Distinctly American Food – Democracy in Cuisine

By admin ~ December 18th, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

Distinct American food is a hard topic to describe. What makes food unique to the American culinary palette? What must food do to gain this distinction? Why is American food any different than any other cuisine? There are answers to these questions in surprising places, even in the most despised of all American culinary achievements, the fast food restaurant. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

First, I’ll attempt to answer the question, “What makes food unique to the American culinary palette?”. I’d give you the short answer, but there really isn’t one. We are, culinarily speaking, a mutt. Our food incorporates not just two or three different regions, but in fact, the entire world can be found on our plates. We take parts of every nation and create a hybrid cuisine larger than any other for a simple reason, we’re the largest hybrid nation on the planet. We have people from every spot on the globe living here and our food reflects it. American food, in short, is like the American landscape, full of individuality and creativity.

Food becomes American when it is made on American soil. When a person comes here to begin a new life and creates his first dish to remind him of home, he is in fact claiming this as his home. He is saying he will not cease to be who he is, but instead, he will add this as well. This is America, we thrive on dualities. Food becomes American when it is added to our cultural landscape by even one single person, because every person counts.

American food is distinct because of the ideals it holds, that it is accepted because of its unique variety, because of it’s ability to stand out and blend in at the same time, becoming a part of the whole without losing it’s individuality. American food is about liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Because we can be free to create a culinary landscape encompassing the world, it shows our freedom to accept the world as it is and our ability to do so, seeing the goodness in each bite, how the varieties of thought can influence each other and create something wholly new, wholly better, how through differences, a stronger balance can be created.

I mentioned at the start of this article how examples of this ideal can be found in surprising places, including Fast Food restaurants. This is true and easily shown. Imagine every new addition to the menu, how many of those were patterned after cuisines from Italy? From Mexico? From China or Japan or anywhere else in the world? We take ideas from everywhere and we work with them, creating a new form and, rarely successfully, we strive to keep at least a semblance of where that idea stemmed from.

We create our cuisine freely, experimenting with it as we have experimented with our government, as we experiment with our lives. The American way of doing things isn’t bullying the world, it isn’t leading the world because we know everything. If we go back and open our eyes and look at our food, our government and our lives, we will see that the true American way is to experiment, to try things out and if it fails, at least now we know for sure.
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