What is American cooking?

Many people have asked me this. The answer is complicated.

The food in many countries is a mix of influences from other cultures. Japanese food includes Chinese influences. Taiwanese food includes influences from different parts of China, Japan, and the South Pacific. Spanish food includes French and North African influences, and so on. However, American food is especially mixed up. Few individual dishes can be said to be 100% American: invented in America and using only ingredients from North and South America. However, we can still think of certain kinds of dishes as being part of “American cuisine” because of their origins, techniques, and flavors, or even simply if something is very popular in the USA. There is definitely more to American food than hamburgers and hot dogs!

Due to request, I will be writing some about American food in the next few weeks. I hope you will enjoy it and that you will comment with any questions you might have. I’m going to include some recipes, too.

First, one note: Much of the cooking vocabulary in English originates from French. This is because since colonial times, Americans have held French cooking in high esteem. (Thomas Jefferson really loved French food.) Words like cuisine, sauté, and braise all come from French. You can look up most ingredients and techniques on Wikipedia; be sure to read the American definition if there is more than one.

If you want to get started reading about American food now, you can visit the Smithsonian museum’s excellent site about 500 Years of American Food. It has lots of short articles on different topics, so click on whatever you’re interested.

One thought on “What is American cooking?”

  1. You picked an excellent topic for both international students and American immigrants. I look forward to reading about your observations and insights.

    By the way, thank you for the link to that fantastic Smithsonain exhibit!

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