More American Than Apple Pie

The phrase “as American as apple pie” describes something or someone that is typical of the U.S. or the people of the U.S., so is a first-place apple pie then even more American than just any ordinary everyday apple pie?

Winning Apple Pie

Winning Apple Pie at the County Fair

My visit to the rural county fair of Amador County, CA was entertaining and provided plenty of cliches of the “typical” America. Amador County might be better known for its many wineries (where I spend way too many weekends), but I am glad we skipped the typical wine tasting this time and checked out the county fair although this was the second fair in as many days. This particular fair was my favorite one I have been to in California because I found all the small cliches associated with rural (Western) America. Half a building was dedicated to prize-winning pies, cookies, and other deserts locked behind glass in display cases. How am I supposed to appreciate the first-place peanut butter cookies without tasting them?? Which leads to my next question: how does one become a judge for the baked goods at a fair?

More Winning Desert Entries at the Fair

More Winning Desert Entries at the Fair

Even tomatoes and onions and zucchinis could win prizes, which was rather baffling; they all looked the same and I cannot imagine one red onion tasting so much better than another red onion (maybe I am not cut out to be a food judge after all).

Winning Vegetables

Winning Vegetables

Of course, there was the obligatory rodeo, which meant more cowboy hats in one place than I have ever seen – and thus another stereotype of America to check off. I am wondering whether there is a special term for a group of cowboys: a posse, a band, a cabal (even if this group is not plotting)…

Cowboys Waiting for the Team Roping Event at the Rodeo

Cowboys Waiting for the Team Roping Event at the Rodeo

I think deep down the chance of seeing/experiencing what I thought America and especially the West was like before I moved here from Europe explains my fascination with rodeos and fairs. The tally for this year so far: three different fairs, two different bull riding events, and one rodeo – but the year is not over yet and there are still plenty of events to come to enjoy the “typical” America.

Longhorn at the California State Fair

Longhorn at the California State Fair



Hybridization: Car in Austria Designed to Look like an American Police Cruiser

On the first day of class, my students asked about my accent and once they knew I was born and raised in Austria asked which country I like better – Austria or the U.S. The question seems simple and straightforward and its answer is most likely not even that interesting to my students, but it is a difficult one to answer for me. One of the problems is that I have lived in more than just these two countries, so it seems odd to me to choose between these two options only. Another issue is that I have realized that no place is truly perfect but every place is memorable in its own way.

So after giving the question more thought than I am sure my students ever intended, I replied that at the moment the best match for me is the U.S. I doubt I would fit in better anywhere else. My recent trip to Austria, the month-long visit of my Austrian cousin who has never been to the U.S. before, and my students’ question have shown me that I have become quite Americanized:

  • I automatically assume service personnel is going to be friendly and talkative and am not surprised if they are not grumpy.
  • I tip often and generously and I do not mind it.
  • I dress according to the weather and activity with emphasis on practicality/comfort but still style and not on whether it would fit on the pages of a fashion magazine, which seems to be the worry of European tourists in miniskirts and high heels in Death Valley in the middle of summer.
  • I understand what hot temperatures are and how they can affect one [yes, this is still about the tourists in Death Valley on an August afternoon].
  • I realize that there are plenty of places where there is nothing – no building or cross-street – for many miles.
  • I am much more talkative with strangers and servers than I have ever been.

 American friends still point to odd Austrian habits and more American traits recently acquired could be listed, but it is clear that I am a hybrid affected by my environment and still changing.


Palm Tree

Palm Tree in Sacramento

A cousin from Austria is currently visiting me in California, and of course I asked what stood out to her the most during the first few days ever in the U.S. She mentioned the large variety of items (cakes, ice-cream, sodas, …) in supermarket and how friendly everyone is. She was amazed that we could walk into a store just a few minutes before closing time and the shop assistant still would be friendly and not upset at us for coming in at the last minute. Yes, that is a different attitude than the one I noticed in Austria.

The conversation went well with a map of stereotypes about the U.S. by British tourists – see here: I was surprised the stereotype of the California Central Valley is “hot and sunny.” Surprisingly, the stereotypes for the Bay Area are rather negative with “earthquakes” and neutral to boring with “tech firms.” And the stereotypes completely ignore the impressive coast line of Northern California.