Some food writers say that there is arguably no national cuisine in America: rather, it is a collection of regional cuisines. Others counter that if this is true of America, it may be true of other nations as well: — Chinese, Italian, and French cuisines are actually regional as well.
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- National or regional cuisine?
- Festive American cuisine
- Dairy kitchen
- American cuisine, notes on history
- American cuisine in literature
NATIONAL OR REGIONAL CUISINE?
Others say that trying to define a national cuisine by focusing on regional differences is wrong: you can look so long at the trees that you miss the forest. It is necessary, they say, to focus on what is common in cooking in different regions. Perhaps the basis of such an American national “food” is now industrialized, commercialized food.
American chefs in general don’t seem to take root in the UK. Maybe it’s the “dimensions” barrier, although British chefs seem to be able to go the other way. Few people in Britain have ever heard of Julia Child.
Pizza is different from the way it is made in California, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia
Much of American cuisine, if you’re talking about universal cuisine, is actually French, German, Italian, Chinese, or food going back to its original British roots.
Vinegar is used in fries in parts of the NW and in random places like Ocean City, Maryland, parts of Pennsylvania like Palmerston, fries at PNC Park in Pittsburgh (even malt vinegar) and in Maine.
Americans, however, will have vinegar on their fries when they’re at English-style fish and chips, and salt and vinegar chips (they’re chips in the UK) are now available almost everywhere.
The results of the 8th annual reader survey conducted by the American food magazine Bon Appétit were released in March 2005. The five least popular foods among the mostly American readership were squab (young pigeon), cured meats, rice cakes, cardoons and quail eggs.
Readers in the Northeastern states also hated Lima beans; readers in western states hated Brussels sprouts and ketchup, while readers in southern states were more likely to serve shakes before dinner, although they disliked soy sauce.
New Mexican cuisine uses many hamburgers. Chili sauce is usually served on the side or so that it is independent of the rest of the food.
Tex-Mex tends to use ground beef instead of hamburger, and chili sauce is typically an integral part of the dishes.
Ordinary Americans tend to downplay the enjoyment of fine dining—some speculate because of a lingering Puritan ethic.
Festive American cuisine
There are actually no national holidays in the States. The President and Congress can declare holidays only for Washington, D.C., and for federal employees.
In 1995, special federal proclamations of special, professional holidays were all but suspended because it simply became too time-consuming because everyone wanted a special day for their profession.
It appears that homogenized milk was first sold in the United States in 1919. It was offered by Torrington Creamery in Torrington, Connecticut. But it really gained popularity in 1932, when William McDonald introduced it in Flint, Michigan.
In America, there was a big battle between butter and margarine. In the early 1940s, the administration of Iowa State University succumbed to pressure from dairy farmers and published a research report in which it spoke favorably of butter and, accordingly, negatively described the properties of margarine.
During World War II, ice cream was considered a healthy and nutritious food.
Milk delivery began to die out in the late 1950s, when supermarkets appeared, where people bought products for a few days or a week.
👩🍳 Fun Facts: Sheep’s milk cheese does not appear to have been made commercially in America until the late 1980s, when the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in New York State began making it.
According to FDA regulations, cheeses made from raw milk must be aged for at least 60 days at a minimum temperature of 35 °F (1.67 °C).
American cuisine, history notes
British food traditions remained the basis of American food for nearly 200 years after the Revolution. Everything else was simply absorbed by them.
Until the early 1900s, American cuisine was based on traditions and had common national elements. In the early 1900s, American food changed due to industrialization and mass immigration and was fragmented by ethnicity, region, and class.
It began to be based on change and the new, not on tradition. The Women’s Committee for the Centennial of the 1876 Exposition in Philadelphia polled women across the country for their recipes and compiled a “National Cookbook.” Some of these recipes, although they came from the grassroots, were created 100 years ago.
Almost from the beginning, the American colonists were better fed than those who remained in the Old World. Before the Revolutionary War, American soldiers were superior to all European soldiers. In the late 1700s, the average daily caloric intake in the newly independent colonies was estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000 calories.
Early Americans rarely ate fish, preferring heavier foods like meat. Pork was popular because pigs were cheap to raise and game was plentiful. Most people don’t have access to a lot of kitchen equipment, so the dishes were simple.
