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Elements Of Americanization?

With this topic I would like to explore the common elements in the "Americanization" of foreign cuisines. Some of these cuisines are more familiar than others, such as American Italian, American Chinese, non-traditional sushi rolls. Do you think there are certain things that generally take place when a cuisine is Americanized?

One obvious element is the removal of offals. Another related element is to make food look less like the animal it came from, such as removing bones, heads, skin. These are not taste changes though. As far as tastes go, perhaps the removal of pungent herbs. Another obvious element is a great reduction of fat, especially visible fat attached to the meat.

What else?

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  1. I've known Chinese cooks who reduced the amount of salt (because soy sauce is often added prodigiously by the non-Chinese customer). Chinese food relies on texture as well as flavor, but most American palates tend to minimize texture. That's why you won't see something like sea cucumber on an Americanized-Chinese menu.

    Finally, removing the skin or bones does change the taste of the food because they are considered part of the original ethnic dish (e.g Beijing duck).

    1. Things frequently become sweeter than in the original dish.

      1. Yes. adding sugar or corn syrup & bright orange coloring to Chinese food seems to be one way to americanizing it. Oh, and quadrupling the portion size, of course '-D

        1. For the most part, you also tend to see a major toning down of the heat in terms to spice. This occurs quite often in Thai and Caribbean cooking, but also Mexican and Indian.

          1. More meat, fewer organs and heads, reduced spices in some cases, less fat, no blood, "sanitized" fish, few or no small mammals, no rodents large or small, ....

            Then there are a lot of preparations that reflect what is not available in the US, but is available elsewhere and vice - versa.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I'd like to think that's changing somewhat but I'm not expecting to find guinea pig/cuy at Applebee's any time soon.

            2. The addition of High Fructose Corn Syrup et al.

              Portions get larger

              Meat proportion increasse.

              Fusion confusion


              Removal of bitter components

              Less heat

              Food served in courses rather than together

              Required use of cutlery

              Not all of these always, but some of them quite often.

              1. More than one person now mentioned corn syrup. This is a very interesting point because I don't think it's even used in normal American cuisine. I wonder what was the rationale for using it in American Chinese.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Dio Seijuro

                  I'm not sure if corn syrup is used in American-Chinese cooking. I would guess that sugar is used instead--easier to use with stir-fry and deep-fry dishes.

                2. A lot of cuisines have "suffered" from americanization. But from my perspective, I think Mexican probably has suffered the most. Growing up and in my 20's, I could never understand why anyone would like mexican food or why they would put so much cheese on their food.

                  I was went on a 10 year ban from all mexican resturant (in my world that being the standard national chain you probably know) until I did the SF barrito scene brought me back to this amazing cusine.

                  1. Ubiquitous use of tomatoes in American- Italian cuisine, parm too. Bean and cheese glop, call it Mexican, charge a lot for it, and publicize the Margaritas. "Pub Fare" that would be unrecognizable in the UK.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      I pretty much know I don't want to go for Mexican food anywhere that "features" a strawberry (or any other fruit) Margarita.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        So, um, just to be clear: lime is a fruit, and it's the backbone of a Margarita. You're excepting lime, correct? Because if you're not, you're pretty much excluding the category of "Margarita" completely, and reducing it to just tequila and what-not.

                        1. re: boagman

                          Error, error, error!!!!! Lime is, of course, a fruit and is the ONLY fruit that will be in MY Margarita. Thanks.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          I went astray yesterday (at a Mexican restaurant), and had a Blue Gecko" margarita, with blue Curacao for the first time. The first one tasted OK, but the second had way too much Curacao. Never again.
                          I agree that if a wide selection of designer margaritas (or tequilas), seem to be touted more than the food then you can forget the food being good. Locally, it seems young drinkers will eat anything (described as "Mexican"), once they've had a few.

                          1. re: Scargod

                            So did the Curacao replace the triple sec or was it in addition to? Sounds not so tasty and I have a REAL aversion to blue drinks :) Shiver.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Even abysnth? No Americanization there!

                        3. re: Passadumkeg

                          UK pub food is generally pretty terrible, lots of mass-produced re-heated meals. There are gastropubs of course, but these are for those with a bigger budget. Any conception that there is some sort of good working-class food available in the UK is almost completely misplaced. The exception would be ethnic (South Asian usually, African in some areas) communities, where in the place of the convenience stores selling canned food and chocolate bars, you instead find ethnic vegetables, a butcher's counter selling offal and tougher grades of meat, and spices.

                          1. re: mikehunt69

                            Mike, I dunno, I feel that in rural England there is still a lot of good pub grub to be had. I feel what you say is true for London and other urban areas.
                            S place that has ale "in the wood" usually has good traditional fare as well.

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              It's true that you might find a good, modestly priced, pub in rural Norfolk or some such, but for the most part you'll either be paying £££ or eating junk if you walk into a random pub in England.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                I'm not quite sure Mike is his real name ....

                                I agree with you, PassaD. I've eaten reasonable food in many pubs, especially rural areas. Last time I was there I had some great meals in Cumbria, Cheshire and Northumbria. Then again it could have just been a massive coincidence because the weather was good as well.

                                1. re: Paulustrious

                                  haha good call on that paulustrious (not assuming your name either, lol) i didn't think about it til i saw the 69 and remembered high school, haha

                              2. re: mikehunt69

                                I really have to agree with you, Mike. I've only lived in England for 6 years, but I've visited loads of pubs (rural and town and city) and I think good, reasonably priced food in pubs is the exception rather than the rule. As you say, you can find higher-end 'gastropubs' all over, but very frequently it's reheated stodge or dry sandwiches.

