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If you had to choose one national cuisine...

... for the rest of your life, which would it be?

This has been a point of discussion amongst our circle of friends, and it comes up regularly.

Personally, I'd have to go with Italian: it includes many of my favorite foods -- such as pasta, salads, seafood & meat dishes, great cheeses, an abundance of vegetables & fruit...

I'd miss good bread, but could probably deal. How about you other hounds?

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  1. I also vote for Italian. I'd miss dessert, though. Italian desserts aren't my cup of tea. Too sweet, too complicated, and sometimes just too weird.

    1. I'm following you by saying that for the rest of my life I could eat Italian food. Although I love eating food from other countries and in other countries, and can honestly say I have not had anything I didn't enjoy, I would rather have Italian food. Such a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood, not to mention the macaronis, cheeses and wines. The Pastries!!!! The way herbs and spices are used, the simplicity of recipes, the variety of the regions... OH yes, I could eat Italian food forever. As for the bread, there are some wonderful breads to be had; crusty loaves, perfect for soups, and mopping up sauces.

      1. Mine would be Acadian(french colonists who settled in canada & were deported in the 1700's & settles in Louisiana) food or better known as Cajun cuisine.

        With cajun food you have it all in my opinion:

        bbq, grilling, smoking, stewing, deep frying, boiling

        the holy trinity(bell pepper, celery, and onion)

        lots of rice, fish, pork, chicken, crawfish, shrimp, alligator, sausage, dark roux

        and dont forget about the heat of the cayenne pepper & hot sauces.

        I could live on the above items as well as jambalaya, gumbo, & etouffe

        2 Replies
        1. re: swsidejim

          Yeah, I would totally miss the heat I love so much in SE Asian or Indian foods... but I make a mean spicy tomato sauce ;-D that would have to do.

          Another reason for my choice, and Giovanna brought that up, is indeed the variety of regions -- so many different styles of cooking, so many different ingredients.

          1. re: linguafood

            italian is a solid choice, as you mentioned many different regions, and styles to enjoy.

        2. For me this is an easy one: Chinese. For starters there are just so many parts to it, but also it has the heat, the noodles and the meat, all three componants of my diet, but also great veggie dishes. If you were to make me choose a specific area of China, I could never do it and would probably end up jumping the water to Japan for the great noodles, still getting the dumplings, and of course lots of fish...

          1 Reply
          1. re: dagoose

            Ha -- I used to ask my sister this question when we were kids. She thought I was obsessed with food! I agree with you about China. It's such a large country that there are so many different types of food I would be able to eat -- seafood, rice noodles, vegetables, rice, meats, spicy food, blander food. I would only miss my French and "American" desserts as Chinese desserts are not my thing. Could never get that excited about mochi and those fluffy cakes.

          2. My wife and I both immediately said "Italian or Japanese." I'm very torn. My initial impulse is Italian but I kind of think that the more I think about it the more I'm going to lean toward Japanese with the array of noodles, soups and broths, fish (both sushi and not) and rice.

            Really great question linguafood!

            1 Reply
            1. re: ccbweb

              Interesting. I thought "Italian" right off the bat. (Thank you Lidia Bastianich, Mary Ann Esposito, Lynne Rosetto Kasper.) But lately, I have been getting interested in Japanese. Sushi was my obvious starting point. But then I heard an interview with a cookbook author on "The Splendid Table" about Japanese home cooking, and I read an account of eating in Japan in Jeffery Steingarten's "The Man Who Ate Everything" and I'm feeling very, very intrigued.

            2. I'm torn among Japanese, Lao, Mexican...let me think a bit more.

              8 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  I know virtually nothing about Lao...will you give a brief description?

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    Sticky rice (a very unique and flavorful type), laab (highly spiced chopped meats seasoned with fish sauce, mint, cilantro, ground toasted rice, ginger...). Nice use of all parts of animals consumed. Lots of fresh, clean flavors from different vegetables--including leaves and plants from the forest. Sausages and dried or cured meats. Simple BBQ chicken and fish. Spicy green papaya salad. Fruit. Overall, clean flavors with very nice use of spices, chili, ginger, shallots, sauces, herbs, and the like. Same as in NE Thailand.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      nothing gets me acting more like a junkie than a lao dinner...for days after, i am consumed by thoughts of green papaya salad, sticky rice and dried/fried beef and when i might next be able to get my next fix...

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Sounds spectacular! I'll have to see if I can find and Lao restaurants, but that's a different thread.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          ccweb - there are a bunch of Lao restaurants in Oakland (actually Lao-Thai - they'll offer the choice of Lao vs. Thai style preps on some dishes like larp and papaya salad). The two I've been to and like are Green Papaya Deli (limited menu but consistent) and Champa Garden (extensive menu, sometimes inconsistent).

                          1. re: daveena

                            Oh, and I wish I could remember the name, but I ate at a very good Lao place in Berkeley when I was there in September. I'm happy to learn that there's a bunch in Oakland as well. Now, to see how quickly I can get back to the Bay area....

                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          How can you make my mouth water with just 1 sentence? An aside....
                          I wish someone would teach me how to eat noodles gracefully.
                          I've never eaten Laotian food and would have to ask hare raisu where to find it in San Diego.

                    2. My problem -- and I am probably outing myself as overly European here -- with picking any Asian cuisine is their lack of breads, or cheeses. Feel free to jump on me if this is complete b.s., but if I missed one thing in Thailand, it was bread & cheese. I can only eat so much rice...

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: linguafood

                        Asian cuisine does have good bread - Naan, Green Onion Pancakes, Chinese Fried Bread, Vietnamese Baguette, Roti Chanai, etc.

                        ...but I know what you mean.

