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Pop Culture Isolation / Food and Drink

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  • What North America and the United Kingdom consider "Italian cuisine" is only found in the Northern regions, like Tuscany and Emilio-Romagna (except for pizza, which is Sicilian/Campanian). The middle and Southern regions, along with the furthest Northern ones, are entirely different (Sicily, for example, is heavily based around fresh Mediterranean vegetables, nuts, and fish.) Some areas don't use tomatoes much, if at all.
    • Differences in vocabulary and terminology don't help, either. For instance, what European Italian cuisine generally knows as involtini are bracioles to North American Italians. This has caused trans-Atlantic confusion.
  • Ditto for Mexico, whose best known icons are actually only found in the state of Jalisco near the city of Guadalajara: tequila (comes from an eponymous town a half hour drive away from the city), mariachi music (the Trope Codifying group was born in Tecalitlán, a town about an hour south from Guadalajara), the colonial-era architecture (admittedly rather well preserved in downtown Guadalajara, but the whole city is actually a mashup of literally everything, from forsaken slums, inhospitably polluted cesspools and rugged farmlands to pristine greenery, towering skyscrapers of perfectly polished glass and steel and cutting-edge tech industry), and the charro outfit (originated in the Highlands region about an hour northeast from Guadalajara). The Secretariat of Tourism is very much aware of that, and has used abroad quite a few promotional slogans along the lines of "Jalisco is Mexico".
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  • Two of China's best known cultural icons, the pagoda architecture and the pandas, are actually only found in the city of Chengdu.
  • Certain soft drinks are only popular in certain regions of the United States:
    • Faygo is mostly found in the Midwest USA, specifically around Detroit. It is also a Trademark Favorite Food of Juggalos.
    • Vernors ginger ale was originally tied to Detroit as well, but it is now nationally distributed by Keurig Dr Pepper. However, about 80% of Vernors sales are still in Michigan.
    • Green River sodas are only found in the area around Chicago.
    • Grapico, a very popular grape soda is primarily found in Alabama and surrounding states.
    • Likewise with Buffalo Rock, a VERY strong ginger ale that's considerably more popular than Canada Dry.
    • Nehi is typically limited to the South of the country.
    • While popular in Mexico, Jarritos and sister brand Sangria Señorial are typically found only in the U.S. in areas with prominent Mexican populations.
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    • Sprecher Brewery of Wisconsin makes root beer and other gourmet soft drinks. While the root beer and cream soda can be found in "normal" grocery stores in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, all of their flavors are typically limited to specialty grocery stores elsewhere.
    • Briefly averted with Big Red, a Texas-based red cream soda that enjoyed a minor surge in popularity in other states during the first years of the 21st century.
    • RC Cola is available worldwide but is massively popular in the American South, where it, paired with regional favorite snack food Moon Pies, formed the "working man's lunch."
    • A double-subversion: Cracker Barrel stores often stock pop brands normally found only in the South, such as Cheerwine, Dr. Enuf, etc. However, the chain is all but non-existent on the west coast.
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    • Moxie is virtually unknown outside of New England...although these days, it's hardly popular; it's one of those polarizing kind of things.
    • If you live in Buffalo, you may well love and can name several brands of loganberry juice. If you live anywhere else, you may never have heard of it.
    • Ale-8-One is a popular ginger ale soft drink in Kentucky (especially near the town of Winchester where it is bottled), but it is practically unheard of elsewhere. Distribution only expanded to include southern Ohio and Indiana in 2001 according to The Other Wiki, and it may only be sporadically available in other parts of the South-East.
    • Cactus Cooler, a pineapple-orange soda pop, can be found almost anywhere nonalcoholic beverages are sold in Los Angeles County, and every Angeleno knows what it is, but it becomes incredibly rare if you travel so much as 10 miles away from the county line.
    • You'd be hard-pressed to find Dr. Brown's soda outside of New York, though it can sometimes be found elsewhere, like in Jewish-run delis.
