Food that is quintessentially American

Cultural Insights — By on November 25, 2009 at 7:20 am

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, and families from Maine to California will be sitting down for a traditional family meal of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, cranberries, and other such food staples of this holiday. But this is an interesting time to take a look at other quintessentially American foods that have nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving. The inspiration here is a recent Parade article about unique regional dishes from across the country. Such as:  

A perfect storm of multiple ingredients, the Cuban sandwich is a sheaf of roast pork chunks, sliced ham, cheese, puckery pickle slices, mustard, mayo, and hot sauce all packed into a torpedo of crusty Cuban bread. It would fall to pieces as constructed, but it attains harmony in a hot plancha, the Spanish toaster that is basically a toothless waffle iron, causing all the flavors to bond together as one yummy chord: a truly heroic hero sandwich!

This pumpkin-colored porridge, a distant cousin of Southern grits, can be topped with cream or vanilla ice cream. While creative chefs doll it up with fruit or brandy, the rock-ribbed Yankee recipe, going back to Pilgrim days, is little more than cornmeal and molasses. A long, slow bake (up to seven hours) transforms it into a profound comfort food that smells like Grandma’s kitchen and evokes the first Thanksgiving.

For these, you need corn still on the cob, because when the kernels are scraped off, they yield enough juice to make a moist, full-flavored filling. Fresh, just-roasted chilies are laced into the corn dough (often with cheese) and tightly rolled inside a green corn husk, then steamed until the taste of earth and fire are exuberantly married: an inspiration for house parties.

As intense as espresso and as special as champagne, dates were unknown to most Americans before the 1890s, when they first were planted in California. Roadside date shacks concocted this divine dessert drink by adding finely chopped date crystals or date puree to a blender along with ice cream and milk. It’s a wanton luxury that radiates the taste of sunshine and demands gulping.

What other unique regional dishes can you name? Check out the full story for other examples. In the meantime, though, if you’re in the U.S. then enjoy your traditional holiday recipes tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!



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