[Lone Primate]My cultural odyssey never ends.
When you get down to the granular level, Canadians and Americans are really, fundamentally pretty similar. But this is one of the few genuine cultural differences I've observed between Canadians and Americans on a daily-living level: Americans don't cook; they don't even eat at home if they can avoid it. I don't mean that absolutely, of course, but far, far more than I notice to be the case here. Canadians, in my experience, typically have their favourite dishes and prepare them at home; they might eat out one or two evenings a week, and often it's something social. Ditto lunch: I've found most of my co-workers, who aren't poor by any means, generally brown-bag lunch, and go out as a group about once a week.
But my experiences in the US are entirely different. Some time ago I spent about a month with various friends in Los Angeles, and all the time I was there, I could count the number of home-cooked, even home-eaten, meals on both hands. At one place, it amounted to once. At another, "home cooked" consisted of broiled chicken breasts... period. Well, and beer. That was the side dish. :)
Other visits to other places or on business have convinced me that while my LA experience was probably extreme, it's not that far from the norm. I've also noticed that most US supermarkets have terrible selections of produce. And yet, most of ours this time of year comes from the US. My only conclusion is that in the US, producers are selling mostly to restaurants and food preparation places, and dumping the dregs on the supermarkets, since cooking is becoming a rarity in the US. I'm at a loss to explain the difference in cultures in this aspect, but to me, it's a real indicator of what side of the border I'm on. Well, that, and the fact that people in the US wear their shoes in the house. Man, that's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers weird. :)
Your observations [about cooking at home vs eating out] definitely apply to NYC and L.A., but I don't know if they do to the rest of the country. They might - I'm not sure.
New Yorkers and Los Angelenos are notorious for hardly ever cooking, and both cities have lousy produce in supermarkets (although excellent produce in specialty markets).
But in smaller cities and throughout suburbia, the supermarkets are rich with wonderful produce. I don't know about cooking, though. There is a lot of restaurant going, that's for sure.
Shoes in the house? Funny! We always wore them in NY - but we had hardwood floors. Here we have carpeting, and we wear slippers. But we noticed that everyone who comes over - the landlord, the heating oil guy, the next-door neighbour - all take their shoes off as soon as they walk in. Is it living in a country with a lot of snow?
I've found most of my co-workers, who aren't poor by any means, generally brown-bag lunch, and go out as a group about once a week.
This is definitely different. When I worked in an office, I usually brought lunch to save money and eat better - food is SO expensive in midtown Manhattan. But I was a rarity. Most of my co-workers went out to lunch every day. I was amazed at how much ordinary office-workers would drop on lunch every day.
Shoes in the house? Funny! We always wore them in NY
First time I can remember being aware of this was watching The Brady Bunch when I was about five. I noticed Bobby wearing his sneakers as he came down the stairs. To me, this was like wandering around in a snowsuit. But even at that age, I was grasping for explanations, and I decided it was because it was a TV show: that Bobby was wearing shoes because he was an actor on a set. But no, later on, I realized it's typical for people in the States to just wander through the house with their shoes on... There's a line in Huey Lewis and the News's song Bad Is Bad that still makes my eye twitch: "There's a strange pair of shoes underneath the bed." How the hell did shoes get all the way upstairs? You might as well sing "There's a strange garden hose underneath the bed." :)
I really don't know what the essential difference is, but I suspect you're right; it's probably to do with the weather. Whatever it is, it sets its mark, though... my first impression someone's low class is if they traipse through someone's home with their shoes on, and I don't think I'm alone in that in this country.
"There's a strange pair of shoes underneath the bed." How the hell did shoes get all the way upstairs? You might as well sing "There's a strange garden hose underneath the bed." :)
This is so funny! Those lyrics draw from a long tradition of blues and R&B songs that note whose shoes are under the bed. Shoes under the bed, obviously, equal who's in the bed. It's like "How come my dog don't bark when you come around?"
Women will say, "He can put his shoes under my bed anytime," as a semi-risque-without-being-graphic way of saying mmmmyummy.
Now it turns out this is not universal. Who knew!
my first impression someone's low class is if they traipse through someone's home with their shoes on, and I don't think I'm alone in that in this country.
OMG. Thank you for warning me. I may have already looked like a hillbilly! Hopefully I will not do it again.
Let me ask you this, then. Does everyone wear slip-on shoes? What do you with big lace-up boots?
In comments here, Lone Primate drew my attention to a fundamental difference between Canadians and Americans previously unknown to me. I had seen this behaviour in Canada but didn't realize it was an important cultural trend. Forget health care, forget empire, we're talking shoes in the house. The conversation, with some additional thoughts about food.