                        On Cheese - nothing beats Europe, of course. Asians are typically lactose-intolerant...but some interesting cheeses are Paneer (India), Yak Cheese (Monglolian - I have never had it), Kesong Puti (Filipino). Canned Kraft Cheese is huge in the Philippines.

                        Back to the topic - Chinese for me....all the regions.

                        1. re: fmed

                          I'm torn with you. I love cheese and bread of Europe, but the heat and variety of India, China, SE Asia are my favorites.

                        2. re: linguafood

                          South Asia has the best breads in the world and some of the best cheeses.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Cheese - really - I had no idea. Can you tell me some names so I can keep a look out for them? TIA

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              OK, OK, OK, you caught me exagerating for heuristic devices. But I do love the dishes that incorporate local cheeses in India, Pakistan, and Bhutan. I like rustic goat and carabao (mozzarelas, in fact) cheeses. Obviously not on the level of the gouda, stilton, Oaxaca, Pec - Reg, cheddar, ... cheeses I have stashed.

                              I retract the asinine statement with apologies to all!

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Ha - my inquiry was genuine! Always open to learning more. Now I have to go look up heuristic.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Oh Sam, I had such hope for a moment!!! I adore paneer, but if that was the only cheese I could eat for the rest of my life, I would be so sad. I would dearly miss my Epoisses, Brie, Conte, Ossau-Iraty, Mancheo, Feta, Riopelle, Cheddar, Halloumi, Parmesan, Crottin de Chavignol, etc,etc,etc... You get the idea.

                                  In fact, although this is a great idea for a thread, the whole thought of being limited to one national cuisine for the rest of my life makes me very sad! I love living in a place where I can eat something different every night of the year.

                                  But if I had to choose, I would choose Asian, because of the sheer variety. And if you are being very strict and limiting it to one country... oh dear. I'd probably choose some place like Singapore, only because there is a mix of different influences, and it might give me as much variety as possible. There is straight-up chinese, but then there are the South East Asian influences as well. But then what would i do about my beloved Korean? Please tell me there is a significant Korean community there???? And surely they have good bread there, given the colonial history???

                                  Can I choose Canada or the U.S. including the immigration history as an argument to include all the variety in diet I crave? Or is this cheating?

                                  Oh the distress... I'll have nightmares tonight to be sure.

                            2. re: linguafood

                              Nothing to jump you for. I personally would not miss either the bread or the cheese, but I perfectly understand how someone would. And there are no great, or even good, Asian wines.

                              1. re: PeterL

                                Asian wines? Does sake count as wine? I have had some phenomenal sake over the last few years.

                                1. re: fmed

                                  There are certainly some great alcoholic drinks in Asia, but nothing compares with the quality and variety of western wines.

                                2. re: PeterL

                                  Oh no! I choose Asian and I completely forgot about wine! AHHHGGGHHH! I hate this question! It is causing me great distress!!!

                                3. re: linguafood

                                  And wine...

                                  Oh - apparently I didn't scan down far enough...others had my concern first;).

                                  Italian, because it borders countries with different cuisines and has coopted the influences. French, Swiss, North African (in Sicily), Austria and even Slovenian...and all the different wine regions...

                                  But it would be so hard to give up sushi...and Thai...and Indian...

                                  Wow - makes me appreciate how wonderful variety and access are...

                                  1. re: morrigan

                                    If you're a fan of sashimi rather than sushi, you won't even be deprived with Italian food. Just order some crudo! The Italians serve up their raw fish with drizzles of oil, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper. Delish.

                                4. Cuban. Born and raised in Miami and 3/4 Cubano I am biologically compelled.

                                  Flan, Tres Leches, Yucca Frita, Bistec Palomilla, Arroz con Pollo, Lechon Asado, Plantanos Maduro o Tostones, Cafe Cubano...and how could I ever forget Black Beans and Rice!

                                  1. I think I'd have to go with japanese. I adore the stronger flavors of thai and italian and etc... but if i had to be eating the same cuisine every day, the clean flavors and fresh elegant approach of japanese seem to win out. for day in and day out eating

                                    1. No surprise here - Korean.
                                      One advantage of Korean is that much of the food has been influenced by Chinese and Japanese over the centuries, so you would actually be getting a blend of all three.

                                      1. Mexican. That's what I miss the most when I'm in Europe. I don't know as much about the cuisine as many people on this board do, but I know I'd be happy with the variety. Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and other veggies, seafood, meat, beans, bread, rice, tortillas, cheese, fruit...what don't they have? Maybe pasta, but that's okay. I'd miss curry a lot, too. And I'm not sure if stone fruits grow Mexico... But, still, I choose Mexican.

                                        25 Replies
                                        1. re: Glencora

                                          while my initial thought was 'either Chinese or Italian', you have me thinking....and yes, there is definitely pasta in Mexico. For example, sopa seca de fideos, a noodle dish, is quite common...there are also stone fruit in Mexico, though I think many peaches and nectarines in Mexico are imported from the US.

                                          in addition to all of what you mention, Mexico has wonderful pastries (probably a French influence), an incredible variety of candies and sweets, lots of shellish, good ice cream, great paletas... good wines, great beers....and let's not forget tequila....

                                          edited to add: by the way: I did wonder if saying 'Chinese' would be sort of cheating, given the regional variations...though I suppose the same could be said for a number of other countries...

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            susan, i am not familiar with the "french influence" in mexico. would you elaborate, please?

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              You know, the whole thing about the descendant of Napoleon who wanted to recreate the French Monarchy and took over parts of Mexico for a period of time in the 19th century?