                            2. I think there is some confusion between mass production and Americanization. Restaurants aren't adding corn syrup and dyes to get that "great American flavor," but stabilizing their product for mass consumption. There are plenty of shortcuts cooks taking in trying to prepare lots of food for lots of people and it has resulted in bastardized Chinese and Mexican from here to the Hebrides.

                              But that is not to say there are not common themes used among non-American restaurateurs to appeal to American palates. Meat is deboned and far removed from resembling any identifiable part of an animal. Moreover there is often more protein in a dish than is traditional (in general serving size is increased as well). Spice and pungent flavors are usually toned down or otherwise mediated by extra sugar. More foods are fried, though I am not convinced this is an appeal to American palates so much as it appeals to an intrinsic preference for high-fat/high-calorie foods among most eaters.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: JungMann

                                In defence of of the HFCS exponents, the OP did not specify restaurants - merely cuisine, which includes home cooking, delivery and supermarket products.

                                And corn syrup is in a LOT of American cuisine.

                                Unless we define cuisine to exclude anything containing corn syrup and other manufactured sugars.

                                1. re: JungMann

                                  Very good post. It's not just a taste preference issue. In a way, "Americanization" indicates a paradigm shift from serving food that makes taste and nutritional sense, to a more profit-maximizing model. So, in a way, even American restaurants can "Americanize", by becoming chains, use extensive market research to decide what to serve, take mass opinion over chef's, nutritionists' or more discernible eaters', etc. What's served is not determined by people who know something about good food (such as the chef), but by what brings most money. It's a result of American culture as much as it is of American taste, if not more.

                                  I think if restaurants in China, Japan, Mexico, Italy take this approach, their quality will go down as well, because the average eater in these countries do not necessarily have any better taste than the average American. It just seems like they have better taste because traditionally the cultures have let the chef, the person who's supposedly most able to decide what's good, decide what to serve you.

                                  1. re: Dio Seijuro

                                    This approach already is being taken in those four countries. I have not been to an industrialized nation where the process of "Americanization" has not become common. Where it is less common, this seems to be a function of poverty, rurality, nationalist pride, or severe governmental restriction of commerce. I don't see taste as a factor. Crappy fast food and takeout are as common in Tokyo as in New York - just as good, authentic fast food and takeout are just as common in either city.

                                    1. re: Dio Seijuro

                                      Corn syrup is found in a lot of American products, but so is xanthan gum, yet no one is arguing that is an element of American cuisine. Similar products for mass-consumption in other countries contain similar additives, but that does not Americanize those products any more than the assembly line represents the Americanization of the means of production.

                                      It is somewhat ironic to argue that American producers could be more American than they already are. What is actually suggested is that producers can yield a product that is market-driven, but this should not be conflated with being American (otherwise every popular caterer who has taste-tested is by default American). You can argue that there is something lost when cooks appeal to the most common denominator, but that is not an innately American trait. Pre-mixed stirfry sauces are already consumed by the Chinese, dashi powder with a set amount of MSG has long been available in Japan, even Italians are buying premade. Don't exoticize these cultures --- their traditional food is delicious not because they defer to well-informed chefs, but because they made the best of what they had. Nowadays as more people work, time rather than scarcity has become the mitigating factor.

                                      Again, that does not mean that there have not been American influences on foreign cuisines, particularly as it is consumed stateside. But Americanization and commercialization are not the same thing.

                                  2. Sugar. The Chinese are the leaders (I know, I'm in the Chinese restaurant business). Italians who put sugar in their red sauce (or worse, in dishes that make one shudder, like "veal Francese." What's that?) I was served veal piccata that had sugar in it at a banquet. And there's sugar in prepared salsa, so the Mexican cuisine hasn't been spared.

                                    I'm also ticked at American restaurateurs for dressing something up in cheap black olives, cheap feta cheese, cheap olive oil and dried oregano and calling it "Mediterranean."

                                    1. I agree very strongly with JungMann's distinction between mass production and Americanization. I think the term "Americanized" is grossly inaccurate and mildly offensive. To begin with, the process of dumbing down foods from other cultures certainly did not start in America. If it is more common in America than it is in other industrialized nations (and I would not necessarily agree that it is), this is simply a product of the fact that eating foreign cuisines is more common in America.
                                      Historically, the dumbing down of foreign foods goes back at least to the Roman Empire. In the modern era, this process has been greatly intensified through mass production and industrialization. On this scale, it was happening in the British Empire, Russian Empire, and Germanic states long before it was happening in the United States.
                                      The term "Americanized" should mean "made more American". How is making food less flavorful and filling it with corn syrup making it more like real American food? In order to accept this, you have to accept that Applebee's and McDonald's represent real, authentic American food. To me, this is at least as ridiculous as me trying to claim that the New York area Chinese food I grew up on is authentic Cantonese. Take Chili's as an example. Chili's is supposed to be Southwestern food. The Southwest is American. How can you Americanize what is already American? This is a simple logical fallacy.
                                      Taking American Chinese food and American Italian food as examples, it is also easy to see how Americanized is a silly term. First of all, neither one is anything like any traditional American food. Can anyone name an American dish with an even remotely similar flavor profile to General Tso's chicken?
                                      More importantly, the genesis of American Chinese food was not as a commodity to be sold to white Americans. It started as the food cooked by very young (averaging younger than 17), almost exclusively male, Chinese immigrants, eaten in their own labor camps. They had no access to most ingredients they were familiar with and had not been taught by their mothers how to cook the dishes of their homelands. The resultant cuisine emulated what they could remember eating to the greatest degree they were capable. They also added a ton of sugar and cornstarch because, being dirt poor laborers, they needed a cheap source of caloric energy to get through 16 hours of manual labor a day.
                                      The genesis of American Italian food is a very different story. In short, real American Italian food (Little Italy, not Olive Garden) is perfectly authentic late 19th century Southern Italian. Sure, you will not find spaghetti and meatballs eaten together as one dish in Southern Italy today. Today you have the antipasto, primo, and secondo. The multi course Italian meal did not exist outside of very rich households in the 19th century. Those who immigrated here tended to be the poorest of the poor, and this class of Italians ate the foods that have became ubiquitous to a real American Italian restaurant. They ate one big meal a day, and everything but the salad and bread went into one dish.
                                      In America, as well as every industrialized nation I've been to, you also see a bunch of crappy American food. If American food is subjected to the same process that in other ethnic foods is labeled "Americanization", doesn't that point to the need for a better term for this process? Neither of the major brands of baked beans even vaguely resembles the New England baked beans I grew up on or what I'm familiar with as Southern baked beans. So that makes them what, Americanized baked beans?
                                      It isn't Americanization. It's industrialized capitalism.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                                        thank you. i hadn't been participating as i was tired of carrying this banner alone.

