General Discussion

What is American cuisine?


General Discussion 92

What is American cuisine?

rworange | Apr 12, 2010 09:18 AM

This is really a part of another thread, but f I put it there, I could imagine things getting way off topic.

The issue is in discussing a specific cuisine, what are really the boundaries to gaining a true insight?

To say Americans eat hamburgers and fries with catsup, steaks, fried chicken or apple pie says nothing and offers no insight into American cuisine. It is a high level caricature.

Sure, a good many of us eat those foods. To me there is more to a cuisine than largely common food.

Let’s suppose to define American cuisine, I were to write about an average middle-class family over a period of months.

For the sake of simplicity of this thread, I’m not going to include melting pot foods, despite that being a BIG part. I am going to exclude regionalism as well, Southern food, New England food, etc. I hope you get what I mean further down.

I would write that most Americans shop at least once a week at large supermarket such as Safeway, Piggy Wiggly, Stop and Shop, etc. The markets have meat departments with pre-cut packaged meats, often a deli offering sandwiches, salads and hot food. Many have in-store bakeries. And so I would walk thru a supermarket discussing what, in general, is sold there.

Look in the shopping carts at those markets and there is often coffee or tea, juice, soft drinks such as Coca Cola, cereal such as oatmeal, corn flakes or sugar coated children’s cereal, bread, sandwich meat, canned fish such as tuna, eggs, yogurt, frozen food, etc, etc, etc.

I would describe the trend towards farmers markets and what one would find there and how people used that food in meals.

During the work week many Americans start the day in a hurry and for many, breakfast will be a cup of coffee and muffin or scone at drive thru places like Starbucks. For others it might be a McDonald’s egg McMuffin or something similar. Office workers might patronize local coffee and baked goods places.

On the weekend the breakfasts are more relaxed and substantial. For those not eating egg dishes, pancakes or French toast at home, those similar items can be ordered at restaurants which can range from chains like IHOP to artisan or more upscale restaurants which may include alcoholic drinks such as mimosas, a mixture of sparkling wine and orange juice.

I would describe a little about what it is like to sit at an IHOP and the type of people who go there. I would talk about the artisan breakfast experience and those customers.

Isn’t the cuisine more than about what is on the plate? Isn’t it also about why some people choose chain food and others the latest and greatest new chef’s hot spot?

Many people still attend church of various denominations some of which include food as part of the social experience. That might include pancake breakfasts or regional variations such as crab feeds in the SF Bay Area and then I would describe attending one of these events.

At a pancake breakfast it is often in a church hall, the space filled with long tables where families sit while volunteer church members, often women, cook the pancakes

Doesn’t that give more insight than just saying churches have pancake breakfasts?

For entertainment Americans might go to the movies or sporting events. Originally at baseball games there were vendors selling soft drinks, beer, hot dogs, ice cream bars, peanuts and cracker jacks. Currently there is a trend toward different food such as garlic fries

At movies people often order popcorn with butter in huge paper tubs washed down by equally gigantic soft drinks. Large boxes of candy such as Jr. Mints, Milk duds and Jujubes are sold.. Some sell hot dogs or pizza and the trend is to add more café type of foods.

I would describe that cities and towns have local neighbor hood businesses like bakeries, coffee shops, delis, small corner markets, ice cream shops, meat markets, produce vendors, etc. I would describe what is sold at these places and what if feels like to walk in and the look.

I would discuss that in suburbs businesses centered mainly around shopping malls with food courts. I would write about how Costco fits into the American life style.

I would describe the typical street food such as pretzels or hot dogs … keep in mind I’m trying to stay away from melting pot food right now so I’m not including Italian ice, tacos, etc, etc.

I’d describe country fairs and the food served there such as kettle corn, funnel cakes, etc.

And, if while writing this thread, the family was living in SF or Dallas or New York, would this really be put on those regional boards. It really isn’t about where to eat. It is about how people eat and despite some regional differences, there is a commonality across the country

And it goes on … too vast to cover in one post. However, day after day or week after week, following an average American family one would have a good feel for what American cuisine really is and what the typical American eats.

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