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If you could only eat one type of cuisine. . .

  • j

Calvin Trillin once wrote that every Thanksgiving his family goes out for Chinese food, because the one thing he is most thankful for is the Immigration Act of 1965. One of the things that makes people in the U.S. so lucky is the incredible variety of cuisines available to us because we are a predominantly a country of immigrants and their descendants.

But, if we were like most of the world's people and only ate one cuisine, what cuisine would you pick? What I mean is, if you could have the full range of one type of world cuisine, but that's it, for the rest of your life--which one would you pick?

For me, it would be Mexican. I love the high end stuff, the street food, I even love Pinguinos (the Mexican version of Hostess cupcakes.) I never tire of black beans-I've eaten them for two weeks straight. The only thing I'd miss would be bread and bagels. I do get weary of tortillas at every meal.

So what are other folks picks?

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  1. Lordy, Jessica, having to choose one--or rather, having to OMIT any cuisine would be a living hell! Especially if you always REMEMBERED great carbonara, knish, confit, falafel, soup dumpling, vindaloo, sashimi, bouillabaisse, borscht, schnitzel, banh mi, steak tartare, pad thai, fried chicken, meatloaf, cubano sandwich, tzatziki, pierogi--and on and on--I'd have a complete nervous breakdown!

    That said, I'd probably go with French. But Mexican would be a very close second. . . . God--just be glad you DON'T have to choose!!

    1. I would think most people would pick the food they grew up with. That being said, I would choose Chinese because I grew up with it. I'm glad for all the variety but if I had to eat one thing over and over again, definitely Chinese, Taiwanese especially.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Wendy Lai

        Maybe, but there are certainly exceptions. My parents were born and raised in the Midwest, and theirs is the *last* cuisine I'd choose. ;-)

        Mexican would be very high on my list, followed by Thai.

        1. re: Tom Hilton

          Midwesterners have a cuisine?

          1. re: CTer

            Ha Ha.

            David sums it up beautifully. [See the link.]

            Erik M.
            [My father grew up on an IL farm...]

            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. re: CTer

              Yes, we do. (See thread). And we have others--many others. I work in Dearborn, home of the largest concentration of Arabic population outside the Mideast,...good food, totally authentic Arabic, everywhere!& Vietnamese, plus a number of some of the best regional restaurants in the Detroi metro area. Please cut the stereotypes --we're as interesting as anywhere...for real.

              1. re: berkleybabe

                You work in Dearborn, MI? Have you eaten at Keirnan's Steak House by any chance? One of our favorite places. We live between Detroit and A2 - Berkeley is a nice little town. D. **P.S. I agree with your comments.

                1. re: berkleybabe

                  Well...I wasn't talking about what's *available* in the Midwest--I was talking about a style of food that's *indigenous* to the Midwest: lots of starch, dairy, and meat, not much seasoning, not much fresh vegetable matter.

                  Also, was talking about rural Wisconsin 50 - 60 years ago--not urban Michigan today.

            2. re: Wendy Lai

              The food I grew would be my last choice also. It was my mother's competent, lovingly prepared but banal suburban american jewish mom cooking. From my relatively limited range of other cuisine experience I'd probably choose Chinese, or Italian (as long as Italian included american (?) pizza.)

              I was gonna ask if potato chips are considered a cuisine, but then I thought twice 'cause I figured that's probably a pretty stale and banal joke, especially on a chowhound board.

              1. re: Wendy Lai

                I have to agree completely. Taiwanese food is so varied I doubt you could ever get bored.

                Nothing, but nothing is as much fun as going to a street market and eating your way along a street. The steamed pork buns, guo-tie (open-ended pot stickers served with aspicy chili sauce), bags of cut fruit, xiao-lung bao (those round dumplings stuffed with pork) and of course, the carts that serve shaved ice with fruit and coconut milk. You can keep anything with those awful sweet red beans, though.

                1. re: Wendy Leonard
                  Wendy Leonard

                  However, it would have to be Thai food as cooked in Thailand, not American Thai restaurant food.

                  1. re: Wendy Leonard

                    I know what you mean. We rarely go out for Thai food because it's what my wife constantly prepares at home; however, I am always amazed at the Thai restaurants in this country. Half of the dishes are "peanut sauce" this or that. When do you find peanut sauce in Thailand? Maybe at a wedding banquet where chicken satay is served, otherwise never. And the tom yum here is always made from instant paste. I have found some Thai restaurants that cook up a mean pad thai though.