                                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                                          I agree with the mass production model,not an Americanization.Corporations have so much influence on what we eat and what we can buy at the supermarket.

                                          I think that there is a certain type of American that prefers these mass produced foods, but that's all they've had growing up. Our regional cuisines still use a variety of meats and ingredients, namely cajun, creole, southwestern, etc.

                                          This corporate food distribution is happening world wide, not so much in Cuba, though. But, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Olive Garden don't represent American cuisine.They are nationless distributors and marketers of food products.

                                          In LA we have authentic regional Mexican cuisines, East LA Mexican, Cal-Mex, Mexican-American, and Tex-Mex.

                                          Burritos developed on both sides of the border, the burrito norteno, a slender burrito with a simple stewed filling, and the giant everything that will fit burrito available in LA, SF, and all across the country.

                                          I don't think Americans said, hmmm. this could use sour cream and some guac! This was probably a marketing decision, by a large or small establishment. It's an easy money maker and has pop appeal.

                                          While in Mexico you won't see the giant burrito, you might see a super torta, or a massive bag of tostilocos. How about salchipulpos? Deep fried weiners and french fries smothered in ketchup?That's about as appealing to me as a Mission burrito or a Hollenbeck.

                                          There are also new restaurants in LA popping up that are wildly popular like Animal that are serving bone marrow, pig ears, etc.

                                          I think if the US weren't so heavily influenced by corporate food distribution, we would have more choices and change, but don't call it Americanization.

                                          Clear out the McDonald's and their cheap burgers, then maybe those mollejas on sale would look attractive, but the cheap burger is a worldwide weakness.

                                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                                            Adding local ingredients to items, in this case guac and sour cream, is exactly what we're talking about. Folks thought it tasted good, and presto-the American/Mission burrito is born.

                                            1. re: bbqboy

                                              Is that what the taquerias were doing in SF in the 60's when the Mission burrito was born? This process started before the Mission, the post WWII fast food, cheap food boom, rapid industrialization and commercialization of the food industry.

                                              The burrito was wide open for commercial spin offs, Korean burritos, wraps, giant burrito, wet burritos, tofu burritos, etc. Super sized due to the availability of cheap commercial products.It was started by a taqueria owner, not SF's demand for a bigger burrito, or America's demand.

                                              1. re: bbqboy

                                                Avocado or guacamole and sour cream are very common optional "toppings" for many taco/quesadilla/enchilada/burrito in Mexico and mexican food in general. They don't have to go together all the time, a sharper flavour is prefered.

                                                1. re: mjs

                                                  You mean crema mexicana, not sour cream.Two different things.Crema would be on some enchiladas, and quesadillas preparadas(real quesadillas stuffed, look like large empanadas. but only seafood tacos would use a type of crema that's homemade.

                                                  Guacamole would be with some meat tacos, or a salsa with avocado.Tacos in Mexico are very regional and are paired with condiments. Guacamole is more common with carne asada, especially in northern Mexico.Not with borrego or birria.

                                                  Mexican burritos nortenos have a simple guisado(filling) and just a squirt of salsa, no guacamole.

                                                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                    Well, that's sort of my point. Those rules don't apply in the US.

                                                    if I want the works on my Mission Burrito, I expect the place I'm at to
                                                    provide me the experience, or I'll go find someplace else.
                                                    What about this new Korean taco trend sweeping the land?
                                                    I'm betting one doesn't see those in Mexico or Korea.

                                                    1. re: bbqboy

                                                      I understand you expect a product to be as such, but I am merely commenting that it's a product made in a highly market conscious business environment. Corporate food sourcing and entrepreneurs looking to use the cheap products to make an attractive product.

                                                      Kogi may have been a laor of love, but the trucks that followed have jumped on the bandwagon, dollar signs in mind, not necessarily great food.

                                                      You'd be surprised what you'd see in the taco world in Mexico, especially Mexico City. In the tacos de guisado category there are no boundaries. There are many traditional Mexican guisados like chicharron,nopales, pollo en mole, or bistec con papa, but I've also seen tacos of french fries, potato salad, octopus with mediterreanean olives cooked in olive oil, cream of spinach, and potato salad. Japanese and Chinese fast food is very popular in Mexico and you see this as street food as well. To document all the street food in Mexico would be impossible, but it would be safe to say that someone has taken some Korean BBQ in Mexico and put it in a tortilla, just no commercialization.

