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"American food"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A little while ago a group of us were discussing ethnic food and someone said, “Sorry, I only eat American food.” That got me thinking – what exactly IS “American food?”

America is truly a nation of immigrants. Even Native Americans came here from Asia millennia ago when there was still a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska. So it would stand to reason that the various cultures moving here would bring their traditional foods, modified by the native ingredients and cooking techniques of their adopted home.

All-American apple pie didn’t exist here until Europeans brought both apples and pastry crust, since neither existed in this country before. Domestic cattle, pigs and sheep were brought on settlement ships, though there were wild varieties. Every culture that has chickens (also a transplant) does some variety of fried chicken. Chocolate came to North America from Latin America via Spain (a roundabout route if ever there was one).

Hamburgers and hot dogs had their origins in Germany. Cheese was unknown here until settlers from numerous countries brought the technique. Citrus, peaches and a wide variety of fruits moved here from other lands. Spaghetti and lasagna were from Italy, of course. Dishes from all over Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East have all been adopted into the American culinary family.

So to me it begs the question: Is there even such a thing as “American food?” To me it seems that just like new settlers here adopt this country and become Americans, their dishes also become “naturalized citizens,” so to speak. So really (and this is just my humble opinion), I think ALL of these dishes are as American as their makers!

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