                2. I'd have to say Italian, hands down - though I think life probably wouldn't be worth living without variety. Italian cuisine is so amazingly versitile and creative (modern Italian cuisine as well as traditional). You get a little of all of European cuisine within it; fantastic cheese, lucious bread, a variety of cooked and cured meats etc. Its possible to have the rib-sticking stodginess of northern and eastern Europe (dumplings such as gnocchi, and mozzerella in caroza) as well as light, savoury things from the south (grilled meats and seafood)plus creative vegetable dishes like stuffed artichokes and melanzane parmigana, and besides, can you think of any other culture that has managed to come up with so many different ways of utilizing a tomato?
                  I don't think life would be worth living without carpaccio, pasta, parma ham and figs, wood fired pizza, pure as the driven snow olive oil, melt in the mouth ricotta, balsamic vinegar, biscotti and most of all...cappucino to wash it all down.

                  1. Thai food. No question about it.

                    1. Indian.

                      1. Pick one south-indian/sichuan/malay :)

                        1. It depends on where I was living;in the western world,French technique wins,hands down-it can be applied well to any local ingredients.In Asia,it would be Vietnamese food-the use of Asian technique,combined with a little French influence..

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: M.K.

                            While I agree with Jessica on Mexican, French and Vietnamese are right up there (along with Italian and Jamaican)

                            1. re: david

                              David, when you change the thread title with your response, it makes the thread difficult to track through Hot Posts. I just started using that recently and it is definitely the way to read Chowhound!

                              Also, just a suggestion, you might want to choose a more distinctive name.

                              (and my vote is with Mexican and Italian ;-)

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                I'm sticking with david, but I won't change the titles anymore.

                                Just for the record, tho', it seems like a problem with hot posts. There are many instances in which I can say what I want to say in the new title (eg, sometimes people ask yes/no questions), and add (nm) = no message, thereby saving people the trouble of opening a message with a very short text....

                                1. re: david
                                  Wendy Leonard

                                  Actually I agree with site policy, which is to request that posters not change subject titles. It is difficult to determine which titles belong to which thread if the titles keep changing. Title answers to yes-no questions are generally only useful to the original poster as well.

                          2. I especially love foods from southern Mexico: Yucatan, Oaxaca, Veracruz. And you're right, is there any cuisine that's as great from the street level up to the high end?

                            Black beans, yes. I even grow epazote, to cook with the beans.

                            1. Well, much as I love Chinese cuisines and would acknowledge their superiority above all others, including French, I would probably not want to forego cheese; I guess my dairy farmer ancestry runs too deep.

                              I am rather surprised that no one has mentioned Turkish cuisine, which is certainly worthy of consideration as one The Greats, which I would probably as Chinese (itself subsuming major schools), Franco-Italian (Italian cuisine, particularly of the north, has at least as much in common with the French cuisine as Canton does to Peking), Turkish (or, if you prefer Turko-Persian) and Mexican.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Karl S.

                                Spanish and/or Portuguese.

                                1. re: Karl S.

                                  I'm with you on the Chinese, since Chinese covers an incredible variety of local cuisines, but upon reflection would have to go with Italian for the following reasons: a) great baked bread, for which I have a passion; b) cheeses, I agree I couldn't happily live if I never had good cheese again; and, last but not least, c) ice cream! If I have to choose a cuisine to stick with for the remainder of my life, it's gonna be the one that includes gelato.

                                  1. re: P

                                    Gelato, ohmygodyes! Its a food group unto itself! How do they make it taste so good?

                                  2. re: Karl S.

                                    Swiss, which absorbs influences from its immediate neighbors -- the Germans, the French, and the Italians. Nobody makes better cheeses, sausages, or cooks better potatoes. Or does better chocolate or pastries, for that matter. They are hampered in the seafood and produce areas (for geographic reasons), however, but nobody's perfect.

                                    I never had a bad meal in Switzerland.

                                    1. re: Karl S.
                                      David De Silva

                                      It would have to be TRUE Italian food, not what we pass off as Italian here in America. True Italian food is not only the greatest of cuisines in that it covers so many different types of food, is also among the healthiest in the world. Both Northern and Southern (which is so dominated by seafood unlike Italian-American food) are hard to beat flavor and health-wise. And, as we all know, it was the Italians who influenced the cooking of all of Europe (yes including the French).