                                                      There are al regional pastor chains and rotisserie chicken chains throughout DF, but for guisados, and steamed tacos, there's simply no way for a chain to compete with the cheap home cooked guisados and canastas(steamed). There are as little as 50 cents per taco. Mexico has no National chains outside of Sanborn's, Vip's, and Wings, the equivalents of a Denny's type restaurant. But Sanborn's has special menus each month featuring the cuisine of Chiapas, or Puebla, and so on. The large corporations that have national presence in Mexico are McDonald's, Burger King, etc. I see these also as corporate forces, without borders or ties to any country.

                                                      I think if we could have the freedom to let street food loose here in the US we'd see less of the "trends", "products". etc. You don't need a woman in tiny pink shorts to sell a great taco de guisado at 50 cents per.

                                                      Sonora and Sinaloa have sushi roll stands everywhere.And there is Mexican fusion in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean restaurants in Mexico. Check out the Cantonese restaurants in Mexicali, or in Mexico City. You will chipotles and chiles gueros being used in the contonese cooking. Hot sauce at the tables.

                                                    2. re: streetgourmetla

                                                      In my experience there are several cremas in Mexico, crema de rancho is thick, almost like butter and is used in savory and sweet dishes, crema agria (sour cream) is used in savory dishes, crema fresca is lighter, and of course crema para batir (whipping cream), among other ones. Some enchiladas that are served with cream are served with crema de rancho or agria. Most quesadillas are crema free, i can only think of the ones in Maria Isabel restaurant, in Colonia Polanco in Mexico City. I know "real quesadillas", they are made in many ways in Mexico, using already made corn or wheat tortillas or the quesadilla de masa fresca, the ones you mention,either fried or just cooked in the comal and are lovely with their fillings of huitlacoche, potatoes and longaniza, chicken tinga, rajas poblanas, cheese, etc.

                                                      Barbacoa de borrego is usually served with slices of avocado or guacamole, salsa borracha, nopalitos, the borrego's broth. Guacamole, green sauce with avocado and fresh avocado are used in many tacos like red rice, anything pork, seafood, quesadillas and other cheese things (in Oacaxa they have the most wonderful Tlayudas with asiento (the brown bits of lard in the bottom of the cazuela) string cheese, avocado and salsa), and very popular in tacos al carbon.

                                                      1. re: mjs

                                                        You said sour cream, kinda figured you were talking about good old IMO style, which can be substituted for crema agria, but isn't the same. So, if you meant crema agria, then I'm with you. Point is the stuff we use on the burritos and tacos here on your Mex-American style taqueria, is different, I think I'm being clear.

                                                        I believe avocado slices to be different than guacamole.Avocado is always around more or less, Haven't come across much guacamole in my barbacoa de borrego experiences. A salsa with avocado in it is also not the same as guacamole.

                                                        Avocados are much cheaper in Mexico, more variety available too, and here guacamole is more cost effective, especially in a mix.

                                                        Simply, avocados, guacamole, salsas con aguacate are used, but usually where they are a proper complement, and not used when they aren't.

                                                        And, I agree, not all quesadillas have crema, which means that some do. DF has just about everything.

                                                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                          that all sounds wonderful.
                                                          How does Americanization fit in, other than the same old "authentic"

                                                  2. re: bbqboy

                                                    I moved to SF in the mid70s and have had scores of burritos from the Mission District and never once did it come with guac or sour cream. I suppose I could have asked for it but I never did.

                                                2. re: danieljdwyer

                                                  Daniel, I'd certainly say the same, but it would be interesting to see how, say Italian food evolved in the US as opposed to Argentina, which both had huge Italian immigrant waves, or the evolution of many other national cuisines in various host countries that are all "industrialised-capitalist".

                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                    Italian food in Argentina is very similar to the traditional Italian fare, homemade simple pasta, gnocci, pizza. Except they have lots and lots of meat for asados.

                                                3. Mix-and-match pasta and sauces. In true Italian cooking, you get the correct type of pasta to match the sauce.

                                                  Pasta with chunks of chicken on top. Totally an American invention.

                                                  Cheesy cream sauce on everything.

                                                  "Stuffed" pizza crust.

                                                  1. As a Brit I wonder whether the fact that most people in the UK think 'Mexican' (or even South American) means just nachos and burritos is due to the 'Americanisation' of food. (Burritos being a quite recent innovation here).

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Peg

                                                      That's only true if it is also true that most people in the US think curry is a yellow-brown gloppy sauce (made from a yellow-brown spice blend called curry powder) due to the Britishization of food.

                                                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                        Except that is a 1975 British version of curry. Back then what was the US version of Mexican? Maybe we're in a time-warp here.

                                                        1. re: Peg

                                                          I'm not sure. That's before my time, but I've never heard anyone say nachos were Mexican.

                                                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                            I had an interesting find a few months ago. I was in a taqueria(in rural North Carolina) and they had a list of the standard taco meats- asada, pastor, tripa, buche, etc. and you could order any of them as tacos, burritos, or nachos. The clientele were all Latino except for me. It's the only time I've seen nachos outside of a Tex-Mex place.

                                                          2. re: Peg

                                                            Depends on whether Mexican-Americans historically populated the region.

                                                      2. The humongous portion size is still predominantly American/ization.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          Ever eaten a schnitzel in Austria? A steak in Argentina? "Humongous portion size" exists elsewhere besides the US.

