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Mar 31, 2011 10:20 PM

What says "American Food" to you?

Living in a foreign country for years now, I'm always taken aback a little by what people who only visit the US occasionally (or only know it from movies and sitcoms) consider true "American Food" or American eating habits.

I'll be hosting a party for a small group of foreigners soon and would like to serve some dishes that would be different for them, but am having a hard time with the menu, so I thought I'd throw it out there and ask what American food means to foodies in the US, or foreigners who have some insights on it.

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  1. first you have to pick a section of the USA that you want to represent. Below are some of my favorite American foods.

    apple pie

    pecan pie

    fried chicken

    lobster roll

    steamed lobster

    hot dogs


    Bar B Q

    pulled pork

    crab cakes

    chicken fried steak

    dungeness crab any way I can get it

    hush puppies

    fried cat fish

    fried turkey

    blackberry cobbler


    you might notice a lot of these are Southern. So am I

    5 Replies
    1. re: Janet

      I'm Southern as well, so that's where my head (stomach?) usually heads. I had originally intended to do Creole but I know at least 1 of my guests doesn't eat fish or shellfish, so I kept hitting a wall there.

      Thanks for your list...hoping others will add some as well!

      1. re: Transplant_DK

        You don't need to use shellfish to do Creole. For some examples:
        Cream cheese and Pickapeppa
        Fried eggplant
        Chicken and sausage gumbo
        Chicken sauce piquante
        Fried chicken
        Dirty rice
        Red beans and rice
        Mirliton gratin
        Stuffed mirlitons
        Macque choux

        1. re: JungMann

          I could eat some grits n grillades RIGHT NOW, and be totally happy to parttake of your portion too, JungMann. Nice list.

      2. re: Janet

        Great list, might add fried clams, hoagies, clambake, grits, cheesesteaks, stone crab claws, dirty blue crabs, zinfandel, Jewish deli, bagels( yeh l know not originally, but now yes ), Chicago beef. Enough for now.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Also add chile/chili to the list- NuMex Green and Texas Red (and all of the other kinds too, if you insist...)

      3. I grew up in NZ and 'American' food was represented as burgers (thanks to the opening of McDonalds in the 80's the subsequent arrival of Burger King and Wendy's in either the late 80's or early 90's) and tex-mex style 'Lone Star' restaurants - steaks, chicken, more burgers, giant plates of nachos and wings. A lot of emphasis on the size of the meal.

        However, once I got a bit older and a little more educated thanks to a love of reading cookbooks and watching food channels on Sky (who knew that there was more to the States than LA and NY as shown on TV?) I started to see that there was a whole lot more.

        So, when I think of American food now, I think of:

        Burgers, hotdogs, pizza, everything served at Thanksgiving, gumbo, BBQ, grits, biscuits, cornbread, bagels, pretzels, reuben sandwiches, russian dressing, baked zitti, po boys, giant pickles, fried chicken, blackened everything, tuna (it's popular everywhere now, but as a kid canned tuna was something we read about in Baby Sitters Club books), diners, delis, soda, candy.

        Funny how most of the things I think of as 'American' were introduced by different cultures - shows what a melting pot it is!

        4 Replies
        1. re: ultimatepotato

          I think ultimate potato hit on something here. Why not a Thansgiving feast with all the trimmings. Southern style cornbread stuffing, sweet potato pie, turkey off course, cranberries, etc..

          1. re: JEN10

            Huge Plus on ultimatepotato and Jen10. A TG dinner would be a fabulous representation of standard "American" grub. Because if you veer away from regionality and look at what our culture has "absorbed," an American meal could be described as:
            Fried Chicken (Dev. in Asia or Africa)
            Black Beans and Rice (Moors y Christianos, Spanish in origin)
            Coleslaw (koolslaa, German in origin)
            Pasta salad (a mashup: Italian/Asian/Whatever)
            And it would be just as American as anything else you could serve. Especially if you add corn on the cob. Which would be the only truly uniquely Americanized foodstuff on that table. But Thanksgiving.......I like it a lot.

            1. re: mamachef

              But can you get a turkey where she is now? I was stuck in India one Thanksgiving (missed a flight), and was soooo sad that I couldn't find turkey anywhere in the city.

              1. re: pine time

                I had the same problem in Italy, but I shopped late and missed the only available birds in that village. Another friend went abroad the following year and had no problems, but you're totally right. I perceived the OP to mean that she was now here and hosting a group of people not from the States, but upon re-reading i see that was mistaken.

        2. My Mom made a huge pot of chili for a bunch of U.K. expats, and they acted like it was the best thing they had ever eaten. Of course, they were all living in Cairo at the time, so that may have caused them to be over impressed. They also loved plain old pinto beans and cornbread.

          1. Grilled cheese sandwich, side of potato chips, wash it down with ice cold Coca-Cola <the one with real sugar not HFCS>

            Warm apple or pecan pie with a dollop of vanilla I/C completes my version of an American food meal.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Quimbombo

              Quimbombo, this is what G-d would serve guests to show off an American meal if G-d was a 12-year old. And that's high praise.

              1. re: mamachef

                just remember to use philly style ice cream! yum!

                1. re: Chowrin

                  Chowrin: that's the really rich ice cream with no eggs, right? OMG. I had that at the Franklin Fountain in either Old Town or Old City (?) years ago. Jeesh that was good stuff. Yum is right.

            2. Breaded onion rings, potato skins, and "dinner salad" like, steak or fried chicken.