The American Food Culture - Burman's Housewife's Thoughts on Cuisine Blog at Allrecipes.com - 277498

Burman's Housewife's Thoughts on Cuisine

The American Food Culture 
 
Jun. 15, 2012 12:33 pm 
Updated: Sep. 23, 2012 6:47 pm





Have you ever stopped to think about it?  What is the American food culture?  I am sorry to say that even in culinary school this question never came up.  No, we were too busy learning about French cooking methods, Swiss chocolate, and Mexican flair (my culinary school was an hour away from the Texas-Mexico border). 
One day my husband (a Burmese Nationalist) was bragging about his food culture, and there was much to brag about.  He could easily list dozens of succulent and authentic Burmese dishes.  Fine, but when he turned to me and smugly said, “Well, what do you Americans have, hamburgers and French fries?” I really got defensive.  “Wait one minute, Mister!  We have cobblers and pies, and really great casseroles, jams, and meats!”  This only made my usually pleasant husband haughtier.  “British, British, French…..”  He had an origin for every dish that I named off, and he was right.  I was not prepared for such an attack, but was chagrined and determined to find a proper answer.
I knew in my heart that the food where I came from just couldn’t be found in London, Prague, or Berlin.  The French won’t even touch corn, and tomatoes and potatoes are indigenous to the Americas.  But the food that I grew up on also doesn’t define American cooking.  Americans eat a huge range of food, and, yes, hamburgers and French fries are a favorite pastime.  Just as Northern Italy and Southern Italy are influenced by the abundance of the local terrain; and France’s food culture is fiercely divided by region; so is the United States! With this conclusion, I knew that I was on to something.
After more thought and research, I realized that it is not just terrain that defines American cooking, but the people who settled into that terrain.  America is a melting pot, which creates a huge cooking pot!  Sure, the immigrants were influenced by their old countries, but they settled into their respective places and created a cuisine all their own, using what they were given.  Consider my birthplace, Alabama.  Just like most of the Deep South, there is a huge French, Spanish, and African influence.  We fry okra (an African plant, dredged in cornmeal, an American product) like nobody’s business.  Where else in the world do you find a hearty combination of boiled red potatoes, corn on the cob, and crawfish? Next, consider New England, which is heavily influenced by the cold climate and coast (and Europeans who settled there).  Everyone has heard of New England clam chowder and Maryland crab cakes! And how about the Midwest- with a huge Scandinavian and Polish influence?  Deer Kielbasa is pretty darn good stuff!   Rhubarb pie is awesome, and man, those Dutch Cookies!  Ah, yes, cookies and brownies… totally American!!!  What about  New Orleans Muffalettas, Texas King Ranch Chicken, or California Rolls (we all know the Japanese are too proud of their tradition to branch out and create sushi like that)?
For me, American Cuisine is about ingenuity.  We are a new country, so, sure we took what we learned from our predecessors.  But, we adapted, thrived, and made it our own!  Any thoughts on this or tips on other American foods would be great. That way, if you ever cross paths with a nationalist food snob, you are a little better prepared than I was! :-)
By the way, my husband is being punished for his snobbery with stinky, yummy rutabagas tonight.
 
Comments
Jun. 15, 2012 12:48 pm
The Americans invented the French dip sandwich, and the fortune cookie, just to name a couple. Now you've go me thinking...I'll come up with more.
 
Jun. 15, 2012 12:57 pm
Yes! Thanks ;-) I think you have the bug, too!
 
Jun. 15, 2012 12:59 pm
Coca Cola (sold world wide), corn dogs, rueben, cobb salad, baked alaska, Buffalo wings, and only americans would invent the turducken!
 
Paula 
Jun. 15, 2012 1:23 pm
I can't add a thing to this conversation, but I want you to know I am enjoying it! Will check back to see others' contributions.
 
Jun. 15, 2012 1:59 pm
Thanks, it's definitely food for thought, pun definitely intended!
 
Jun. 15, 2012 2:06 pm
Peanut Butter!!!
 
Jun. 15, 2012 2:21 pm
bbq ribs! American cuisine.
 
Jun. 15, 2012 11:10 pm
All-American turkey,cranberries,squash, mashed potatos, corn and pumpkin pie.
 
Jun. 16, 2012 4:18 am
General Tso’s chicken, chop suey, egg rolls, chow mein, fortune cookies were all originated in America...even relatives of General Taos have never heard of the chicken.
 
