America is, by definition, a melting pot: a conglomerate made up of different cultures including music, fashion, language and food. Unlike countries in Europe or Asia, the USA is also a relatively young nation–a mere 241 years old. Some argue that America does not have a true culture, and thus does not have one true kind of cuisine.
Most food that the average consumer would classify as being “American,” such as hamburgers, French fries, or hot dogs, actually have their roots in other countries. For instance, while this ABC article catalogues the invention of the “true” hamburger — which did occur in the United States — What’s Cooking America places credit squarely on the shoulders of German sailors in the 18th century.
While those foods may be among the most popular in America today, if we’re judging food by its authenticity, then perhaps the most American foods belong to Native Americans. This National Geographic Article lists salmon, turkey, rice, chiles, sage and beans as only a few of the diverse ingredients used by the 566 indigenous tribes recognized within the U.S. boundaries. The Sioux Chef, a restaurant that aims to revive Native American cuisine, recently made headlines with its goal to incorporate foods from many different Native American tribes and more effectively educate people about the breadth of Native American culture.
It is also important to remember that America is a large country with areas like the deep south, midwest, northern and coastal areas, each sporting different culinary “specialties” that can and do range from seafood to lime Jello. We have so many different kinds of food that whole TV shows (like Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”) are dedicated to cataloguing them.
America’s culinary claim to fame may, in fact, be the vast and varying number of dishes that exist in towns across the country. We may not have a claim to any one dish the way England does to fish and chips or Canada to maple syrup, but we make up for that in a truly American way.
Peter Boccia for SUU News