The big meal was lunch, a break from work on the farm or in the field, which began very early.
Water was not very trusted for drinking. There were outbreaks of disease that people suspected, often rightly, of being caused by the water. The first settlers drank little beer. The English brewing technique of making such ale (top fermentation) did not always work well in the American climate. The top yeast was contaminated with wild yeast that made the beer bitter.
Corn, like a vegetable or a grain, was considered more for common people. Richer people preferred wheat.
In the eastern United States, native plants that were domesticated for food included cranberries, Jerusalem artichokes, and sunflowers. Colonists grew beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, and turnips. Both meat and vegetables were marinated for preservation.
Squash, beans, and maize were grown by different local groups in different areas. Despite the modern myth that these three are the “three sisters” cultivated by all Aboriginal people, very few First Nations actually cultivated all three. Some people argue that the three f’s—fish, flesh, and fowl—were far more important than the “three sisters” in local groups.
By the 1850s, special rooms for eating— “dining rooms”—were still considered the preserve of the wealthy.
As in Great Britain, the 100 years between 1830 and 1930 brought significant changes to American cuisine. Knowledge of food preservation came from France, which helped to expand the diet in the off-season.
The number of kitchen appliances has multiplied, and in cities, energy such as gas and electricity has been used to power them. The kitchen wall with the fireplace and hearth was slowly replaced by a metal plate. Cooking on a stove was less time-consuming than cooking in a fireplace, and you didn’t get as dirty, and it was safer.
In the mid-1800s, the Germans introduced lager (made with bottom-fermenting yeast), and beer consumption doubled between 1870 and 1885 alone. By 1890, half of the alcohol consumed in America was in the form of beer, but wine consumption remained negligible. The wine was expensive. Almost all wine was imported with high duties.
Wine in America
California’s wine industry had its beginnings and produced some wines that were considered good at the turn of the 1900s, but Prohibition in 1919, largely influenced by the middle class and imposed on the working class, killed the fledgling wine industry. Only 100 winemakers survived Prohibition in the entire country, making wine for churches, grape juice, and wine that was salted to turn it into cooking wine.
In the late 1800s, soft drinks with carbonated water were popular. Carbonated water was affordable for everyone.
Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle exposed the poor conditions in which much of the nation’s meat was processed and turned people away from hamburgers. In 1933, Arthur Collet again condemned the hamburger to 100,000,000 guinea pigs, saying it was like getting meat out of a garbage can.
During the depression of the 1930s and the wartime 1940s, American housewives had to be very frugal.
In May 1944, war rationing ended for most types of meat, except beef steaks and roast beef.
Until the 1960s, the US was classless when it came to food—although people with more money could buy and consume the same foods, but in different forms.
Americans gave the world self-service restaurants, fully standardized restaurants and chain restaurants.
One of the earliest and most important restaurants was the City Tavern in Philadelphia, which opened in 1883. It even had a ballroom on the third floor (the building was destroyed by fire in 1854).
Prohibition of alcohol destroyed many fine restaurants in America. They needed alcohol profits to stay in the black. Those who survived had to learn new marketing tricks. Some, for example, acted by handing out free sandwiches along with beer.
Many of the restaurants that survived Prohibition went under after the stock market crashed.
Winston Churchill – a recipe for alcohol
When Winston Churchill traveled through America during Prohibition, he had his doctor write him a prescription that called for the consumption of alcohol for medicinal purposes, especially with meals.
The first restaurant where you ordered and received food from the drive-thru window was In-N-Out Burger, opened by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, California in 1948.
Health and American cuisine
By the 1830s, the abundance of food was taken for granted so much that the first movements to exclude certain foods from the diet began under the leadership of Sylvester Graham (1794–1851). He gave up meat and became a vegetarian. Many, including Henry Thoreau and Joseph Smith, tried his diet. Graham’s nutritional values were assimilated by Seventh-day Adventism.
In the 1890s, due to the large immigration from Europe, all the American upper classes had servants to serve fancy meals. But a new wave of food diets began in response to fin de siècle fine dining. Science has discovered calories, proteins, carbohydrates, etc. The middle-class thought they could use this science to teach immigrants and the working class how to eat better in terms of health and family budgets. One thing they wanted to do was teach them how to save money by using beans instead of beef, which they learned had just as much protein.