                                              1. re: dpan

                                                The French influence goes for beyond Mexico's "disputes" witht the French... I will break it down in as few words as possible:

                                                > Mexico's War of Independence began as an movement by dissident Creoles (the visible leaders were particularly two priests of Moorish ancestry and a prominent Sephardic Jewish couple who had infiltrated Spain's noble caste)... for various reasons they hoped to empower the Indigenous & Mestizo masses to oust the Spanish crown and bring benign Creoles to power.

                                                > As the revolutionary tide swept through the Central highlands... the indigenous & mestizos took out 300 years of frustration on every Creole they encountered. The leaders of the movement were shaken and slowed down the pace of the revolution... allowing the Spanish & Pro-Spain Creoles to regroup and eventually defeat this Anti-Spain Creole & Indigenous consortium.

                                                > The Anti-Spain Creoles regrouped and fought a smaller scale guerilla revolution that provided the indigenous & mesizos with a much smaller role... the result was a stalemate versus the Pro-Spain Creoles (at this point the Mexican insurrection had already inspired Bolivar & friends... and Spain was stretched trying to contain revolution in South America)

                                                > The Pro-Spain Creoles then realized the Spanish crown was weak and they were tired of all the highest positions going only to Spanish born nobles so they joined the Anti-Spain groups... and after a few skirmishes against the Royal Forces they proclaimed independence from Spain.

                                                > The newborn Mexican state began with a very uneasy partnerships... there were two camps. One wanted to create a Liberal Democracy (inspired by the U.S.), abolish slavery and end the Church's domination of Mexico's economy... the other wanted to maintain a conservative monarchy with strong Church involvement (the Church was the largest landholder, promoted thinly veiled slavery, and had a system of kickbacks for its allies). The compromise was an Empire - Mexico's first president was known as Emperor Agustin Iturbide elected via elites consensus + a strong liberal consitution that abolished Slavery and established rights for the indigenous, mesitzos & blacks. The empire fell apart a year later with Central America's succession... and Mexico spent the next 100 years in one long, drawn out Civil War (there were spells of dictatorial driven peace... and others were bloody.... but the Liberal vs. Conservative question could not be resolved... unlike the U.S. internal conflict... Mexico did not have the geographic seperation... the Liberals & Conservatives disputed every State, Municipality, City, Town & Street)

                                                > Both Liberals & Conservatives had one thing in common... they loved France. The Liberals still wanted a European role model (remember the leadership was still Creole)... and they admired French art & culture while the Conservatives simply preferred to be ruled by France.

                                                Upon this agreement... the French were encouraged to immigrate to Mexico... and as France went through its Napoleonic ups & downs... many Frenchmen swamp across the pond for a new life in Mexico bringing their pastry shops and traditions. By the mid 1800s... immigrants from the Barcelonnette valley had made small fortunes via there connections in the textile trading routes between Nantes & Manchester... they leveraged these to get into the Fashion Boutique business... and when industrialization began to shape Mexico... they were early pioneers in Consumer Packaged Goods... including Mexico's most popular beers, canned jalapenos, bottled olive oil, cookies, fried snacks etc., (For anyone who is familar with Mexico's potatoe chip brands etc., Barcel is short for Barcelonette).

                                                > In addition to French immigrants... Mexico's creole leaders simply coveted all things French. Even disgraced politicians would exile themselves in Paris.

                                                Culinary influences came full circle.... the 16th Century discoveries the Spanish shared with the French (via their Palace relationships).... Chocolate, Vanilla, Mixiotes (parchement cooking), Pre-Hispanic Sauce Techniques, etc., played an important role in France's culinary development during the 17th Century and by the 19th Century... French cuisine was leaving a big imprint on Mexican cuisine.

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  eat nopal, you wow me as usual! thank you for the historical depth you took the time to impart to me (and i'm sure a couple of other chowhounds, or so)!

                                                  when are you writing a book? seriously....

                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                    No, not only a book....he needs to be a proffesor. EN's passion is nothing short of inspiring.

                                              2. re: susancinsf

                                                Expanding upon that....

                                                Classic Mexican Pasta dishes (by way of 19th century Italian immigrants)
                                                > Fideos Secos (Angel hair pasta sauteed with chorizo, mushrooms & a chipotle sauce)
                                                > Tallarines a la Diabla (Fettucine tossed with Camarones a la Diabla)
                                                > Lasagna a la Poblana (with layers of Huitlacoche, Roasted Poblanos, Requeson & Cotija)
                                                > Spaghetti a la Mexicana (with a pork meat sauce made with roasted fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, garlic & Mexican oregano)

                                                Stone Fruits
                                                > Lots of stone fruit grown in Central Mexico (particularly Puebla)... a small portion of the harvest is good enough to go on Mercado shelves (were they have to compete with dead ripe Mangos, Pineapples & Papayas like you have never tasted)... the majority of them aren't sweet or juicy enough for raw eating so they end up in desserts & sauces.

                                                Among my favorite traditional uses are:

                                                > Poached Chicken & Grilled Peaches in Manchamanteles mole.
                                                > Salsa Chamoy... an apricot-dried chile salsa used as a dressing for Fruit salads (as well as Jicama etc.,)... it also makes a killer sweet, sour & spicy sauce for savory dishes like Carnitas de Pato (Duck Confit)... that evokes Chinese Plum sauce (but less sweet & syrupy)
                                                > Liquers.... the Mixtecs in Puebla make artisinal liquers out of everything they can get their hands on... and cheap, abundant stone fruits are a major draw

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  Tallarines a la Diabla (Fettucine tossed with Camarones a la Diabla)
                                                  What? My favorite Mexican dish has a pasta sister?
                                                  What a treat that would be...you have recipes? or is it simply the Camarones a la Diabla served over the pasta?