                                      After that, Cuban/Puerto Rican/Latino food would be a close second.

                                    2. Perish the thought. Although, it's more common than one
                                      might suspect. It's called "doing time". A friend of
                                      mine pulled nine months of a one-year stretch (he's a
                                      lawyer that wound up holding the sharp end of the sword), world traveler, excellent cook, bon vivant.
                                      He missed his wife badly but learned to accept the situation, had no problem kicking a 40-year cigarette habit and even lost his longing for evening
                                      cocktails after two months. Nobody hassled him because
                                      he was a good bit older than the general population. No, the only thing he truly craved every waking minute
                                      was decent food. Any kind of decent food. He traded
                                      legal advice for apples and hardboiled eggs. "Best deals I ever made.", he claimed. Two weeks before he
                                      walked, I asked him what he wanted on hand when I came
                                      to pick him up. "Fried chicken", he said. "All I've been able to think about for six months is fried chicken." So, at 2 a.m. I was out on the back patio
                                      frying chicken (legs and thighs dipped in half-and-half
                                      cream and flour w/salt, pepper and adobo, deep-fried in peanut oil). Never has a person so enjoyed my cooking. Tears of happiness, moans of abject pleasure.
                                      It was a gratifying (if a little pathetic) sight for a
                                      cook. He ate nine pieces, ignoring the coleslaw and french fries. I sent the rest with him when his wife came and got him the next morning. He called me some weeks later from his farm in Tennessee, asking again for the recipe. "I just can't get it to taste the same", he said. Some experiences you just can't duplicate, I guess. Or should you.

                                      1. s
                                        Stanley Stephan

                                        Polish. Mainly because the Polish use mushrooms so much - fresh and dried. Lots of nice dairy dishes as well. Also, the Poles have been invaded by , well, almost everyone. So alot of different countries have influenced the cuisine.

                                        Yes. It is what I grew up on ... all four grandparents were from Poland.

                                        And, if I got bored, there is always beer to help me drown my sorrows.

                                        1. c
                                          CatherineC in NYC

                                          Indian--there is so much variety I could never get bored.

                                          I adore Greek food, but I spent a summer on an archaeological dig in Greece where there were absolutely no other options. The food we had was the best Greek food I have ever had, but after a month or so, my friends and I would torture ourselves fantasizing about other cuisines. At a certain point we would start saying Pizza...sushi...fried chicken...etc. It took a while before I could eat a tomato and cucumber salad again. Thankfully, my love of Greek food returned fairly quickly.

                                          All I can say is thank heavens we can get all kinds of different cuisines! Variety is so important. This is my favorite thing about living in NYC, but whenever I visit my parents in Memphis, I am thrilled to see how many more different cuisines are available there than there were when I was growing up.

                                          1. Without a doubt it would have to be Italian...Thai follows a close second.

                                            1. Indian, no doubt

                                              1. I've often thought I could happily live on Indian vegetarian (or non) food for the rest of my life - it has almost infinite variety and is within my range as a cook. The Italian cuisine is so sane and satisfying - a perfect classic balance and great variety - I could live with it forever . Chinese is the other major cuisine that provides infinite satisfactions within a sane framework but I cant cook it well enough to satisfy myself forever and there is not enough bread!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  You'll be surprised but chinese cuisine does have bread like dishes outside of the US. Most Chinese styled breads though just water, flour and sugar and are mostly steamed. So... could you live with it now?

                                                2. As much as I love international cuisines, if I was forced to eat only one cuisine (please let that never happen!) it would be American Southern. Rice and gravy, brown beans and country ham, fried corn, fried fish, fried chicken, an abundance of greens, sweet potatoes, etc... Something tells me I'd explode one day, but what a way to go.

                                                  Another great reason for southern cooking is that there are so many variations. How they make one dish in state, isn't the same in another.

                                                  1. Definately Korean! There are literally thousands of Korean dishes: noodles, meats, fish, extensive vegetarian dishes, dumplings, stews, and of course kimchi galore (cabbage, cucumber, radish, "water", etc). When I eat at meal at my mother's home I have no fewer than 6-7 side dishes to eat along with my rice and soup(different one for every meal of course!). Most Americans have very limited exposure to Korean food, and relate it only to barbequed meats. Korean food, an infinite variety of textures and tastes! Too bad I don't have someone to cook it for me for every meal!