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Nov 18, 2006 04:34 PM

Belated response--what is American cuisine (semi-master list)

A while back someone posted asking "What is American cuisine?" At the time I was finishing up my master's thesis (on New Orleans cuisine) and didn't have time to respond. Anyway, I dug up a list I made for a traveller to the US a while back. While it is not a true master list, as it tries to list only the quintessential at a local, regional, or national level (thus omits things like Waldorf Salad and Chop Suey), it is a good sample. What else do you think is "quintessential" enough to be on there? (List to follow inside)

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  1. This is, in a sense, an imaginary menu for an American restaurant if I ever have a mid-life crisis and start one. It is therefore arranged like a menu, and not according to region. THIS LIST DOES NOT INCLUDE BREAKFAST ITEMS OR ALCOHOLIC DRINKS, both of which are extensive lists in and of themselves and too much work for me today, but which both represent some of the best of American cuisine. States/regions listed in caps/parenthesis are not the area where the dish is currently popular (many are national, others superregional), but the area where the dish originated. I welcome contradictory evidence on this point, though chances are I've heard the proposed theory and rejected it.

    Again, this list is not meant to be comprehensive (had to leave off some of my favorite dishes, including Bananas Foster and Frozen Custard), but quintessential on a national or local level, meant to be a manageable (if East-Coast-Greek-Diner-level extensensive) menu size. Many All-American dishes that would not do much to impress most foreigners (Jello Salad, Manhattan Clam Chowder) have been eliminated. Let me know what you think, and most importantly if there's anything essential I'm forgetting. If the West Coast seems underrepresented, it is because for all the hype that California and Pacific Northwest cuisines get as concepts, I know of very few actual, popular dishes from these cuisines (ie, dishes prepared very similarly (only minor, idiosyncratic varitaions) and served at restaurants or in homes all across a given city/region). Anyone may fill me in on the essentials I'm missing.

    PART 1:
    Cornbread (??-SOUTH)
    Biscuits (??-SOUTH)
    Sourdough (CALIFORNIA)
    Brown Bread (MASSACHUSETTS)

    Farmhouse Corn Chowder (VERMONT/NEW HAMPSHIRE)
    Boston Clam Chowder (MASSACHUSETTS)
    Maryland Crab Soup (MARYLAND)
    Low Country Crab Soup (SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)
    Corn & Crab (or Corn & Shrimp) Soup (LOUISIANA)
    Seafood Gumbo (LOUISIANA)
    Chicken & Andouille Gumbo (LOUISIANA)
    Cream of Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup (WISCONSIN/MINNESOTA)

    Caesar Salad
    Cobb Salad
    House Salad (dressings: Ranch, French, Green Godess, 1000 Island)

    Boiled Peanuts (GEORGIA)
    Hush Puppies (GEORGIA)
    Vidalia Onion Rings (GEORGIA)
    Nachos (TEXAS)
    Cheese curds (fresh or fried) (WISCONSIN)
    Buffalo Wings (NEW YORK)
    Burnt Ends (MISSOURI)
    Poke (HAWAII)
    American Sushi (California/Philadelphia/Alaska rolls) (CALIFORNIA)
    Clams Casino (NEW YORK)
    Stuffies (RHODE ISLAND)
    Crab cakes (MARYLAND)
    Oysters on the Half Shell w/ homemade cocktail sauce (LOUISIANA)
    Grilled/Charbroiled Oysters (LOUISIANA)
    Oysters Rockefeller (LOUISIANA)
    Oysters Bienville (LOUISIANA)

    Peanut Butter & Jelly (??)
    Reuben (NEBRASKA, also popular in NEW YORK)
    Philly Cheese Steak (PENNSYLVANIA)
    New York Bagel (NEW YORK) (Lox, Cream Cheese, Salmon)
    Spedie (NEW YORK)
    Hot Brown (KENTUCKY)
    Chimichanga (ARIZONA)
    Chicago Dog (ILLINOIS)
    Grilled Brats w/tradtional toppings (sauerkraut, onions, brown mustard, relish (optional), horseradish (optional)) (WISCONSIN)
    Sheboygan Style Brats (blanched in beer & onions, served two per sandwich) (WISCONSIN)
    Seafood Po Boys (Shrimp, Oysters, Catfish, Crawfish (seasonal) (LOUISIANA)
    Muffaletta (LOUISIANA)
    Fried Chicken (TENNESSEE?)
    BBQ Brisket (TEXAS)

    3 Replies
    1. re: cheesecurdsinparadise

      The category of hot breads should not omit hoecakes, a griddle-baked cornbread once universal here, under which must include the mother Anglo-American version, the jonnycake of Rhode Island.