                                                          1. re: vtnewbie

                                                            I have. I would still say that portion sizes are generally larger in the U.S. than elsewhere.

                                                            But the rest of the world is catching up fast. Thanks, Americanization '-P

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              They've been serving dishes like that for a long time. Maybe the US is just catching up to them.

                                                              As for the complaint that portions are too large, don't eat it all. Take some home. I like to get a lot for my money. If I can make 2 meals out of it, whoopee!

                                                              1. re: vtnewbie

                                                                See, I like to be able to have an appetizer, a main & maybe even dessert when I go out. I like to try a variety of dishes. That's simply not possible if you get massive portions. As for doggie bags -- I often don't go home straight away after a meal, and don't feel like hauling a plastic bag with leftovers around for the rest of the evening.

                                                                I'd say that the more 'traditional'/less refined restos in Germany do place importance on quantity. Or Kroatian restos with their massive meat platters. Oy. Not places I frequent, for that reason. Quality over quantity anytime for me, please.

                                                                1. re: vtnewbie

                                                                  It seems that the doggie bag is an American thing. Most other countries (at least the ones I've been to) seem to frown upon taking restaurant food home, unless it's specifically for take-out.

                                                                  Or maybe it's the "I paid for it, I'll do whatever I want with it" attitude that's uniquely American.

                                                                  1. re: E Eto

                                                                    Well, it's caught on in other countries, but it's not nearly as prevalent. Or necessary, given the smaller portion sizes. We be spinnin' in circles now.

                                                                    1. re: E Eto

                                                                      LOL! My father visited my Irish MIL a few years ago while touring Ireland and asked for a "doggy bag" to take some leftover steak home while at a somewhat upscale restaurant (for Cork anyhow). My MIL was scandalized! My wife heard about this incident from my MIL anytime the subject of restaurants or eating-out is brought up.

                                                                      My father never knew how scandalized my MIL was. Truth be told, he wouldn't care about how my MIL felt if he did know. Like E Eto said, he belongs to the "I paid for it, I'll do whatever I want with it" faction.

                                                            2. I think Americanization is more of a business strategy, if the target customers are Americans, one should make the food appealing to Americans in order to win customers and make money. There are also constrainst on availability of ingredients.

                                                              Americans generally prefer boneless skinless white meat to fatty dark meat in poultry. So one adaptation is the use of the boneless chicken breast in a lot of cuisines where fatty meat or bone in meat would normally be the preference.

                                                              14 Replies
                                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                Don't be surprised if you get a lot of protests regarding, "Americans generally prefer boneless skinless white meat to fatty dark meat in poultry."

                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                  Why? Doesn't she know what all 307 million of us like? And of course, coming from such a homogenous background, we all like exactly the same things.
                                                                  I find these discussions petty and pathetic. Non-Americans are just as squeamish about different foods - my neighbors from Taiwan think that dried fruit is the most dreadful thing ever.

                                                                  1. re: 512window

                                                                    Notice that I hedged the statement with generally, meaning that this is a generalization. And I stand by that generalization: Americans generally like skinless boneless chicken breasts and prefer it to bone in, dark skin pieces. Rather than eat the skin, we often pick the skin off of chicken pieces. Same goes for salmon skin and also boneless fish filets prefered to troublesome bone in fish. Also, Americans don't like to see the head and tail on fish or other animals that we eat. But naturally one will find exceptions to this generalization.

                                                                    Another generalization I find to be true about Americans is that our cultural facet of individualism makes it hard for many Americans to imagine that we do have anything cohesive about our culture, including our food culture, so we are all unique individuals with independent thoughts and preferences rather than people who are products of our culture, and people who one can make generalizations about. However, we are very quick to lump people of other cultures together and make generalizations about them...other people are cultural, but we are normal and cultureless. So we have a hard time seeing what we do.

                                                                    Somehow I think Taiwanese eat dried fruit at Chinese New years and it is a common New Year's gift, so perhaps that was just your neighbors. And maybe you like bone in chicken and fish and eat the skin. But maybe that's just you.

                                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                      Nice, thoughtful reply - added nicely to the whole discussion.

                                                                      A related anecdote: The Colombian chicken producing mafia is opposed to free trade with the US (something that would benefit the majority here). They took out full page adds in the newspapers claiming that Americans eat only the breast meat, and thow away the rest; and that free trade would result in the dumping of what is otherwise discarded. Chicken costs 4 - 5 times as much here as in the US,

                                                                      1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                        Thanks, Fatima, spot on about individualism and American being products of our culture. What are you having for Thanksgiving?

                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                          Happy Thanksgiving: I couldn't find a small turkey, so I bought a turkey leg and thigh...it is about as big as a small chicken, plus stuffing and roast veggies and roasted sweet potatoes and baked bisquits. No pie though :-(

                                                                          About my other comment, I wanted to add that saying Americans prefer the boneless skinless breast isn't a value judgement, it is just an observation...it's not like I am saying only true foodies suck the bones and eat the fish eyes or something. It is just an observation about what distinguishes our national food culture and how Americanization of other international dishes occurs, like getting a stir fry or something made with solely breast meat is very American.

                                                                          That's hilarious about the Colombian adds, Sam.

                                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                            Oh, I agree about the skinless chicken breast generalization.
                                                                            I had an order for a 5 gal. bucket of lobsters, freshly hauled on Wed. at $2/lb for Thanksgiving. As the sea gods would have it, there were eight foot swells and the lobstermen stayed home. I got a big pork butt on the smoker last night and a bunch of garden vegetables to roast, and red chile "gravy" and blueberry pies for Thanksgiving.
                                                                            The lobsters are still on order for Fri, but high winds, heavy rains and thunder are predicted, so it doesn't look good, but at least it's not a blizzard.
                                                                            I find the modern American genetically altered tukeys w/ silicone breast implants to be an Americanization of a traditional American food. Pass will pass.