                                                2. re: susancinsf

                                                  I will go with Mexican as well. Not only because of all of the reasons above, but also because I'm half Mexican and was brought up on it. Would miss it way too much without it.

                                                3. re: Glencora

                                                  One more thing... curry. You really need to taste some of the Southern Mexican guisos & moles (I personally consider Indian Cuisine to be Mexico's soulmate on so many fronts).... Oaxacan Goat Barbacoa & Goat Curry; Garbanzos in Chipotle Adobo & Channa Massala; Tesmoles & Pipianes similar to Punjab Chicken Curries, Lentils & Pineapple in Adobo similar to Karnataka dal dishes etc., etc.,

                                                  The similarities can be so astounding that back in the late 80's when Southern Mexican cuisine was impossible to find in East L.A.... my dad would take us to Indian restaurants but he would (in a moment of romantic escapism) pretend it was just a Mexican place... he would even say things like... who wants to for some Barbacoa, Pipian & Garbanzos? And there we were on our away to Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine.

                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                    Everything you describe sounds SO good. I wish I could taste it.

                                                    About the pasta. I really had no idea. Interesting.

                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                      I would really have to say that Mexican is like american food a veritable cornucopia of world foods(just prepared differently or in certain not-everyday-dishes). Lentils-lentejas, moles, garbanzos, rice, tomatoes(native), potatoes(Peruvian), chocolate(native), etc. You will find these ingredients in many foods. Pastas are common, just more in soups, but also in a few regional dishes.

                                                      1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                        Let me just add... the regional dishes are no coincidence... regional pasta specialties almost always coincide near Italian immigrant towns. In fact, we all talk about the 19th Century French influence in Mexican cuisine... but the 19th Century Italian influences is much greater, imho, pound for pound (meaning if we compare the # of immigrants versus their contributions to Mexican mainstream cooking)... albeit its not talked about much, but:

                                                        > Is it any coincidence that lauded Michoacan specialties like Cotija & Requeson are extremely similar to Romano & Ricotta... and that the Michoacan towns famous for those cheese happen to be near Nueva Italia, Michoacan?

                                                        > Is it any coincidence that Fideos Secos hails from Xalapa which boasts a few Italian settlements on its outskirts.

                                                        > Or that Puebla City has a rich body of Lasagna & Northern Italianesque dishes given that nearby Chipilo, Puebla... a town were the majority of residents still speak a 19th Century dialect of Veneto that is all but dissappeared in Italy itself.... and which is well known for its dairy?

                                                        > Then we have the Ensenada area where many of the wine country's pioneers from the early 1900's were Italians (i.e., La Cetto)... and where they have also created a number of Mex-talian fusion dishes. In this context, Cesar Cardini living in Tijuana and inventing the Cesar Salad is not as surprising or random as most people think.

                                                  2. re: Glencora

                                                    They do have pasta dishes just not well known. Most common fideo (angel hair pasta soup) an everyday dish that goes along side beans as much as rice. Also other pasta based soups made of semolina/wheat, but most of these are considered everyday peasant middle class food, and was obviously introduced by Europeans. Some are similar to tomato based soups you find here in the US others are little more complex with ingredients and some are even regional.

                                                    1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                      Yeah but I think the OP was referring to non-soup versions of pasta. Other than the classics I mentioned... I think Plumas con Picadillo (Penne with Tomato-Ancho-Ground Meat sauce & topped with Crema) is another widely consumed classic.

                                                      Some of these are even regularly included at Sanborns monthly specials.

                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                        OP did not even know there were pastas in Mexico. Fideo and other pastas I've seen at many national Mexican grocery stores, including Gigante, SAMA, and other chains as well as mom and pop stores. Housewives from the lowly peasant to the middle class people eat it everyday along with beans, just as they do mexican rice.

                                                        1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                          Indeed, OP did not know that (though I am not sure how you would know that I didn't know...).

                                                          But, OP has also never had any impressive Mexican food. Which is certainly not to say that there isn't such a thing. Just that I've never had any, other than the ever present burritos, quesadillas, empanadas, enchiladas, etc. etc. ect. Dough wrapped around any numbrer of things... *yawn*.

                                                          I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong about this impression, but I have serious doubts this will happen anywhere near PA or Berlin. I guess a trip to Mexico is in order -- perhaps next winter.

                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                            "I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong about this impression, but I have serious doubts this will happen anywhere near PA or Berlin. I guess a trip to Mexico is in order -- perhaps next winter."

                                                            Don't make the trip to Mexico... you will be ruined for life. Other cuisines will lose their appeal to you.


                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                              I find that VERY hard to believe! Despite my original question, I would bbe devastated if I had to limit my foods to one national cuisine only... variety, after all, is the spice of life. But I am always happy to try new cuisines and add them to my 'favorite list' :-D

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                I am telling you... if you spend any significant amount of time there... you will get accustomed to & spoiled by dead ripe, flavorful $0.30 a pound tomatoes... $0.50 avocados, and all the common free range protein... as well as fresh caught $4 a lb, jumbo prawns etc., etc., and just the sheer variety of cooking techniques & ingredients.

                                                                Some small, remote towns don't have much going on... but when you go to a place like Mexico City where artisan quality produce is the traditional norm and is quite accessible to the masses.... and you see a city that has 70+ Street/Farmers markets (some with as many as 700 stalls) going on any given day (or night)... and that is on top of the Mercados (like La Merced with its own subway station & 7 buildings covering 140 Acres)... it tends to have an effect on you.... that is how people like Diana Kennedy & Rick Bayless got sucked in.

