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What is your favorite American food?

foodrules's picture


I am doing research for a book that I am writing (working title: "Across the Fruited Plain"). The theme for the book is based on the question: What, to you, is the definitive American food? If you had to enter American cooking in a world wide contest, what would be the best representative of our native food?

I am collecting opinions and recipes from food experts like yourself for use in my book. If you have a favorite dish that defines the best of American cookery, please submit it to my e-mail address, along with your name and organization, and place of residence.

Here's to the food that America loves!

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #25483, reply #1 of 18)

Oooooooooh tough one. Given Americans use meat as the focus of a meal, instead of a flavoring ingredient like Asians and others, I'd say the quintessential American Food would be turkey. Or Prime Rib of Beef. Of course there's Apple Pie. Be prepared...there will be an avalanche of suggestions here...get ready to cut and paste.

NLM's picture

(post #25483, reply #2 of 18)

This goes back to the icky American food thread, and the discussion about what is, in fact, American food. That's like trying to define American culture, and IMHO, one can't, other than to define it as a generally happy melange. To me, American food is chicken wings and beef on weck. To Carolina, to Chiff, or to each of us from different regions and ethnic backgrounds, it's something different I'm sure. Good luck with the book, and if you're looking for opinions, you've come to a great place. We've got plenty, and they're
b all

Wolverine's picture

(post #25483, reply #3 of 18)

As Chiff said, turkey would be right up there. The problem is that America is one HUGE melting pot! All of the dishes I can think of can also claim to have been created or be central to another country. Perhaps the preparation ?? As to food " across the fruited plain", I would check out recipes from Edna Lewis. She certainly kept to the simple rules of eating what was in season, ala Alice Waters.

My personal vote is for fried chicken! Not real fancy or anything but I love it!

leaf_lady's picture

(post #25483, reply #4 of 18)

Chili, in one of its many incarnations (pun intended). It is alleged to have been invented in several different places, all American. From Texas to California to Cincinnati, it is as close to being universally American as anything else, even Fried Chicken.

aussiechef's picture

(post #25483, reply #5 of 18)

Now you really want an
i objective
opinion? BBQ.

And as much as this will cause another outbreak of chest thumping, wails of protest and downright outrage, it doesn't matter whether it's Texan or Carolinian or Alaskan. The idea of slow cooking meat and then smothering it with an elaborate sauce is about as American as you can get. Turkey is, well, turkey - just a hunk or meat. Same with beef. Many countries have versions of Chili in the form of some stew or rather. There really isn't much food here that isn't a variation of what else there is in the world. Not even Fried Chicken which is walnut/flour coated chicken in mid east for hundreds of years. Not even apple pie which existed in England in Robin Hood's day.

But nowhere else I can think of comes close to the religion of BBQ.

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #25483, reply #6 of 18)

AussieChef has this one right and Ben Franklin can take a hike; it's barbecue, hands down. The quintessential american cuisine. Just try and find someone who is not vegetarian that doesn't swoon upon crossing the threshold at Lexington Barbecue - just to name one of many.

Praise be.


MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #25483, reply #7 of 18)

Maybe not in its exact Southern fried form, but I think fried chicken could very well be Asian in origin.

seamus801_'s picture

(post #25483, reply #8 of 18)

Macaroni and Cheese !

Jean_'s picture

(post #25483, reply #9 of 18)

Chocoate malted.

D.J.'s picture

(post #25483, reply #10 of 18)


Wolverine's picture

(post #25483, reply #11 of 18)

Yes, that was the point of my post... That almost all things are from somewhere else...almost all Americans are originally from somewhere else -

Then I stated what one of my favorite things was, whether American originally or not.

Ingrid_F's picture

(post #25483, reply #12 of 18)

The food I liked best in US and have come to see as " The American Food", is hamburgers. Yes, I know the name is German and patties of chopped beef are made lots of places, and to put some meat or filling between two pieces of bread is English, BUT STILL. A thick, juicy hamburger in a toasted white bun with an aboundance of choices of toppings - but at least dill pickles and tomato catchup and onion rings and may be mustard - American!!

The combination of sweet, spiced, tart and tomatoe like in BBQ sauces - very American - especially the sweet part!