                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                              Could you tell me about the red chile gravy? TIA

                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                I use dried New Mexico red chile pods (Hatch? Anaheims?), take off stem, and shake out seeds, stuff in blender, cover w/ boiling water, weight and let sit for 1 hour. Fry up fine diced pork or other meat of tvp product., blend chiles w/ 4+- garlic cloves, pour over fried meat, simmer for an hour and thin or thicken w/ water/stock to desired consistency. A very American dish, Native American.

                                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                  This sounds very good. I don't need a recipe per se but could you tell me how much meat you use? A tiny bit or is this a meaty sauce?

                                                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                    I depends what I have in the freezer or what I grab. A pound is good for gravy, 2 lbs for enchiladas or over pinto beans.

                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                      If you like the seeds, leave 'em. More power to the movement!

                                                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        That just means more yummy dark meat for us!

                                                                    2. <<With this topic I would like to explore the common elements in the "Americanization" of foreign cuisines.>>

                                                                      There is another way of exploring this sentence. Many foreign cuisines are being affected by Americanisation - but at home. Even In the heart of Paris you can see the double Arc de Triomphe of McDonalds.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                        Again, I would view this as the tyranny of the corporate restaurant chain, not Americanization.The Big Mac isn't regional American cuisine, definitely part of mass media culture, which recognizes no borders.

                                                                        But, in Paris you can find mass produced foie gras that is purchased form Eastern Europe, inexpensive and of poor quality. I imagine this would lend itself to some adaption to make up for the lack of quality.

                                                                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                          " in Paris you can find mass produced foie gras that is purchased from Eastern Europe, inexpensive and of poor quality "
                                                                          I am curious as to what you are referring to.

                                                                          1. re: celeryroot

                                                                            The commercialization of foie gras packaged and manufactured in Eastern Europe. I have a friend from Provence that now lives in Paris, and when I was complaining to him about some of the practices here he said that it was happening in France, too.That was one of many examples.He explained that not all the producers follow traditional methods. He characterized it as cheap an not as good as the local product.

                                                                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                                                                              Yes it is true , but one has to remember that some of this noise is coming from the Peta type groups. In any industry you are going to encounter those that do not play buy the rules. You say you complained about some of the practices here ......well there are only two farms producing foie in this country (possibly a hidden other one). I have had the opportunity of visiting both and saw no such things that some of the animal rights people claim , although I doubt if they have either.

                                                                      2. So much cumin in mexican dishes! I'm always shocked by how much cumin there is in almost any mexican food, My mother taught me to put just enough to give the dish "warmth" (and only in a few recipes from the north, Monterrey) but if you can taste the cumin it means you put too much in. Americanized "flavour"?

                                                                        1. one thing I have noticed about American food is the amount of cinammon you use. Being English I am not used to it in quite such large quantities eg, cinammon raisin bread (British version does not have the cinammon), tons of it in your apple pies, donuts, turnovers or popovers, coffee even. I find it sweet and gloopy and overused.

                                                                          Another point is the sweetness of foods - not just the obvious like donuts and other desserts, but American bread is sweeter than British bread, even Activia prune yoghurts are sweeter than the European version. I guess it takes some getting used to but even after 5 years here I desperately search for sliced white bread that isn't sweet.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                                            Funny. My feeling about Britain is that almost everything tastes sweeter over here, including bread. And dishes that add a component of sweetness tend to go overboard.

                                                                          2. My first thought when I saw the topic was "adding cheese to anything and everything". If the US has a crutch in the area of cuisine, it's cheese. Not that there's anything wrong with cheese, necessarily (though I hate it), but it's a mindless addition to most everything that people then tend to proudly stand behind because (sing-song) "Look! We added cheese!"

                                                                            Americans will honestly put cheese on anything, appropriate or not. There is cheese available on a fish sandwich in most places. A FISH SANDWICH, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! FISH!

                                                                            If a person wants to defend cheese as a destination unto itself, worthy of its own course, then fine. I'm *far* more willing to have that discussion than to listen to someone pontificate on why cheese belongs on every stinking dish known to man. I swear, if someone were to honestly come up with the "Weird Science" dish of "A nice, greasy pork sandwich, served on a dirty ashtray...", but said "inventor" were to throw a slice of hot pepper cheese on there, they'd practically break their own arm patting themselves on the back.

                                                                            Seriously, people: it's okay that you like cheese. Please stop adding it to everything and thinking that you're some kind of gastronomical wunderkind. That's what's called "lying to yourself". So just stop, already.

                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                            1. re: boagman

                                                                              And what, pray tell, is wrong with putting cheese on seafood? Coquilles St. Jacques, Greek shrimp and feta orzo are favorites that spring to mind. We get that you don't like cheese. Many Hounds, however, do.

                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                Oh, pikawicca, we MUST be kind, ya know. Perhaps boagman lives somewhere where all the food IS covered with cheese. Since we don't live in that place, we should just be grateful. Until you've walked a mile in someone's shoes....

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  And there you have it: I'm in the Midwest, and cheese covers *everything* here. I'm sure there are places that probably sell "cheese covered cheese". While I do love sarcasm, and use it often, I'm far more susceptible to hyperbole, and its inherent overuse.