                                                                Also... I don't want to be an arse... but if you like Pasta and site that as one of the reasons why you would choose Italian... and then you say making a myriad uses of corn dough is *yawn*... don't you think you are contradicting yourself?

                                                                Most in the know would agree that making Masa based dishes (quality ones) requires the same level of technical sophistication, mastery & artistry as handmade pastas.

                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                  Well, it sounds like a delicious place, one I certainly want to try & eat my way through it some day not too far in the future.

                                                                  That doesn't change the fact that I prefer my dough as (crusty) bread or pasta, and not as a floppy wrap type o'thingee. Just a personal preference.

                                                              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                eat nopal, why not give culinary/historical tours of regional mexican culture? i'd sign up!!

                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                  Count me in on a culinary/historical tour of Mexico, too! I've also been of the belief (but now have seen the light!) that Mexican food didn't get too far beyond beans, rice, a chili or two, and masa wrapped around various different things, and I've even BEEN to Mexico! (But, granted, not with chowhounds!) This is incredibly fascinating, and a return trip to Mexico is moving up on the long "list."

                                                                  1. re: baltoellen

                                                                    What one often sees, or experiencies as Mexican, is really Tex-Mex, or Sonoran-CA cuisine, and not the food of the rest of Mexico. Each state, in Mexico, had their own take on mole. Each state has their own take on almost any other dish, that I can name.

                                                                    There is a Pacific influence, a Carribean influence, an Indio influence, all depending on where you dine.

                                                                    I've been fortunate to have tamales from Guatamala, Cuba, several states of Mexico and then Tex-Mex. None is alike. Still, they are the tamales of the various regions.

                                                                    OTOH, for me French, is still #1, but great points have been made for "Mexican," regardless of region, or state.


                                                                  2. re: alkapal

                                                                    Did that in college... now IT Consulting is a bit more lucrative!

                                                      2. Vietnamese-in Vietnam. So fresh, so tasty, so interesting with so many influences-you got the Chinese, you got the French (so you still have your bread)...the best.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: optimal forager

                                                          My parents just got back from three weeks in Vietnam and said that the food was wonderful, but still hard to eat three times a day, every day.

                                                          1. re: Glencora

                                                            Could you elaborate on what they thought was hard to eat about Vietnamese food?

                                                            1. re: Humbucker

                                                              They've just gone off to India, so I can't ask them, but as I remember they simply got tired of eating very much the same food every day, even though the quality of the produce and meat was very, very good. This may have more to do with eating in hotels and tourist restaurants than anything else. Home cooking might be more varied. They also said that there was more fried food than they'd expected. Eating ANY one cuisine all the time would be hard, don't you think? That's the point of the question.

                                                              1. re: Glencora

                                                                When I go back to India to visit relatives, I devour all the food for about a week or two. Then, I start missing a good deli sandwich, a simple pasta dish, a hamburger, a yummy Western dessert, etc., etc... It really is hard to eat one cuisine three times a day for more than a week. Of course when I go on vacation elsewhere for a week or more, I start craving Indian food (home cooked):-) Hmm, idea for another thread...wonder what other people crave when travelling for a lengthy period?

                                                        2. What do you have against Italian bread?

                                                          I'm glad I'll never have to make this decision, because I don't think I could do it for real. Hypothetically, I'm torn between mostly Asian cuisines - particularly Vietnamese and Indian - but also my good old Italian comfort food...

                                                          1. Great topic. Easy - I love Asian foods - I find it very diverse. I could go Vietnamese on Monday, Thai on Tuesday, Lao on Wed., Cambodian on Thursday, Japanese on Friday, Indian on Saturday (I've recently expanded and love Indian now) Etc. etc. and never get tired of it.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: lexpatti

                                                              yes, but since the OP asked for a specific national cuisine, you'd have to pick just one...

                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                You can see why I flunked geography, somehow when those maps came down in school - I think my eyes did too. My goodness - one??? hmmmm - Japanese would probably win but Vietnamese is very close. Maybe a visit to both places would be awesome.

                                                                1. re: lexpatti

                                                                  fortunately we didn't have a distinct geography class, it was just part of the history curriculum. anyway, i was just giving you a hard time...notice i, myself, haven't yet answered the question posed in the OP...it's too difficult to choose!

                                                                  but if someone held a gun to my head i'd probably say italian.

                                                                  or french.

                                                                  ok, just shoot me now :)

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    Yes, I forgot to mention French - we just did Paris in April and loved it. Love french over italian. My son is living in Paris, they couldn't wait to eat good mexican during this visit home. I guess he can find everything else over there but not good mexican.

                                                              2. re: lexpatti

                                                                I've recently been saying that I could very easily subsist on a diet of food from SE an East Asia. I love Chinese, Lao, Vietnamese, and depending on my mood, the heavier, heartier food of Korea, and Japanese (although I often think that's a cuisine that values looks over tastes). I think that Singapore and Malaysia are the best eating countries hands down.

                                                                But, as far as having to choose ONE for the REST OF MY LIFE, I would probably have to be Vietnamese. I've rarely been to a place with such a variety of foods. As far as bread (well, I"m a bit of a weird Westerners who could live w/o wheat products) the French left a good legacy of bagettes (and, like other French colonies, cheese is in the form of the Laughing Cow little foil covered wedges). As far as wine, I've had my share of rice wine there, and also shared homemade tapioca wine with a family in the Central Highlands.

                                                              3. French for me. Because it is truly central Europe, it has everything from Gaelic recipes involving cold water seafood to the Flemish of the north, the "Italian" cuisine of Provence, the Swiss cuisine of Savoie, the "German" cuisine of Alsace; Catalan, Basque (both Spanish ), and then there is la France profonde, the great center, everything from the geese raised in the Dordogne to the lentils of Auvergne, to Bresse chicken. Add on the most varied and historic wine industry in the World and 3,000 types of cheeses including many raw milk selections. I hear the breads and desserts are not bad, either.