Jun. 16, 2012 7:10 am
Buffalo wings!
 
Maguy 
Jun. 16, 2012 9:16 am
Pecan pie... ketchup... turkey stuffing...All American creations!
 
Jun. 17, 2012 11:22 am
I love reading all your blogs! And coming from this Nebraska girl...Kool-Aid!
 
Jun. 17, 2012 1:25 pm
Excellent topic! Pulled pork and Manhattan clam chowder!
 
Jun. 17, 2012 3:45 pm
>> "hamburgers and French fries", I think we call them "freedom fries" now. at any rate today I bought some arby's french fries, and checkers french fries at our local walmart. Both of them were very good. I have also tried OreIda fast food french fries and they are also very good.
 
Jun. 17, 2012 4:16 pm
Chop suey is widely believed to have been invented in America by Chinese immigrants, but in fact comes from Taishan (Toisan), a district of Guangdong Province (Canton), which was the home of many of the early Chinese immigrants to the U.S. The Hong Kong doctor Li Shu-fan reported that he knew it in Taishan in the 1890s
 
Jun. 21, 2012 8:54 am
fried food; jumbo, king sized anything; pop or colas; how about chicken fried steak? Have never heard of that anywhere but from my south of the border neighbours. Pulled pork? did I mention fried foods:) Sweet teas? gritz? sweet potatoes-that all spells America to me. You are a melting pot, similar to we Cannuckians. Many things we make come from the old countries across the pond. I will need to think of a few of our national meals other than donairs, poutine fries, bannock, many salmon dishes, Saskatoon berry pies. I believe we get to cover the market in moose anything, beaver tails, and great tasting beer.
 
Jun. 21, 2012 8:55 am
forgot about the ever famous green bean casserole:)
 
Jun. 21, 2012 8:59 am
Rotel Dip?
 
Jun. 22, 2012 7:23 am
Great blog! America is indeed a young country, but I think we are establishing some great culinary traditions along with a few not so great ones, unfortunately (like fast food). Fried green tomatoes...is there anywhwere else in the world you can go into a restaurant and order fried green tomatoes?
 
Jun. 22, 2012 8:36 am
I would love to see some snooty french chef on the Rive Gauche come up with my Alligator Chili recipe.
 
Mmmkay 
Jun. 22, 2012 2:06 pm
Americans do really fantastic and creative salads and sandwiches, and I think it's nice to be so good at some healthier menu items!
 
Jun. 22, 2012 5:54 pm
Bananas Foster, crawfish bread, crawfish pie, hush puppies...my Cajun is showing, but it is American created food.
 
Sep. 23, 2012 6:47 pm
You all are amazing! My repenative husband is really enjoying the blog, too.
 
 
 
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Brittney Tun

Home Town
Jackson, Alabama, USA
Living In
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Member Since
Aug. 2008

Cooking Level
Professional

Cooking Interests
Baking, Stir Frying, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Southern, Nouvelle, Middle Eastern, Vegetarian, Dessert, Gourmet

Hobbies
Scrapbooking, Needlepoint, Gardening, Hiking/Camping, Boating, Biking, Fishing, Reading Books, Painting/Drawing

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About Me
I grew up in the deep South where the most sacred foods include biscuits, cornbread, black-eyed peas, ham, & grits. There's a huge Cajun influence down there, so rowdy crawfish boils with red potatoes and corn on the cob are common. A few summers come to mind when my sisters and I had fingers stained purple from shelling peas and arms red with ant bites from the darned critters that dominated the okra. When I was 18 my family moved to South Texas. I began culinary school a year later and learned about the French method of cooking and developed a passion for fresh yeast breads and plated desserts. While at school I was fortunate to intern with the city's largest catering company and gained valuable experience and knowledge in catering for large numbers. Now I am happily marrried to a talented Chef in the Chicago area, where I write articles on the hospitality industry, trending restaurants, molecular cuisine, & rising chefs. I also offer resume writing services to culinarians.
My favorite things to cook
Specialty desserts and fresh breads
My favorite family cooking traditions
My grandmother gave me the best cheesescake recipe ever....
My cooking triumphs
Currently developing my own recipe book, Silver Medal in my first pastry competition, bronze in ACF sugar competition.
My cooking tragedies
When I was 12 I wanted to spice up my mom's chili soup so I rummaged her spice cabinet and grabbed some rum extract (I heard the stuff was good). I poured a generous bit in there and am hesitant to use the smelly stuff to this day...
 
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