I was chatting with one of my Russian friends the other day — because, like Victoria Nuland, some of my best friends are Russian. During our conversation he referred me to this Buzzfeed video of Americans trying bizarre Russian foods. I, in turn, introduced him to the concept of a Jell-O salad. I feel we achieved some important progress in diplomatic relations.
I was pretty impressed with Buzzfeed presenting this in a somewhat neutral format, since it seems their mission in life is to hate Russia all day, every day. In the same spirit of mutual cultural understanding, I have compiled a list of American foods at which I feel Russians might look askance.
Russia: I present to you, as a peace offering, bizarre American foods…
Kraft Singles and Velveeta
I don’t know what kind of cheese Putler allows in your gulag, but up until I was about 20, I thought cheese was orange and came in two forms: pre-sliced and individually wrapped in plastic or in a large brick shape that had the consistency of something between a sponge cake and oobleck. See Figs. A-B
I can’t believe it’s not food!
I’m not sure what either of these things is actually made of, but I’m pretty certain it is not in fact cheese in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, the label says it is “cheese product,” indicating its non-cheese status to the consumer.
Note: The same “cheese product” composition has been placed in an aerosol can and marketed to the public as “Cheez-Whiz.”
Chances are if someone was a child at some point in the 1990s in America, his or her parents lovingly purchased Lunchables. Lunchables came in a little box instead of a brown paper bag and we assembled them ourselves, so we felt cool bringing them to school because we had no idea that they were actually made of Soylent Green.
Now, the main problem with Lunchables was a question of ratios. You got a tiny little package of mustard that you couldn’t open, a few stale Ritz crackers, a slightly larger ration of cheese product slices, and an enormous stack of meat of questionable origin. Hungry children were left without enough provisions to actually make neat little cracker-cheese-meat piles. Pair that with an impossible to open Capri Sun, and it was all very Dickensian.
Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole
People, this is not food.
I am from the Midwest, and most recipes that hail from that region start with a quart of mayonnaise. However, I must say my people really outdid themselves when they invented the sweet potato/yam and marshmallow casserole. This unholy mess usually makes an appearance at picnics and holiday gatherings. It is to be avoided at all costs. Elderly women will encourage you to eat this. They will tell you it’s delicious. Do not trust them. They lie.
Tuna and Potato Chip Casserole
If you’re from the Midwest, you will know that this is what you bring to someone’s house when someone in their family passes away. Americans actually consider this to be a gesture of goodwill and neighborliness. Should you ever have the misfortune to experience the death of a loved one and also be gifted with one of these, politely accept and feed it to your least-liked but still alive relative. The casserole in question is a mixture of a can of some type of creamed soup, potato chips, cheese product, and probably sour cream. In addition to a funerary offering, it can also be used to caulk pipes and repair leaky tires.
Note: Americans also use potato chips and cereal as a coating for chicken or pork. Bring some to your next NATO potluck!
Shake N Bake
If you grew up in a household where your parents both worked and didn’t have time to make potato-chip or cereal-encrusted chicken, they could always rely on Shake N Bake. Shake N Bake was basically salt added to bread crumbs, to which was added more salt. Busy parents could use this to coat any pound of theretofore frozen processed protein products. Also it came in BBQ flavor. ‘Muricka!
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Do not be fooled by the name. As the Rocky Mountains are landlocked and do not sustain any bodies of water that could sustain shellfish, these are not oysters.
Gentle readers, they are bull testicles. Given Americans’ penchant for deep-frying anything they can get their hands on, they are generally served breaded and dipped.
I am not casting aspersions on Rocky Mountain Oysters, since I’ve never tried them. I’m just saying they’re fried bull testicles.
This is a Jell-O salad.
It is a combination of a package of Jell-O, fruit, colored marshmallows, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and, in more severe cases, meat and vegetables. It should only be used as a Bat signal to summon all the 1950s housewives in Gotham City. If not needed for that purpose, take it far away from your house, bury it, and sprinkle the ground with holy water.
Dear Russians: I hope this has been a helpful field guide through the weird and wonderful world of bizarre American foods. Contact Buzzfeed to share your own videos and don’t forget to mention that you live in a Stalinist dictatorship devoid of Velveeta! The horror!
Lisa Marie White is an American who actually made Jell-O salad once. Like many Millenials, her interests include: disliking Baby Boomers, wasting time on social media, and trying out and then abandoning fitness and diet trends. To tell her she is a Kremlin troll, Tweet at her: @lisa_white
Simon Harris and wife welcome new baby boy
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has announced the birth of a baby son.
Posting on Instagram, the Minister said he and his wife Caoimhe had on Wednesday “welcomed Baby Cillian into the world”. Cillian is the couple’s second child, they also have a daughter Saoirse.
“Caoimhe and baby doing great and Saoirse delighted to be a big sister and looking forward to meeting him soon.”
Mr Harris thanked all of the staff at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.
The Fine Gael TD said he will be taking paternity leave for a few weeks to “get to know this new little man”.
In a previous post he said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar would be taking any of his department’s business to Government during the time while Minister of State Niall Collins would be carrying out his day-to-day work in the department and Labour leader Alan Kelly would be providing a pair for Dáil votes.
Macron presses Biden for ‘clarifications’ over submarine snub
Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain.
After a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal made clear French anger had not abated with an unusually frank statement of Macron’s expectations from the scheduled conversation with 78-year-old Biden.
The exchange would be an opportunity to “clarify both the way in which this announcement was made and the way for an American re-engagement in its relationship with an ally,” Attal said.
Paris was particularly outraged that Australia negotiated with Washington and London in secret, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced as “treachery” and a “stab in the back”.
French officials were notified about the loss of the contract just hours before Biden unveiled the new AUKUS security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.
Macron was expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside of fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Attal added, without giving the schedule time for the exchange.
“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”
The submarine row has plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts view as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.
After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat has also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.
As the row drags on, observers and some of France’s European partners are wondering how and when the French leader will call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of presidential elections.
British Prime Minister Johnson said it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip)” in comments in Washington that mixed French and English.
“‘Donnez-moi un break’ because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” he told Sky News.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose country is staunchly pro-American, defended Biden as “very loyal” and warned against turning “challenges which will always exist between allies into something they should not be.”
Attal said that France and the US needed to begin a process “to create the conditions for confidence to be restored”.
As well as an acknowledgement of French interests in the Pacific region, the process should include “full recognition by our American allies of the need to boost European sovereignty as well as the importance of the growing commitment by the Europeans to their own defence and security.”
This latter point is a source of tension between Biden and Macron, who has pushed hard during his four-and-a-half years in office for Europeans to invest more in defence and pool resources in order to increase their joint military capabilities.
The US, and some EU members including Denmark and Baltic countries, see this as a potential challenge to NATO, the US-led transatlantic military alliance that has been the cornerstone of European defence since World War II.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly argued against the idea of France withdrawing from NATO command structures, which some politicians in France have suggested in the wake of the submarines snub.
“Is it worth slamming the door on NATO? I don’t think so,” she said, while adding that “political dialogue is non-existent in NATO.”
Australia’s decision to order nuclear-powered submarines was driven by concern about China’s commercial and military assertiveness in the Pacific region, where Biden is seeking to build an alliance of democratic states to help contain Beijing.
Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.
Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.
Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.
A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.
Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.
The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.
Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.
“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.
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