4440 Miles from home

Exploring Cincinnati chili and more


Max Blessing

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is now part of Blessing’s daily lunch. In Switzerland, Blessing usually ate a warm lunch from the cafeteria.

Max Blessing

McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks were the restaurants I knew before I came to the U.S. However, many people here have asked me what I think about the other American food I have experienced.

Of course, I experienced the mandatory introduction to Cincinnati food: Skyline’s chili, Graeter’s ice cream, and LaRosa’s pizza were some of the famous foods I had the pleasure to explore. With the exception of Skyline’s chili which had too much cheese to eat it without creating a mess, I really enjoyed all of those foods. I also had the opportunity to eat ribs from Kentucky, a very unique experience!

Every place has its own local specialties, like Cincinnati, but the biggest chains I mentioned exist all over the world, not just in the U.S. Students at my Swiss school go to McDonald’s in the neighboring town for lunch, although it is really challenging to do that on time with public transportation.

It gets more interesting if you take a look at the grocery stores in the U.S. compared to those in Switzerland. Like everything in the U.S., the grocery stores are bigger than those in Switzerland. That can be really convenient if you need something specific, and you can find many different groceries that you wouldn’t find in a Swiss grocery store.

One funny example you find in grocery stores here is Swiss cheese. As a Swiss exchange student, it was really fun to see “Swiss cheese” on the shelves of grocery stores. Of course, in Switzerland we eat more than just Swiss cheese, in fact, Swiss cheese doesn’t actually exist there. With my limited cheese knowledge, I can say that American “Swiss” cheese is most similar to an Emmentaler, a Swiss cheese with bigger bubbles.

Also, I have never seen so many lunchboxes before in school. Since many students in Switzerland grab food from bakeries or grocery stores next to our school during lunch, the number is much fewer than here. In my personal “lunchbox” is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which I have really learned to appreciate.

One change I have also observed is about meal times. At the moment, I have first lunch, which starts at 10:45. In Switzerland, this is usually the time for a late Znüni (Alemannic German for “at nine”), which is a small meal like an apple or a Bircher muesli (a mixture of rolled oats, several kinds of fruit, and milk). Many people skip that meal, but every school has a 10 a.m. break which is usually 20 to 30 minutes long when people may eat their Znüni.

I know that, at least at home, every family eats differently, but for me, it is an interesting experience to have a warm meal in the evening. In Switzerland, I nearly always have my warm meal at noon, and some cheese, vegetables, and sausage in the evening. In general, I experience my lunchtimes more flexibly now, whereas, in Switzerland, the (always warm) lunch is usually between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

In general, I would say that I like American food. I now count some standard dishes like Cincinnati chili as comfort food, because I know I like it. I look forward to experiencing much more American food for the rest of my stay.