Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Best American Food

Many American friends are stumped when I ask them about traditional American fare. Americans have had exposure to global cuisine for a long time thanks to immigrating people from every corner of the world; in fact, many would consider Italian staples such as pasta American. I recently discovered an article on the Best American Food at Conde Nast Traveller by Alan Richman that made me smile. This is how he begins:

American BarbequeBefore we were able to pay attention to food, Americans had to perfect democracy, settle the West, free the slaves, crush the Nazis, and fight the commies. Meanwhile, we ate whatever was at hand. We stewed squirrels. We turned turtles into soup. Food was secondary. Oh, we had raw materials aplenty: fields of waving grain, herds of juicy protein, oceans of non-farmed fish. We just didn't know what to do with it all. Note: Barbeque picture by LennieZ.

Our first uniquely American restaurants appeared in the fifties and sixties. We called them Polynesian, even though none of us knew where Polynesia was or what Polynesians ate. We concocted Sesame Chicken Aku-Aku and Shrimp Bongo Bongo. It was our first date food. In the seventies, food started to change, courtesy of a place we had never taken seriously before: California - home to Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, fresh vegetables and wood-grilled meats.

Once we discovered how much fun it was to eat, there was no stopping us. We freed chickens from their pens - and ate them! We let pasta get cold - on purpose! We shunned preservatives that prevented spoilage - and called it health food!

Read the entire article and his recommendations on the best of American cooking here.

13 comments:

Mahesh Narkar said...

Shantanu,
Interesting post on American food which is of course as American as apple pie :-)

The Alan Richman article makes for a very interesting read.

Cheers

Aparna Kar said...

Hey!Thanks for the interesting post. Made a great read :)

foodette said...

A very funny article - thanks for sharing it! To me, American food consists of roasts, braises, and stews, but I think it all has to do with where in America one is raised. I was raised in Wisconsin, where there was a large German and Eastern European population. However, each region of the country has it's own take on what our food culture is. More than anything, though, I guess our food culture is constantly changing, depending on the immigration to the country. And, just recently, we have started taking it seriously. I am glad for that, and think it's a positive and necessary turn.

Shantanu said...

@mahesh narkar: Of course, we ought to list apple pie somewhere too :-)

@aparna kar: Glad you liked it!

@foodette: You are right. It is this ability to keep changing that is probably your country's greatest strength. BTW, the Michelin ratings in LA are out now!

Scribbit said...

I suppose here it's still not that odd to eat weird things--moose, caribou, bear--

Actually, there's this guy downtown that makes the world's greatest hot dogs and they're caribou (reindeer). LOVE them.

Zhu said...

As cliché as it may sound, I love a good burger. Not fast food, a real burger, whole wheat bun and a BBQ steak, with pickles and tomatoes and sweet potatoes fries.

A restaurant by my place makes the best burgers ever... nothing to do with McDonald's or Burger King.

Melody said...

In case I haven't told you this - yummmmm!!!

Love all the posts, the pics make me droool!

(kinda make me feel like envying you, but I shall not & instead be super happy for you!)

M

Shantanu said...

@scribbit: Welcome! I guess it is not that wierd considering that thee are locally available in abundance in Canada?

@zhu: Gourmet burgers! Yes, I remember having some great burgers in a couple of places.

@melody: Thank You! :-)

Sandeepa said...

Interesting shall read the article

backpakker said...

Haha ..good one :)

bluemountainmama said...

good point about our food being so inundated with multi-cultural influences. of course, growing up in the south, i think of things like fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, grits, and such. the south tends to fry everything or cook it in fat... even their veggies!

Shantanu said...

@bluemountainmama: I stayed in North Carolina for a couple of years. I do enjoy some fried stuff once in a while. :-)

Rajiv said...

Hi Shantanu,
Thanks for sharing this, it made a great read. I have recently stumbled upon your blog while looking for some restaurants in Pune. I've added you to my blog so I can keep abreast of your review.
Cheers !!