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  Thanks, Steve! I totally agree that if I had only one cuisine to choose from, it would be French. (And I'm married to a Chinese woman, and love Asian food.) From Chateaubriand to charcuterie, from pate to patisserie, from baguette to Brie.. it's all good! We spent the first part of our honeymoon in Paris, and one of the best meals we had was a ficelle, some jambon, and a selection of cheeses we enjoyed on the train from Paris to Lisbon. (What made the meal truly memorable was we were sharing our compartment with a very French gentleman. On our flight over, our stewardess, knowing the occasion, presented us with a bottle of fine Napa Cabernet. When I opened it, he lowered his Le Monde just slightly, and gave me the faintest Gallic sneer; since we were rolling through Bordeaux at the time, I can almost forgive him!)

                                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                                    French is a very compelling choice for sure. I adore French cuisine and wine. The only reason I decided on Asian is because after a two week trip to France, indulging in all the Gallic deliciousness, we started to seriously crave Chinese.... If you can't last two weeks, you can't last a lifetime. But I would be heartbroken never to have French again....

                                                                    1. re: moh

                                                                      Yeah, you're probably right. But I also don't know enough about Chinese food to make any kind of eternal committment at this point. Maybe when I get back from my "Someday in the Future" China trip, I'll have a better idea.

                                                                  2. re: Steve

                                                                    I absolutely agree with the choice of French, for the reasons cited above. Not only does it encompass many of the cuisines of continental Europe, but it also boasts some wonderful North African influences.

                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                      While I would hate to have give up tastes from other parts of the world, French cuisine would be my choice. That always sort of was, in my mind, my "culinary center", or a base...
                                                                      And since wine is such an essential part of a good meal, that makes my choice even easier: French, hands down.

                                                                      1. re: FoodWine

                                                                        ...and after French, "New American" (including fusion cooking ) ... but can I have French (or at least Spanish) wine with that? ;-D.

                                                                    2. Gee, the question was about one national cuisine. not a mixture. I'd vote for Chinese as far and away the best.

                                                                      1. Such a difficult question to ponder. Varitey is the spice of life, as they say.

                                                                        That said, I would choose: Pakistani food.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                          I really, really love the food in and around Lahore.

                                                                        2. Hmm... I think I'd go Persian. I love the simple and delicious kebobs with rice, the grilled veggies. It would be easy to keep healthy. And when in the mood for something more exotic, I could go for one of the stews or soups that are so flavorful.
                                                                          Plus, I wouldn't want to live without rose water ice cream!

                                                                            1. Right after reading the OP, I thought it's a no brainer to pick "Chinese" since it's what I grew up eating and certainly wouldn't mind eating it only for the rest of my life. But sitting on my original pick for a few days, I decided to pick "Japanese" over "Chinese" because I am always fascinated by how Japanese "perfect" the art of savoring seafood, sushi, sashimi, .... as well as how they improvise dishes originated from other nations cuisine to make it just as good but in a Japanese way (unlike in most countries where foreign dishes usually lose their original identity and never regain the respect they deserve in a foreign land). Ramen, curry rice, pastries are all good examples. Another good example would be Chinese cuisine in Japan - Japanese cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese and many classic Chinese dishes have their yummy cousins that taste just as good in Japanese cuisine.

                                                                              So, by going with Japanese cuisine for the rest of my life, I will be getting the best of, not just two, but many worlds, including chinese, japanese, and other cuisines that find their way into the ever enriching Japanese cuisine (...I might have been Japanese in my previous life....)

                                                                              1. you would miss good bread? i assume you've been to italy, lingua. no good bread there?

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: fara

                                                                                  Well, yeah, if you like a lot of white bread. Having grown up with an abundance of different breads, I would find that to be a bit tiring after a while -- though that type of bread, just like baguette, works awesomely well with cheese :-D.

                                                                                  I like the crustiness and fluffiness of some of the Italian breads, but ciabatta just makes me yawn. Perhaps there are many breads that I am not aware of, but I doubt you'd find stuff like pumpernickel (and I am talking about the real deal, not that nasty, caramel-colored wonderbread excuse sold under this name in the U.S.), or Schwarzbrot, or Vollkornbrot, Röggelchen, etc. etc.

                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                    i had a lot of whole grain bread in italy, it was baked just like a peasant loaf. "pane integrale." there's semolina as well.

                                                                                    1. re: fara

                                                                                      Well, I guess then I can be even happier about *theoretically* choosing Italian for the rest of my life :-D

                                                                                2. My first choice with out a doubt would be Mexican in Mexico (meaning with Mexico's produce, chickens & cooks etc.,)... my alternates would be:

                                                                                  > Indian
                                                                                  > Thai
                                                                                  > Italian
                                                                                  > Turkish
                                                                                  > Chinese

                                                                                  And if the French ever learn how to cook with Chiles & Spices... then thrown in French to the mix. American if we can count all the recent immigrant cuisines and I am not forced to ever consume crap like Tabasco sauce & bad versions of Pot Roast!

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                                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                    The French make great use of merguez sausage, which may at least be a start for spiciness.

                                                                                    1. re: littlegreenpea

                                                                                      Definitely not in a way that would satisfy my soul. I find life fairly somewhat meaningless without chile based food... not too mention handmade corn tortillas.