  • Rivella, Switzerland's national soft drink, is practically impossible to find outside the country.
  • In Scotland, Irn Bru is the most popular fizzy beverage, being one of only a handful of countries that don't have Coca Cola in the top spot. While it's possible to get it in the rest of the UK, it often gets more obscure the further south you go, and once you're out of the British Isles, it's likely no one will know what you're talking about.
  • Inka Cola is a fizzy beverage that, in its country of origin (Peru) is much more popular than Coca Cola, it is even considered an indispensable ingredient of Peruvian cuisine. Although it is also sold in other countries, it is practically unknown outside of Peru, except among latin american consumers.
  • Outside of Alaska and Hawaii, SPAM luncheon meat is only popular among blue-collar and low-income families. The same could be said for things like Potted Meat, and Vienna Sausages.
  • Kool-Aid, similarly could be considered a blue-collar-specific beverage. Which would be ironic, since it was first marketed to middle-class people.
  • Blue Moon ice cream is popular in the Great Lakes states (most notably Michigan and Wisconsin) but is virtually unknown anywhere else. This is complicated by the fact that what exactly Blue Moon tastes like is almost as unique as the vendor who sells it, with flavors ranging from almond to spices to cola (although Word of God says "true" Blue Moon is NOT "tutti-frutti" or blue raspberry). And in Oklahoma and Texas (and possibly other states in the same geographical area), Blue Bell ice cream attracts a fervent following not understood by anyone outside of the area that Blue Bell serves. This is purely the company's intent, though; the higher-ups wanted to make sure the ice cream was as fresh as possible, so have never really thought of expanding nationwide.
  • And speaking of Texas, the Whataburger fast-food chain attracts an almost scarily devout clientèle of people who simply cannot get enough of their food, particularly their burgers and chicken sandwiches. In Texas, unless you're a vegetarian, you'll have your favorite Whataburger menu item, whether it be one of their specialty sandwiches (such as the A1 Thick & Hearty Burger or the Monterey Melt) or a specific way you order your regular Whataburger (e.g. a bacon cheeseburger with mayo and mustard [the default condiment is mustard], no onions, extra pickles, and on Texas toast [instead of a regular bun]).
  • Besides Whataburger, the United States is dotted with regional burger chains with devout clientele and often little exposure outside of their home regions. Examples include In-N-Out in California, Culver's in the Midwest, Roy Rogers in the Middle Atlantic, and Krystal in the Southeast. Five Guys used to be an example, restricted mostly to the Atlantic seaboard but has in recent years gone national and then international.
  • Caviar. Admit it: unless you were reared in an old-money family or are from Russia, Central Europe or environs, you spent practically all of your childhood completely in the dark about what that was. (For the record, the top brands of caviar are made from salted and pressed sturgeon roe, generally harvested from the Caspian and Black Seas, and are stupidly expensive and usually only available from luxury goods shops. In Western Europe, there are cheaper brands available, made from things like lumpfish and salmon roe, which you can buy in supermarkets.)
  • Eagle Brand baby formula and dehydrated milk products are so ubiquitous on certain Southwestern US Indian reservations that they're mentioned by name in the phrasebook at the back of the best-selling Navajo dictionary. Almost nobody who's not from one of those Indian reservations, or near them, has even heard of it.
  • Very few people outside Michigan will know what a "coney dog" is. But if you live in or near Michigan, particularly around Flint or Detroit, the "Coney Island" restaurants that serve them are everywhere.
  • Also speaking of Michigan, the Upper Peninsula (UP) offers the pasty (pronounced "PASS-tee", not "paste-y"), a pie stuffed with meat and vegetables. They were brought by migrants from Cornwall in the late 1800s, who went to work in the region's once-numerous copper mines, and they remain a part of UP culture to this day. Show the word to anyone else, though, and you might get "Oh, isn't that a thing that strippers wear?" Pasties are still very popular throughout Britain, with various bakery chains that sell them as a popular street snack food. In fact, there was even a minor, unpopular political policy (a 5p tax on shops selling 'food above room temperature') that got nicknamed "the Pasty Tax".
