International Junk

Pizza Flavored Shapes.  Whittaker’s Chocolate Coconut Block.  Holiday Ham & Turkey Pimento Cheese.  TRISCUITS!

One cold and wintery evening while living in Australia I drew a nice hot bath, plugged in my computer at the edge of the tub (yes, yes I know this is the start to like 5 different bad movies and that if the computer had fallen into the tub I would have been electrocuted only to change bodies with my Mom or start hearing men’s thoughts or something) and climbed in.  Then I reached down and opened a box of Shapes ( and proceeded to eat the entire thing while watching Project Runway.  Was this kind of disgusting?  Yes, yes it was.  It was also totally awesome.

There are similar stories of mine about Whittaker’s Coconut Chocolate while living in New Zealand and certainly regarding HH&T’s Pimento Cheese with Triscuits when I’m back in the U.S.A (similar as in over-indulging not as in eating in the bathtub…that was really a one-off, over-eating while naked is kind of disturbing and really eating naked at all seems gross to me, maybe I am repressed, I don’t know…okay, digressing).  Point being, while I am not much of a junk food eater, when I find my junk food that I love I can go a little overboard.  Lucky for me, however, the aforementioned junk-food kryptonite doesn’t exist in every country and I have to travel long and expensive distances to get it.  However, this does leave a hole in my diet, an inner aching as my cellulite calls out to me in agony, “please, we need you to eat more garbage, we’re shrinking!”  Wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we?  So, it is only natural that I have found a new junk food addiction here in France.

Now, we have already covered the issue that while France is exceptionally good with food it doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own junk food as well (Exhibit A:  And while I find things like apericubes and fully frozen hamburgers repugnant I do have my not-so-secret shame.  A shame deeper than apericubes and a little bit gross…crabssdlkjgkdlsjaktlja.

“What was that?  I couldn’t quite understand.”

“I wrote: crabstiflubidyblubber.”



“Ewwwww!  You mean those plastic tasting things filled with chemicals that aren’t actually crab but instead whatever poor fish was stuck at the bottom of the net that they stewed and then reshaped into crab legs?”

Yep.  That’s exactly what I mean.  MB was the first one who told me that I should try them with the mayonnaise so we bought them once and I did…from there the addiction

The EVIL Benedicta that promotes my crabstick addiction.

The EVIL Benedicta that promotes my crabstick addiction.

grew.  Now, I have to physically stop myself from being lured into the crabstick section at the grocery store (yes, that exists) as the chemically goodness calls to me, “But we are so tasty, we are SUCH a good vehicle for getting mayonnaise into your mouth!”  BWAH!  Quit taunting me with your siren song, Crabsticks, we all know that I will feel sick after I eat you!


Even MB has his own international junk food shame.  If you refer back to Exhibit A, you will see that I introduced him to the world of Kraft Blue Box Mac and Cheese years ago.  Ever since then, he now gets excited when shipments come from the U.S. and always wants me to share them with him (which makes me wonder if I should have ever let him taste it in the first place – who wants to share their mac and cheese – Dad, I’m looking at you).  So, as a result of our relationship something unnatural has been created, something that could possibly be the first sign of the apocalypse:  a Frenchman who gets



excited to eat powdered chemicals cheese?!?!?!?!  (Somewhere the French Tinkerbell just

died and there is no amount of clapping that will bring her back.  Don’t worry Mme Tink, afterall…it is THE CHEESIEST! Har har har…she’s not laughing.)

But this is one of the unspoken perils of being an expat or in an international relationship, while on the one hand you gain a first-hand understanding of a new culture; on the other hand you gain a first-hand understanding of a new culture.  Meaning, when you are living somewhere overseas or with a someone from another country you can’t cherry-pick all the delightful things about the new culture…you get it all – the tournedos rossini and Quick’s, France’s major fast food chain, foie gras burger (check it out:  It’s the darker side of the expat life…and for now, I’ll just let you digest that.

Perfection and the Art of Junk Food

MB looked down at the bowl I presented him with apprehension. 

“Just try it,” I say.  “If you don’t like it, no big deal; it’s a weird American thing.  Trust me; I’ll finish it if you don’t want it.”

He smiles wanly, but gamely picks up his spoon and has a bite.  He looks up in thought, as though considering the best way to describe it.

“It is strange (MB pronunciation: strenge),” he says. 

He may be the first French person to ever bring themselves to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (or at least to admit it).

The French like to pretend that they only consume high quality cuisine and that an American diet consists only of fast food, flavorless food, fried food, and fatty food.  More than once I have been told “ketchup cuisine” in reference to American cooking.  It seems that regardless of what chefs or restaurants we produce, the stigma stays. 

When I first arrived in France, these methods of intimidation had worked; I believed that the French would never deign to eat something processed (!!) and only consumed quality, fresh, or homemade foods.  Then, one dark and stormy night (okay, so on a normal Wednesday evening), MB came home with something…unexpected, frightening…something that would change my French life forever.

The thunder cracked as he threw the grocery bag down on the counter. 

“I went shopping,” he said, full of innocence. 

I turned from the stove to look at him.  The light from the storm cast malevolent shadows across his face as he smiled. 

“Oh?” I questioned, quickly returning to my sauté pan.  The oil (okay, fine, it was butter alright? BUTTER) was getting hot and I jumped as an angry bubble burst and snapped at my forearm.  The air was tense. 

MB went to the double doors in the kitchen and threw them open; the thick, humidity entered the room like a presence.  Chills ran up my spine.

“So, check it out,” he grinned, as he slowly reached into the grocery bag. 

I looked up, and just as the product emerged, lightening lit up the room.  I gasped and stumbled back a step.  He held the hot pink metallic rectangle up in the air like some sort of ominous beacon.

“What is it?”  I said, tremulously.

“Just try one…” he replied, as he pulled a red cube from its sheath.

The thunder rumbled in the distance, perhaps as a warning.  Tentatively, I plucked it from his hand and began to unwrap.  He watched me, anxiously, as I brought it to my mouth. 

“Blech!  What tha-what is this?!?”

He flipped the light on.  “Quoi?”

“I don’t understand what this is.  It’s like ham flavored processed cheese.”

“No, it’s delicious!”  He popped one in his mouth and began unwrapping a second.  “There’s ham, tomato, goat cheese-”

“Goat cheese,” I interrupted.    “Goat cheese flavored cheese?  Why not just get actual goat cheese?”   

“Ouais,” MB said nonchalantly, as though that somehow answered the question.

I had just been introduced to Apericubes (here is just one example, there is a wide variety: ) , processed cheese cubes flavored to taste like vegetables, meats, other cheeses; life would never be the same. 

After that fateful, evening I started noticing things that had theretofore gone unseen.  Suddenly, processed cheese was everywhere and there seemed to be an unusual amount of fast food places.  I noticed 6 brands of crabsticks (you know the fish shaped to look like crab legs) in the grocery store and a plethora of frozen, yet fully constructed (bun and all), cheeseburgers in the frozen food section.  The cereal aisle was full of sugary cereals; muesli filled to the brim with chunks of chocolate.  Even the French eat junk food!  (!!!!!!!!)    

Once at a neighborhood wine store, the clerk asked me where I was from and I told him I was American.  “Ah well, nobody’s perfect,” he responded with a laugh. 

Clearly, the French have one of the best cuisines in the entire world, one that they should be (and are) justifiably proud of; no one is arguing that.  But to all those “ketchup cuisine” snobs who look disdainfully at American cuisine, I would like to offer an Apericube and remind them that “oui, nobody’s perfect.”