Adams Rib (ribs of beef simmered in a crockpot in Dr. Peppers!! with garlic and onion) - have to be American!!

Pancakes with maple syrup and sausages and bacon - again the mixture of very sweet and salty .. (I can't stand it, but do understand that other folks love it) ...

Then the big sandwiches - club sandwich or tuna sandwhiches - good and American!

Sloppy Joes.

Chicken and turkey - most countries kept birds for the eggs, not for eating.

Icecreams and milkshakes!! I know other countries make wonderful ice cream, too, but to serve chocolate milk shake together with you hamurgers or subs - defenitely American.

Oh, makes my mouth watering, just to think of it.

Wolverine's picture

(post #25483, reply #13 of 18)

She's got a point. They were "created' at the 1904 World's Fair, held in St. Louis if I remember my history correctly. Here's to hamburgers!!

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #25483, reply #14 of 18)

In that case I'd like to make it more specific. How about
i Southern
fried chicken, variants of which show up all across the country.

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #25483, reply #15 of 18)

If you ask a German they're likely to tell you (after they go through McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut):

Hamburgers (which are not really eaten here, at least not prepared the same way they are in the US)



Chilli/Nachos/Burritos (all of which get lumped sometimes with American, sometimes with Mexican food)

Barbecue sauce

Corn, corn, and more corn.

But of course there is so much they don't even know about. And sure, much American food has its origins in other cultures, but hey, the Italians originally got pasta from the orient. Nobody would call a good plate of spaghetti bolognese Chinese food.

Maybe the trick is to pay attention less to the individual item and more to the meal. Other cultures may make fried chicken, but I'll bet they don't serve it the same way.

Last year I spent Thanksgiving in Germany. To celebrate, I invited a bunch of native english speaking friends over, people from Canada, England, and Australia, as well as a Turkish friend and a few Germans. Originally I had this idea that I would farm out the various dishes to everyone to ease my cooking load. It proved impossible because, with the exception of the Canadian, nobody had any clue how to make most of them. Cranberry sauce? Sweet potatoes? even dinner rolls were exotic to some. And the wierd thing is that even though it's obviously a very (North) American holiday, the food itself had never seemed all that American to me until that moment.

CLS's picture

(post #25483, reply #16 of 18)

Peach pie. Banana Cream Pie. Cornbread (southern-style, of course!). BBQ in all it's incarnations. Chili. Burgers. How about one of my favorites (again, a soutern-thing, I think), Chicken Fried Steak? With cream gravy and mashed potatoes? Big comfort food. Boiled peanuts? I always make sure I get some when I visit my mother. They are terribly addictive and I'm not sure if any other country prepares them that way. I believe cranberry sauce is definitely an American thing. When I lived in Europe none of my friends had ever had anything with cranberries in it.

Good luck and let us know when the book is published...

Big_Daddy's picture

(post #25483, reply #17 of 18)

i Nobody would call a good plate of spaghetti bolognese Chinese food

I suspect your right about that although there is a Hunan dish made with noodles and a rich, creamy pork sauce that's remarkably similar.


kai_'s picture

(post #25483, reply #18 of 18)

Hi foodrules,

Your subject is "favorite American food" but your text asks for the "definitive American food."

I can easily answer the former (personal), but not the latter (subjective). My fave is collard greens (and I've never made the exact same recipe twice, but it is always stunningly good--even veggie/greens-haters love it--and I never have leftovers).

The "definitive," however, surely depends on polling the neighborhoods w/immigrants from many cultures that brought their recipes with them. This "definitive" American food has been changing rapidly (and, sadly, gone to "fast food" in the minds of many other countries), and perhaps exists only in small towns or our collective memories. Just 10-20 years ago, e.g., San Diego had very little Vietnamese food; now, it is one of the most popular--with people of all cultures (we have a ton of nationalities here in this town--I think there are almost 300 languages spoken here). Another example: fish tacos didn't make an appearance here until about 15 years ago--and they have been all over Mexico, forever!

Don't know if that helps, but there is certainly a difference between "favorite" and "definitive". One of the great things about this country is that the "definitive" tends to change :)

From a fellow writer/editor, I wish you well w/your book and hope you will keep us posted!