      Among the soups, kale soup (derived from the caldo verde of the Lusophone diaspora) and fish chowder are as vital to coastal New England cuisine (and fish chowder is certainly older than) as clam chowder.

      1. re: Karl S

        Hot breads needs to have Spoon Bread added

      2. Part 2:
        NEW YORK--Medium-thick, flexible crust, Large slices
        CHICAGO (ILLINOIS)--Deep Dish or Stuffed (sauce on top), Thick, pan-style crust, Copious amounts of cheese & toppings
        CALIFORNIA--Wood-fired, Seasoned, whole-grain crust, Designer ingredients

        TEXAS--no beans or tomatoes, chopped beef, homemade spice blend. Teralingua ready.
        NATIONAL STANDARD (CALIFORNIA?)--ground beef, beans, tomatoes, onions, chili powder, other spices.
        VEGETARIAN (NEW MEXICO)--green and red chili peppers, beans, onions, tomatoes, homemade spice blend
        5 WAY CINCINNATI (OHIO)--ground beef, beans, onions, shredded cheese, sweet spice blend, served on spaghetti

        Pulled Pork (NORTH CAROLINA)
        Sliced Pork (??-SOUTH)
        Babyback (Pork) Ribs (MISSOURI),
        Dry-rubbed (Pork) Ribs (TENNESSEE)
        Beef Ribs (TEXAS/OKLAHOMA)
        Pulled Brisket (TEXAS)
        Sliced Brisket (TEXAS)
        Chicken (??-SOUTH)
        Mutton (INDIANA/KENTUCKY)
        NATIONAL STANDARD (??-APPALACHIA perhaps) (slightly tangy blend--ketchup, spices)
        MIDWESTERN (sweet blend: tomato, honey, molasses)
        KANSAS CITY (MISSOURI) (tangy & slightly mesquite blend--tomato, spices)
        TEXAS (very mesquite: tomato, cumin, chili powder, lime juice, liquid smoke)
        NORTH CAROLINA (vinegar & hot pepper)
        SOUTH CAROLINA (yellow mustard & brown sugar)
        NORTHERN ALABAMA (white mustard & cream)
        BLACK DIP (Evansville, INDIANA/Owensboro KENTUCKY) (Worcestershire & Garlic)

        Fajitas (TEXAS)
        Chicken Fried Steak (TEXAS)
        Steakhouse Steak (various cuts) (NEBRASKA/KANSAS/OKLAHOMA)
        Luau Pig (HAWAII)
        Smithfield Ham w/Red-eye Gravy (VIRGINIA)
        Burgoo (KENTUCKY)

        Southern Fried Chicken (NORTH CAROLINA/TENNESSEE)
        Chicken & Dressing (eg, cornbread or oyster) (MISSISSIPPI/ALABAMA)
        Stuffed Turkey (MASSACHUSETTS). Ready for Thanksgiving
        Deep Fried Turkey (LOUISIANA)

        SEAFOOD (for clams and oysters, see entrees)
        Maine Lobster w/Drawn Butter (MAINE)
        Lobster Newburg (NEW YORK)
        Assorted, Steamed West Coast Crabs (King, Snow, Dungeness) with drawn butter (WASHINGTON/OREGON/CALIFORNIA/ALASKA)
        Maryland-style Steamed (Blue) Crabs (in old bay) (MARYLAND)
        Boiled (Blue) Crabs (in Cajun seasoning) (LOUISIANA)
        Fried Shrimp (??-GULF COAST or LOW COUNTRY)
        Shrimp & Grits (SOUTH CAROLINA)
        Low Country Boil (shrimp, corn, red potatoes, Old Bay seasoning, spices) (SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)
        "Barbecued" Shrimp (LOUISIANA)
        Shrimp Creole (LOUISIANA)
        Coconut Shrimp (CALIFORNIA)
        Crawfish Etouffee (in season) (LOUISIANA)
        Boiled Crawfish (in season) (LOUISIANA)

        Beer Battered Walleye & Lake Perch (MINNESOTA/WISCONSIN/ILLINOIS)
        Cedar-grilled salmon (WASHINGTON/OREGON)
        Lomi Lomi Salmon (HAWAII)
        Pompano en Papillote (LOUISIANA)