Middle-class foodies also had some bad advice. The science of that time believed that most fruits and vegetables did not contain anything useful. Therefore, health-conscious people advised immigrants not to worry about fruits and vegetables for the most part. But Italian immigrants simply ignored their advice and continued to eat fruits and vegetables.
In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed. If you had made health claims about your product, you should have provided evidence.
By the late 1920s, enough was known about vitamins to influence thinking about nutrition.
Natural food in the 1970s arose as a result of the hippie movement. In the 1960s, there were movements against big business or an establishment that had collapsed or disappeared, so activists shifted their focus to food and the environment. In response, major food manufacturers labeled their products as “natural” or “farm fresh.” So, activists shifted their focus again, this time from what to eat to what not to eat, and the “negative nutrition” school of thought took root.
American cuisine in literature
“A man accustomed to American food and American home cooking would not starve suddenly in Europe, but I think he would gradually become exhausted and eventually die.” — Mark Twain
“American cuisine suffers from American nervousness, just as American nerves suffer from American cuisine.” — Adelaide Keen. With a pan over the sea. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1910. Page 23.
“Americans are just starting to treat food the way the French do. Dinner is not something you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is evening.” — Art Buchwald
“Americans will eat garbage if you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup.” — Henry Miller
“I despaired of the Republic! So dreary, such whiny yellowed women, such a complete lack of comforts, such stupid food, stupid manners, stupid scenery. What a horror it is when a whole nation develops without a sense of beauty and eats bananas for breakfast.” — Edith Wharton. (American writer. 1862 – 1937)
“We all have appetites for our hometown. Every other person is a lump of longing for the simplicity of good taste once enjoyed on the farm or in the hometown he or she left.” — Clementine Puddleford (American cook writer. 1898 – 1967)
Other quotes about American food and American cuisine
“If you’ve spent all your marks on meat and have no more, eating chicken is a nice way to help win the war.” — Prudence Penny. Cooking coupon. US Department of Agriculture. Second World War.
“The announcement that the Prices Authority has suspended the point rate system for all meats except for cuts and roast beef brings to an end one of the least celebrated battles on the home front – the battle for the butcher shop… In a world that has been visibly reeling under the brunt of a brutal attack on free institutions, in a world in which entire races were systematically exterminated and in which entire and innocent nations were starved to death, self-appointed spokesmen, the American people acted as if the worst atrocity of all time was a system that limited their right to buy so much meat, as much as they wanted, and at such high prices as they could afford.” — Franklin, Jay. Meat rationing is called the least glorious experiment. Harlingen, Texas: Morning in the Valley. May 12, 1944, page 4.
“And now the good news. In the 1980s, the United States would become a major world power in a new industry — gastronomy. The ingredients needed for this are three: knowledgeable and adventurous chefs, consumers who recognize quality and are willing to pay for it, and access to premium food products. They are all available and in increasing quantities.” — Rice, William. The revolution is in the kitchen. Syracuse, New York. Postal standard. January 10, 1980. Page A-7. [Originally in the Washington Post]
Trout, H.M. Official recognition of homogenized milk in the USA. Department of Food Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing. Journal of Dairy Science Vol. 46 No. 4 342-345. 1963 year.
Butterberry, Michael and Ariana. In the city of New York. New York: Routledge. 1999 year.
Demers, John. Cooking Colonial: Celebrate the 4th with a look back at early recipes. Houston Chronicle: Houston, TX. 2001 year.
Yekanovsky, Mark D. and James K. Binkley. Food costs vary across the United States. In Food Review: Volume 23, Issue 1. January–April 2000.
Linder, Larry. As American as… salt pork? Somerset Medical Resource Center: EBSCO Publishing. 2006 PDF article, October 2006
Rader, Jim. American Food Folklore and Culinary History: Buffalo Wings, Reuben Sandwiches, and Caesar Salads. Original article, January 17, 2006.
Stein, Nicholas. Would you like some cheese with that? Fortune Magazine: New York. April 2, 2001.
Trillin, Calvin. Home cuisine. The New Yorker: New York. August 30, 2004
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