    • A similar thing happens in South Australia, for similar reasons (only the copper mines were a few decades earlier). Expect every bakery in the state to sell a range of pasties alongside the nationwide favorites of meat pies and sausage rolls; elsewhere in Australia, they're practically nonexistent.
  • Ask anyone who has never lived in the Delaware Valley/Greater Philadelphia Area what a Wawa convenience store is. Be expected to be met with blank stares. (They also have locations in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida, but these are largely localized to areas with lots of Philly transplants.)
  • In the Southeast, shopping malls often have a cafeteria-style restaurant in them, such as Piccadilly or K & W, alongside or in place of a food court. Such chains sometimes have standalone cafeterias, too. Elsewhere, the cafeteria chains are almost entirely unheard of (barring a handful of MCL Cafeterias in Indiana), and can come across as strange to those expecting a more conventional restaurant in a mall.
  • Chinese food. Much of what you find on the menu at a typical take-out, like General Tso's chicken, pork-fried rice, chow mein, sweet-and-sour chicken, etc., are purely American inventions. Chinese expatriates more or less refer to American-Chinese cuisine as essentially a lie. Pinpointing what could be considered Chinese food would be a problem as it's extremely diverse, to the point that no two households are likely to share the same tastes.
    • Hilariously, "Chinese"-food restaurants are starting to open in China, mostly because tourists who travel to China expect "Chinese" food. Reality Is Unrealistic, indeed.
    • Dim sim (Not to be confused with Dim sum) is Chinese-inspired but is actually Australian. However, many assume that it is completely Chinese.
  • Italian Beef sandwiches (also known as "beef sandwiches" or even just "beef") are virtually unknown outside of the Chicagoland area, where they are wildly popular. To the point that some stands will specialize in beef sandwiches (or make only beef), and can even be found in the deli section of local stores. Portillo's (a fast-food restaurant chain that sells beef sandwiches alongside hamburgers and hot dogs) has opened franchises in California, but they still remain obscure outside of a very small section of the Midwest.
  • On a related note, loose-meat sandwiches (often called "Maid-Rites") are extremely popular and prevalent in parts of the Midwest, but virtually unknown outside it (or confused with Sloppy Joes).
  • Tim Hortons. Their coffee and donuts are one of the quintessential parts of Canadian culture, and are present in mostly northern US states but outside of that? Very little name value.
  • The Australian LAMINGTON - a cube of sponge cake, covered in chocolate or chocolate icing, and sprinkled with coconut -seems to be unknown outside its nation of origin. Aussies might say that's the rest of the world's loss!
  • Boba tea, also known as milk tea, bubble tea, or simply boba, is very popular in metropolitan areas with a sizable Asian population, such as the San Francisco Bay Area and the Greater Los Angeles region. It's also obviously big in the Asian Pacific where the stuff originated but that's beside the point. If your city has little to no Asian demographic, good luck finding anyone who even knows what boba is, although it is slowly starting to spread.
  • Chumbeque is a traditional sweet from the city of Iquique, in northern Chile, and it has been manufactured since 1940. Little by little it has become more popular in the rest of the country, but apart from Peru, where they make a somewhat different version, is practically unknown outside of Chile.
  • Los Angeles does not appear to have a "signature food" the way Philadephia has the cheesesteak sandwich or Chicago has the deep dish pizza, for reasons that many have thought about but no one has quite been able to figure out. Some foods that began in Los Angeles have become world-famous, such as French Dip sandwich, hot fudge sundae, chicken and waffles, and the California Cobb salad, but they are not strongly associated with LA. Meanwhile, the more common signature foods of the place—street tacos al pastor, chili cheese fries, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, maple bacon doughnuts, and BBQ chicken pizza,note  are ubiquitous in Los Angeles with the locals taking them for granted, but anywhere else, you'd have a hard time finding anyone who knows about these foods, let alone finding a restaurant that actually serves them.


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