                                                                                  I should amend my comments a bit, I suppose. There is room for cheese in dishes, even if I don't, and won't ever, care for it (exception clause here for *quality* pizza). It's not that cheese "isn't allowed" by me, so to speak. However, I cannot deny the unbelievable tide toward everything having (needing?) to have cheese on it, *rather* than letting natural flavors stand on their own. Actually, it's often to the exclusion of that premise.

                                                                                  I stand by my assertion that cheese has become a crutch in a lot of American cuisine, even now. It's not a catch-all, but it does seem to be a lot more true than not. Things need to stand on their own first...if adding cheese helps to *enhance* flavor or texture, bene. First things first, though: if the cheese isn't standing on its own, then whatever dish it's a significant part of needs to be good independent of the cheese.

                                                                                  Is that more clear?

                                                                                  1. re: boagman

                                                                                    Yep and a helluva lot nicer :)

                                                                                    EDIT: You know, of course, that all the middle of the country folks are probably going to jump you now, of course :)

                                                                                    1. re: boagman

                                                                                      Well, I'm in the Midwest, too, and I don't see cheeses everywhere. What kinds of places do you eat? I rarely eat at chains, so don't know what's going on there, except to say that it isn't "American Cuisine." The local independent restaurants I frequent seem to use an appropriate amount of cheese: cheese omelet, cheeseburger, some (not a lot) on pizza. We have an excellent local goat cheese producer, and that sometimes gets sprinkled on a salad. Other than these items, cheese doesn't play a big role in our local cuisine.

                                                                                      Now at my house, I keep a wide variety of cheeses for snacking and cooking.

                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                        Michigan here. I prefer independents, but I do some chain dining, more by necessity than anything else. Honestly, it's not of consequence, since the trend I'm speaking of tends to be unilateral. I eat in many different types of places, and enjoy many different ethnic cuisines, all types of meat, many vegetables, spices, etc. I'm hardly shy when it comes to flavors.

                                                                                        Actually, I come from a family that enjoys cheese. My mother, especially: she appreciates good cheese. In fact, we were just shopping on Sunday, and she enjoyed a sample of boursin on a toast point enough to go back and get another one. I just shook my head and rolled my eyes. She's mom. ;)

                                                                                        I'll lay down this challenge to you, though: the next few times you're out, take a long, hard look at the menu, up and down. See how many of the entrees, sandwiches, etc. are automatically offered with cheese. Then, ask yourself honestly whether the cheese *actually* needs to be there, or if the place is just trying to either "fill it out", or seem more uppercrust as a result.

                                                                                        And please: no saying, "Well, you could order it without!" In most cases, that's probably true...but that's not my point, and it's hardly the issue. Give it a try!

                                                                                        1. re: boagman


                                                                                          Here's the current menu for one of my favorite restaurants. There's Parm in the Caesar Salad (duh!), goat cheese in the roasted veggie salad, and blue cheese in one of the short rib sides. Doesn't seem excessive.

                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                            In this specific case, I'd agree with you. Cheese isn't overdone or overemphasized here, and its usage seems proper. Actually, the menu as a whole seems quite appetizing to me! Sounds like a nice place.

                                                                                            Being fair, though, I did say that the tendency/trend wasn't a catch-all. There are, obviously, going to be exceptions, and it's good to know that a place you revere is one of the exceptions. There are exceptions around here, too.

                                                                                            Even so, my challenge continues. I think that if you honestly start to really look at most menus, you'll find that cheese is so prolific that you can hardly understand its use in a number of applications.

                                                                                          2. re: boagman

                                                                                            Your experience is shared by me. If you dine at most mid-priced restaurants, local or chain, you will encounter cheese in copious quantities. For about a year I ordered chili everywhere I went, and you would be surprised at how often the stuff was served with cheese on top--as a matter of course. If you didn't want cheese, you needed to specify this upfront. I had a nice panini sandwich today, and was pleasantly surprised that the cheese did not overpower the entire sandwich. Usually, I can count on a lot of cheese on a panini. Salads are often served with grated cheese in them, instead of vegetables. Even salads with good lettuce and veggies often also have cheese. Order a hamburger, and be sure to specify "no cheese." For me the problem is fat and inappropriate amounts of protein in a meal. Also, most yellow cheese in restaurants is not very good, frankly. I live in the midwest.

                                                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                              Ugh! You've hit upon one of my most *hated* tendencies: "garnishing" items with cheese when no mention of it *at all* can be found on the menu. The sincere server brings it thinking that the establishment is providing something "a little extra" for you. They honestly get confused when I end up sending said item back because it's not the way it was stated it should be. This is truly one of my biggest beefs.

                                                                                          3. re: pikawicca

                                                                                            I keep WAY too many cheeses! I have tried to think of non-chain meals I've had and I too am hard-pressed to think of an inappropriate use of cheese.

                                                                                  2. Addition of American ingredients e.g. potatoes in lomo saltado.

                                                                                    24 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: limster

                                                                                      This comment confuses me. Isn't lomo saltado a Peruvian dish? Of course, Peru is in the Americas, so maybe that's what you mean, except that I wouldn't consider potatoes in a Peruvian dish a novel 'addition'. Perhaps you could elaborate, limster?

                                                                                      1. re: Lizard

                                                                                        Yep - Peru is in America.

                                                                                        There's no such dish in traditional Chinese cooking to my knowledge, and one of the major differences is the addition of fries.

                                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                                          Right, and I wasn't aware that lomo saltado is a Chinese dish, so your comments continue to confuse me.

                                                                                          1. re: Lizard

                                                                                            Lomo saltado is Peruvian/Peruvian Chinese/Peruvian influenced by the Peruvian Chinese.

