DEFINING AMERICAN CUISINE

When you’re looking for a restaurant to dine at, you’ll likely find those near you categorized by cuisine. American cuisine is something that’s always listed, but how would you define it? Ask someone outside the country and they’ll say “McDonald’s” but this isn’t the image Americans want to conjure up.

After all, America is a country that was founded by the merging of many different cultures from around the world. What we consider to be ‘American food’ might vary distinctly from our own neighbors. America is home to many cultures, and those flavors that came with those cultures have been melded and fused into cuisines forming hybrid dishes that are truly extraordinary. Creole and Cajun cuisines are prime examples of this.

 

And then there are dishes that have become Americanized to appeal to the Western palate. Walk into any Chinese restaurant in any American city and you’ll find things like chicken and broccoli or orange chicken, which are nowhere to be found in China itself. Even Mexican food, as we know it in America, has been tinkered with.

One could argue that we should be traditionalists with our food. Why not enjoy these foods the original way? They’re outstanding in their own right. Yet, when we tinker and explore, pulling components from one country to the next, it makes an original dish that’s full of harmony.

 

What we see as American cuisine is a gorgeous blend of all the countries of the world. There are continental dishes that draw their influences from Europe. There are Asian dishes that incorporate the spices from the East. From every part of the world, there is an influence that comes through when you sit down to eat at a so-called American restaurant, whether it’s a simple bistro or a fine-dining experience.

 

From Alaskan salmon seared in a sesame-ginger sauce to burgers topped with kimchi and everything in between, we’ve found ways to elevate dishes to the next level. This exotic yet familiar twist is what American food is becoming now.

 

And that’s quite a good thing, for no American wants anyone that visits from outside the country to think that we consider McDonald’s or any other fast food a gourmet experience.

 

American food is essentially the blanket-term we use to describe food that is served in America. It’s from here, there, and everywhere, plus with regional variances from the north, south, east, and west, it gets even more complicated. A prime example: pizza! It’s done differently across the country, but each slice serves up an authentic slice of the flavors that make American cuisine a rich tapestry of cultural discovery in every bite

•Jennifer Nomas

 

 

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