        Rice & Gravy (LOUISIANA)
        Jambalaya (LOUISIANA)
        Red Beans & Rice (LOUISIANA)
        Red Rice (SOUTH CAROLINA)
        Hoppin John (SOUTH CAROLINA)

        Homemade Kettle Chips (NEW YORK)
        Hash Browns (??-probably MIDWEST)
        Cottage Fries (??- " ")
        Mashed Potatoes & Gravy (?-EAST COAST)
        Baked Potatoes w/the works (??- probably NEW YORK or MIDWEST)
        Twice Baked Potatoes (??-" ")

        Succotash (MASSACHUSETTS)
        Down East Baked Beans (MASSACHUSETTS/MAINE)
        Black-eyed Peas (SOUTH CAROLINA)
        Collard/Mustard/Turnip Greens & Ham Hocks (??-either DEEP SOUTH or LOW COUNTRY)
        Corn on the Cob (steamed, served with butter or grilled) (??-MIDWEST)
        Sweet Potato Fries (??-SOUTH)
        Candied Yams (LOUISIANA/MISSISSIPPI)
        Squash Casserole (LOUISIANA/MISSISSIPPI)
        Baked Apples (SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)
        Fresh Boysenberries (seasonal) (OREGON)
        Poi (HAWAII)
        Grits (plain or Garlic-Cheese) (SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)

        CHEESE PLATE (Cheddar aged at least 8 years, Colby, Brick, Farmer's Cheese, Monterey Jack)

        Chocolate Chip Cookies (MASSACHUSETTS)
        Brownies (MASSACHUSETTS)
        Cobbler (most popular flavors are Peach and Blackberry. Cherry, blueberry, and apple are also big) (VIRGINIA/NORTH CAROLINA/SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)
        Banana Pudding (SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)
        Haupia (HAWAII)
        Sweet Potato Pie (??-SOUTH)
        Lemon Meringue Pie (probably TENNESSEE)
        Mississippi Mud Pie (MISSISSIPPI)
        Key Lime Pie (FLORIDA)
        Angel Food Cake (PENNSYLVANIA/NEW YORK)
        New York Style Cheesecake (NEW YORK)
        Baked Alaska (NEW YORK)
        Ice Cream Sundae (WISCONSIN)

        DRINKS (Virgin only)
        Lemonade (KENTUCKY/TENNESSEE)
        Assorted Sodas (GEORGIA)
        Fruit Punch (??-most likely SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA)
        Draft Root Beer (NEW YORK)
        Egg Cream (NEW YORK)
        Non-alcoholic, American-style Apple Cider (MASSACHUSETTS/NEW YORK)
        Smoothie (CALIFORNIA)
        Date Shake (CALIFORNIA)
        Milkshake (??-probably NEW ENGLAND)
        Malted Milkshake (WISCONSIN)

        1. Awesome work. Ethno-demo-graphic-culinaire.

          But where are my Grandma's chicken and dumplings? (Southeast piedmont).

          A list to be savored.

          1 Reply
          1. re: FoodFuser

            definately needs chicken stew w/ dumplings...

            but now i'm hungry from reading all that... off to have lunch now

          2. Interesting. I would add tuna and BLT to the sandwiches and shrimp cocktails to the seafood. Those are made the same way pretty much everywhere. I assume you left off hot dogs and hamburger for a reason. What about fish tacos? Or tacos in general. Maybe burritos.

            Also, what on earth is burgoo?

            1. BLT and tuna salad/melt definitely need to be on there. As per Southwestern cuisine with Mexican equivalents, I don't know it well enough to know what's truly Mexican vs American (I know we have our own form of tacos, enchiladas, and burritos, and that chimichangas, fajitas, and nachos are truly American). Generally speaking, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii are the only states west of the Mississippi. I've found with more than 3-4 truly traditional or popular dishes. The great plains and mountain states are dead zones in terms of culinary innovation (Nebraska's got the Reuben and Tang. Rocky Mountain oysters are nothing new (the only thing American about them is the name and the versions that use Buffalo instead of Beef). I'm not sure where Denver Omelets actually. Come from. To the best of my knowledge, when it comes to the creation of native dishes, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada are worthless. Feel free to dispute this claim and educate me).

              Burgoo is the Western Ohio River Valley's version of Brunswick Stew or Booyah. You typically cook it for huge gatherings, and throw multiple types of meat & midwestern vegetables into a cauldron to stew. It's very regional, but very popular in its region.