                                                                                  2. This question is sort of evil...but if I did have to choose one it'd probably have to be Mexican. I remember being home visiting my folks and we were trying to figure out what we were having for dinner, adn someone suggested Mexican food, but we'd already planned to go out for it that night. One of us wondered, "Can we eat Mexican food twice in one day?" and my dad said, "Why not? Mexicans do!" So we did.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                      This question is evil--i have been staring at the monitor reading everyone's posts and have grown increasingly anxiety ridden. I would have to agree with lingua food and go with Italian, but Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Mexican are all tied for second. Is that a decision?

                                                                                    2. Heh...Can we cheat and say United Statesian cuisine? You'd never have to give up anything :)

                                                                                      But if I'm not cheating, I think that after a long and sorrowful goodbye to Japanese food, I'd go with Italian.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Papuli

                                                                                        Born and raised in Southern California I would have to say Mexican, I have not gone a week in my life without eating it since I was like 5 years old and when I travel in Europe I crave it in the worst way...I am leaving for Europe in a few days and I have eatfen Mexican at least one a day for the past week trying to rid myself of the cravings to come...isnt working and I just cant tire of it! To never eat chips and salsa again???? No way could not do it.

                                                                                        1. re: Papuli

                                                                                          Exactly what I was thinking! "American" means I wouldn't have to give up anything.

                                                                                          But I have a question for the OP. Would your hypothetical situation mean that I would loose all memory of other cuisines? THAT is the only thing that would make choosing reasonable I've lived overseas twice, and both times developed insatiable cravings. The first time for glazed donuts. The second time for the cheapest McDonald's hamburgers with the teensy weensy diced onions in them. When I came beck the first time, the donut craving vanished as soon as I stepped off the plane. The second time I went directly to McDonalds and bought a bag of twenty hamburgers and put them in the freezer. I think I threw the last few out on their fifth anniversary.

                                                                                          But if I really had to choose, I suspect I would probably go with Turkish. Good food, good wine, good cheese, GREAT bread! Then I would sit and dream of glazed donuts while feasting on baklava and lokoum. Such deprivation! '-)

                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            Ha. Losing your memory for other cuisines. That would just be too easy. As I said, I would _really_ miss the SE Asian heat. I'd miss Mediterranean -- Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese. I'd miss French, Chinese, maybe even some German stuff ;-). That's what makes the decision so hard. I really had to go by which cuisine I seek out the most when traveling, or my favorite dishes, which just happen to be a lot of pasta, salads, seafood, meats & cheeses. Well, let's be honest here. Talleggio, mostly. Hands down one of my favorite cheeses...

                                                                                        2. I was going to say Austrian for the breadth of its flavors, the heartiness of its homecooking and the richness of its desserts. But now that someone said Chinese, I don't know if I could say no to spending the rest of my life eating Sichuan, Shanghainese, Hunanese, etc...

                                                                                          1. I'd have to go with Italian - gotta have bread, pasta, cheese.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: PDeveaux

                                                                                              It would definitely be Chinese.

                                                                                              Stir fried lobster, fresh steamed fish, dim sum, stir fried pea shoot, congee, wonton noodle ... i can go on and on

                                                                                              I can never grow tired of chinese food. so much variety.

                                                                                              Second choice would definitely be italian.

                                                                                              1. re: caitlink

                                                                                                Wow, this is hard...but I would have to vote for Chinese for the same reasons as caitlink mentioned plus soup dumplings, egg custard tartlets, wuxi pork chops, salt and pepper squid....

                                                                                                Followed by Japanese, French, Mexican, and American

                                                                                              2. re: PDeveaux

                                                                                                Bread, pasta, and cheese are all part of French cuisine as well. Some might say that the variety of bread and cheese is greater in France.

                                                                                              3. Predicated on the number of restaurants that we end up dining, based on the nationality of the cuisine, I'd say French, with American, Hawaiian & Mexican behind, but in a similar position. Beyond that, it's Thai, with Vietnamese and Chinese down that group's list. Last, I'd give the nod to Indian, with others spread down the list.

                                                                                                Maybe it depends on where one is dining.


                                                                                                [EDIT] Wife just yanked my ear, and said that she thinks we do Italian, more than Hawaiian, so there is controversy in the family. Still FR, American, then Italian/Hawaiian, and the rest remains the same.

                                                                                                1. French all the way. There are so many regional differences and the cheeses, wines, and sauces make this a definite choice for me.

                                                                                                  1. What a great question! For me, it has always been Italian, but now Indian food has become my second favorite (replacing Chinese). To go along with this question, I always ask people what their "last meal" would be. Mine is always the simplest - pasta with (great) red sauce, dense, crusty Italian bread (like Perreca's, Schenectady, NY) with butter, a glass (or two) of 2004 Antinor Tignanello chianti, canoli (Modern Pastry, Boston). Then, I could die content.

                                                                                                    1. grew up eating filipino food, still cook filipino food, so i think i'll choose filipino food - cooked by me or my mom, restaurant filipino food is gross!

                                                                                                      1. Given that I grew up mostly on Japanese food, I think my choice would be Japanese, though gosh, I'm addicted to cheese. I also love good bread. Maybe if I can get away with making my own bread, I'd pick Japanese.

                                                                                                        Whenever I go to Japan though (3 week stretches), I usually find enough food that for that period, I don't miss the cheese. Of course, 3 weeks is hardly the rest of your life. . ..

                                                                                                        Oddly, even though I think my choice would be Japanese, when I am in my own kitchen, I hardly ever make Japanese food. Probably because I can't get the flavors quite like my mom's, and then it takes me over an hour to make just one side dish (kimpira gobo, which I absolutely love, but the shredding of gobo takes forever.).