                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                              Hey, thanks, doc. There's at least one restaurant on the UWS in NYC that is Peruvian/Chinese. I never researched that. Now I know.

                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                And now it all finally clicks. I'm slow.

                                                                                                1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                  Sorry, wasn't clear, glad that Sam and others filled in the gaps.

                                                                                        2. re: limster

                                                                                          I have an old Bolivian student sitting next to me. His mother has a restaurant in Santa Cruz and she regularly made for me lomo saltado (steak w/ fried egg on top) w/ great French fries and rice. My student says it is normal to serve lomo slatado w/ French fries, rice or both. I don't understand either.

                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                            It may be like Brazil. Almost everything comes with rices, beans and French fries. Feel like I should go out an run a marathon after loading carbs.

                                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                              Steak w/ fried egg on top is a lomo montado in Bolivia. A lomo saltado in Peru combines thin strips of meat and vegetables - stir fried/tossed (salteado). Potatoes can be included.

                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                The peruvian restaurants i've been to in DC, as well as my sisters' best friend from peru (still lives there half the year) make lomo saltado with french fries.

                                                                                                1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                  Good point. So we have one more...

                                                                                                  French fries can go with everything.

                                                                                                  1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                                    potatoes in general go with (almost) anything... mashed, roasted, fried, baked, boiled, steamed, shredded, cubed...

                                                                                                    1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                      So may ways to have them, so few are used. Or at least so infrequently.

                                                                                                      China is the world's largest potato producer, yet I rarely see them in a Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                      1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                                        Often Sichuan or Northern Chinese restaurant serve potato. A common dish in these types of restaurant is julienned potato deftly stir fried with a few strips of pepper and chilli.

                                                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                                                          That is one of my favorite dishes at our local Sichuan haunt. I had never had potatoes prepared that way & it blew my mind. They really taste more like a veggie that way than a starch.

                                                                                                  2. re: kubasd

                                                                                                    One of my favorite places in Pucallpa, Peru, had about 1m x 1m kitchen under a stairwell with the "restaurant" opening at about sunset when chairs and tables were placed on the sidewalk and the street at about sunset. Lomo salteado was the attraction. Fries were prepped ahead of time and could be tossed in at the end. One time the owner let me cook for my friends and me: Rather than potatoes or fries, I made a fried rice to serve alongside.

                                                                                                    1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                      In DC: French fries from Sysco...? I'll bet "french fries" were never in the original dish and I doubt they were fried potatoes unless done in the stir-fry.

                                                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                      Ahem, Dr Fujisaka, then I shall tell my Bolivian student almost Dr Hsiao, that his mother's restaurant in Bolivia has the wrong product for lomo saltado.
                                                                                                      Seriously, our local Mexican Restaurant, run by Guatamalans, has lomo montado, with a fried egg and a mess of sides, including tripas.

                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                        keg!!! Check again. "Montado" refers to that egg in the saddle with feet in the stirrups and taking the reins on top of that lomo. If you saltear that egg when mounted on that lomo, you'll have "Lomo a un lado con el huevo caido en algun otro". The Guatemaltecos in your local Mexican restaurant seem to agree with me: montado has fried egg on top. A salteado is always thin strips of meat and vegetables salteado (tossed/flippoed/stir fried).

                                                                                                  3. re: limster

                                                                                                    Chifa is Chinese food with Peruvian ingredients added. If you're complaining about the existence of a well-established "fusion" cuisine, then complain away. But a Peruvian friend of mine says that lomo saltado has always had potatoes as far back as she can remember. And per Wikipedia, "French-fried potatoes are a typical ingredient in Peruvian stir-fries, including the classic dish Lomo saltado." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato

                                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                      Nope, not complaining, in fact I totally love it. I assume we're not restricted to citing dishes we don't like in this thread.

                                                                                                      1. re: limster

                                                                                                        Gotcha. So you're talking about lomo salteado as Americanized (Peruvianized?) Chinese food. I thought you were talking about the Americanization (USification?) of a Peruvian dish. Your post above actually said that; I just didn't read it closely enough. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

                                                                                                    1. It could look like a bagel or a croissant or a baguette, but chances are that if it's sold in an American supermarket, you don't need any teeth to eat it.

                                                                                                      1. I live in Spain, so I can tell you a bit about how Spanish cuisine gets Americanized:

                                                                                                        --portions doubled
                                                                                                        --sauces and dipping sauces added
                                                                                                        --garnishes added
                                                                                                        --cheese added
                                                                                                        --dish made more complicated, with more ingredients
                                                                                                        --focus on beef, pork, and chicken (beans, sausages, lamb, fish, shellfish, crustaceans minimized)
                                                                                                        --different cuts of meat used--reduction of animal fat
                                                                                                        --focus on tapas in a sit down environment (not their natural habitat)
                                                                                                        --regional dishes mixed together in atypical ways
                                                                                                        --lack of stews and popular and beloved "common people" food

                                                                                                        I think that removing the bones, head and skin has a huge impact on taste... especially in fish.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: butterfly

                                                                                                          On top of all that, the rare place that does get Spanish food right in the US is twice as expensive as an analogous establishment in Spain. Food that gets served in working class restaurants in Spain, when served in the US, is way out of the price range of working class Americans.

                                                                                                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                                                                            Yes, and that's cuadruple-ly true for the wine... Wine is the drink of the common people here.

                                                                                                            Even taking into account the terrible exchange rate, fresh food like produce, cuts of meat, fish, etc. is still quite a bit cheaper here in Spain than it is in the US.