come in the original sized cups, but also in a large cup, and as mini-cups (eat a whole bag of these and you’ll feel very sick). Sometimes you can find them in dark chocolate. At Halloween they made pumpkin shaped cups, and for Valentines they were heart-shaped (tasty and versatile, always a good bet – 5/5).
  • Reese’s Nutrageous bar – might be my favourite. A bar of peanut butter cream plus actual peanuts, covered in chocolate (5/5).
  • Reese’s pieces – these look like MnMs, but are disappointing. They could actually do with some chocolate as they’re just sweet peanut cream in sweet candy shells (2/5)
  • Butterfinger – again, these come in regular and mini, and they recently brought out a cup version to compete with Reese’s. These remind me slightly of the old peanut cracknell that used to be in Quality Street, but I’m not sure this works so well in a large size (4/5 – mainly for the minis)
  • Baby Ruth – Seemed to me to be basically just like a Snickers, which is not bad (4/5)
  • Mr. Good bar – this is just a Hershey bar with peanuts, and, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not a fan of Hershey’s chocolate (1/5)
  • Payday – salty peanuts in a sweet corn syrup paste. This was actually rather unpleasant. (zero)
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I’m not sure what it is the York peppermint patty has 70% less fat than – a stick of butter?

Happily, as you might know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, our American adventure did not come to an end this autumn – our new visas were approved – so I still have time to try more American candy! There’s always plenty to choose from, including the seasonal treats surrounding Valentines Day, Easter, and Halloween. So if you know of an American candy bar I’ve not tried yet, do let me know. Which are your favourites?

A trip to Costco

I think we have Costco in the UK, but in the US, for some families, it seems to be a religion.

A really great ex-colleague of my husband’s is a member and decided that we had to have this religious experience ourselves at least once while we were out here. I was a bit skeptical, as we might not be around for very long and it didn’t seem the time to buy in bulk, but that skepticism vanished pretty much as soon as we walked in. I don’t think I have quite the words to describe the experience, so I’m going to let my photos speak more or less for themselves.

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The never-ending warehouse…
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So much pie!
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Above: Shrimp for lunch anyone? Below: More shrimp! And so so much meat.

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I’m a bit ashamed to say that we couldn’t resist the cheap meat, and left with enough chicken to feed us for about six weeks, along with cans and cans of tuna, olives and anchovies! Oh – and a very good-value bottle of gin…

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Chin-chin!

Clothes Shopping in the DC area

This is what I thought America would look like. Shopping malls of glass and chrome, coloured lights and escalators. Wide roads and pavements, shop windows of high fashion stretching down Wisconsin Avenue. It’s not Rodeo Drive, but it has all the names. Here by the metro station it’s H&M, Neiman Marcus, T.J. Maxx and McDonald’s, but the women in slacks and coloured jackets coming from further up Wisconsin are bearing bags from Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Cartier. I sit in the plaza outside Bloomingdales and take it all in.

Initially I’d been taken aback by how few of the store names I knew. All my clothes from the first few weeks here were bought in Gap and H&M – which was itself a relatively new arrival in DC. T.J. Maxx is of course the original of T.K. Maxx, and is just the same, only even cheaper; apparently, there was a business in the UK called T.J. Hughes which prevented T.J. Maxx trading under its original name when it expanded over there. When I first arrived I had no idea which of the clothes stores would be suitable for my price and age bracket, but I’ve been learning. Discount Shoe Warehouse (DSW) helped me out with its name, but the others were a mystery until I went shopping with an American.

Anna was also new to DC, and needed to buy a dress for a friend’s wedding in California. I had already discovered that Friendship Heights was a good place to shop – mainly because it had a Whole Foods. This supermarket also lived up to my ideas of what an American shopping experience should be, far more than Safeway in Adams Morgan. While Safeway had questionable meat, mixed quality fruit and veg and not even a whole aisle for chips or ice cream, this Whole Foods had a spacious fruit and veg market, a special system for check out, its own bakery, and at least three hot take-away food stations as well as a fresh salads and olives counter. (Rather than buying chilled microwave meals, Americans tend to buy freshly made, hot take-away meals, sides and desserts from supermarkets.)

Anna hadn’t been shopping in Friendship Heights before, but she knew the stores for discount dress-shopping. We started by hitting T.J. Maxx, and followed up with Neiman Marcus, Nordstrum Rack, H&M and Gap. The first three were the real discount warehouses, with rack upon rack of dresses. As well as the challenge of American sizes, I had to contend with different descriptions of age-brackets. To me, ‘Juniors’ sounded like it was aimed at children, but it actually seems to be aimed at anyone who’s not a senior citizen… Anna was tiny, which apparently presented all sorts of challenges for dress shopping that I couldn’t possibly understand, and she didn’t have a clue what she was looking for. I waded through racks of dresses, my arms ached with carrying so many to changing rooms, and I almost ran out my phone battery waiting while she tried things on. It was a very long shopping trip.

Finally, Anna made a decision and bought a dress. But before I could celebrate, we had to go and find make-up. I spent a little attempting to engage with her chatter about BB cream – apparently the latest thing – and how much she loved this beauty chain – Sephora – but when the sales assistant came over I left her to his assistance and browsed alone. I’ve since discovered that Sephora is a rather new model of beauty store in the States, though to me it was very like what we’ve had in the UK for a long time. It’s self-service, self-trial and stocks a range of brands from expensive to economy. It turns out that these sorts of stores have been slower to catch on in the States, as women continue to go to concession stands in department stores to be sold their make-up. I’ve always hated being hard-sold make-up, so I was relieved to be introduced to Sephora. This branch even stocked Soap and Glory, which I greeted like a long-lost friend.

Anna eventually made all her purchases, pocketed a few free samples, and we made our way home. About a week later she departed for California and her friend’s wedding, and decided to stay there with her family. That was it for my first DC friendship, but I was grateful for that shopping trip, and all that I’d learned.