                                                                                                        I know it's not a country, but does Californian cuisine (which kindof includes an eclectic mix of a lot of different cuisines) count? Or does that defeat the purpose of this whole exercise. :)

                                                                                                        1. Ooh tough question! It boils down to Japanese or Thai food but I think in the end, I'd go Japanese. I have been known to temporarily tire of Thai food but I can never recall getting sick of Japanese food!

                                                                                                          Endless sushi, hibachi, tempura, teriyaki.....you name it, bring it on!

                                                                                                          1. I would say french because I could live a lifetime alone on bread, cheese, wine, fruit and desserts. But I love so many of their dishes. Mexican and Lebanese food though follow respectively.

                                                                                                            1. Lebanese food. So healthy, and so tasty. Lots of lovely grilled meats and fish, spice, simple fresh flavours, fresh veggies and abundant herbs - parsley, corriander, mint, grains, beans, and the home cooking is so hearty and beautiful. Lots of vegetarian meals, and lots of really meaty stuff too! Plus big time french influence, so cheese and bread wouldn't be a problem.

                                                                                                              1. It seems that a lot of people are choosing the food they grew up with, whether that is Korean, Mexican or whatever. It makes the question sort of different for those of us with no "default" cuisine. You can't even call what I grew up eating "American." It was a variety of not very good versions of food from other cultures.

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                                  I'd be interested to know which people chose cuisines different from the ones they grew up with... I'm ethnically Chinese but choose Italian for my one cuisine. When I cook for myself, it's almost always Italian. When I'm stressed, I make some version of spaghetti carbonara. When I'm sad, I make bolognese. When I want to treat myself, I make gnocchi (either potato or butternut squash/ricotta). I can't think of one gustatory moment more life-changing for me than the first time I tasted real Parmesan. Even my preferred Chinese foods kind of resemble Italian food (knife cut noodles with meat sauce, chewy rice cakes with pork and preserved vegetables, dumplings).

                                                                                                                  1. re: daveena

                                                                                                                    My heritage is Italian but I'm drawn to Asian cuisines. I haven't really analyzed it, but I think it has to do with the amount of steamed and/or sautéed veggies in Asian food. I like my veggies crisp and lightly sauced.

                                                                                                                    I know Italian food is very healthy and veg-friendly, and I love it, but I don't crave it like I do Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and Indian food.

                                                                                                                    1. re: daveena

                                                                                                                      Along those lines, I grew up with the "comfort foods," of the Deep South, but still chose French as my #1 cuisine. Some may differ, but that is the nature of culinary tastes.


                                                                                                                      1. re: daveena

                                                                                                                        my parents are european jews, i'm a native new yorker, and i said japanese

                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                          I have the same ethnic background, and grew up on the east coast, and I said Vietnamese!

                                                                                                                    2. Japanese -- great flavours and variety, great quality, a seafood emphasis, very healthy and satisfying.

                                                                                                                      1. Belgian. Influences from all over the continent, plus the best beer in the world! (My first choice was Chinese, but then all the other posts got me thinking...)

                                                                                                                        1. I have no doubt most Americans would choose a western Mediterranean cuisine because it's closest to our own cuisine-in-the-making: a cuisine that has a preference for straightforward flavors.

                                                                                                                          I think the relative lack of dairy, bread and wine in East Asian cuisines would be killers for most Americans, loving those cuisines even they do. Middle Eastern cuisines would suffer for lack of pork, and Indian cuisines for lack of beef.

                                                                                                                          Mexico's family of cuisines has the distinction of ranking the four others among the top 5 cuisine families in the world (the four others being, from west to east, Franco-Italian, Turko-Persian, Indian, and Chinese).

                                                                                                                          Personally, a world without Viennese patisserie, to which that of both France and Italy both owe much, would be deeply impoverished."Continental" cuisine may be unfashionable in the US now, but it had much to offer here.

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                            Is "cuisine family" an actual foodie cultural/anthropological term?

                                                                                                                            1. re: baltoellen

                                                                                                                              I don't know, it's something I've used for years for a reason. "Cuisine" as an unmodified word in the US tends to be equivocal and that most of what people think of as major cuisines are often discussed as a group of cuisines by the food writers. There are reasons I treat French and Italian cuisines (likewise Persian and Turkish) as part of a larger related family (albeit with senior and junior members) - they are very interrelated and reinforced over time even if there are some notable differences.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                Interesting concept, like language families. (Although, what do I know? I'm one of those stereotypical monolingual Americans! ;-)) Having just read the very excellent Why We Eat What We Eat, I'm more interested than ever in how "cuisines" (however you want to define them) develop. I would guess, though, that unlike languages, cuisine development may be a bit more fluid.

                                                                                                                                Actually, in the book, there is this concept of macrocuisines, i.e, taro, chilies, potatoes, that are found in many places around the world, as well as microcuisines, i.e., sauces in the Philippines, so perhaps a "cuisine family" fits right in there too.

                                                                                                                          2. Vietnamese...today anyways~!

                                                                                                                            1. The buffet. Not only does the variety represent the diversity of the US, it also illustrates our issues with overeating.

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                                                                                                                              1. re: St.Helens Matt

                                                                                                                                a hundred years of plenty cannot compete with millions of years on the savannah, when it comes to human behavior.

                                                                                                                              2. OMG! How could a person choose just ONE? Like which music would you take if you had to relocate to the moon? The descriptions below just make me realize how much more food there is to taste and how short the time is. Mexican...I can hardly do without my chile, I even prefer it to chocolate but mole, combining the two is sublime. I love fish so much, I'm tempted to choose Japanese and I love the way each small course has it's own distinct flavor. Italian....I brake for Osso Buco. French, pate, cheese, bread and wine is simply the ultimate. India and Morocco for their veggies. And how could I forget bbq...whole pig and bones.I am absolutely starving!!!