I'm an English teacher for a study abroad program and am having a hard time convincing my students from Asia, Europe, and Latin America that McDonald's is not representative of food in the United States. However, I'm having a difficult time defining what sorts of dishes actually qualify as American. Certainly regional specialities are important, but I'm specifically looking for time-tested dishes that cut across cultures and states. Ultimately, I'd like to compile a "things you must try in America" list for my students (with an addendum for California foods, of course!)
Rather than rely on internet sites and cookbooks that were compiled by individuals -- often years ago --, I thought I'd put the question to the Chowhounds:
What's American food?
I'll start discussion with....macaroni and cheese.