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Which Two Cuisines for the Rest of your Life?

Recently I have started thinking about the brain as it relates to taste. Charlie Rose has had an interesting ongoing series of panel discussions on The Brain, and through those, I have learned a lot about cutting edge research that physically connects different locations in the brain with various functions. This got me to thinking, "Is there a part of the brain that responds to taste, and are there certain tastes that make the most favorable impact?" And this led me to think about Tomatoes and Soy Sauce. huh?

Here's my beginning question:
If you were to poll the adult American populace and ask them which 2 cuisines they would pick to eat for the rest of their days(if they could only choose 2) what do you think would be the front runners? Without having done any research about this, my own gut reaction would be: Italian and Chinese, or, in VERY reduced terms, Tomatoes and Soy Sauce.

(I have found out that the USA has about 61,000 pizza places and 41,000 chinese restnts.)

Because this is just a nascent idea, I understand perfectly that this does not take into consideration the effect of a person's own ethnic culinary tradition or dna ? in affecting the results. What I mean is> maybe the majority of people would choose the cuisine they grew up with as one of the two(if, indeed, it was a single cuisine.) But, in my head, I am thinking that many people may have favorite dishes from their ethnicity but would not choose the whole cuisine if it meant leaving out Italian and Chinese.

Also, my guess of Italian and Chinese, if accurate, could have nothing to do w/taste preferences/proclivities. It COULD simply reflect economic factors(more people would choose these 2 because they are what they most know because of what they could afford.)

And where I'm ultimately going with this- is>> has anyone done brain research on taste , and what have they found, vis a vis the love for italian and chinese food/tomatoes and soy sauce? ( And btw, what about the ubiquitous love for 'sweet,cold,and creamy'- i.e. Ice Cream!?...)

I look forward to your thoughts on this!

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  1. If the chose Italian they would not be able to eat the pizza they are expecting since most pizza consumed in America is American not Italian style :p My guess is that Chinese would NOT be number 2. I would say American as one of the two (Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ steak, french fries, etc), the other would maybe be Italian (pasta)... which would still leave you with American - Italian fusion.

    I (not American = Canadian :p) would not chose my "ethnic" (Scotish/Irish/European) food. I would chose Thai food first (it is 90%+ of my diet), then it would be difficult because I do mix in from time to time Mexican (burritos), Italian (pasta, italian style pizza), American (hamburger, hot dog), Japanese (Sashimi).... my guess is it would actually be Italian.

    Never heard of brain research into this - but I would guess it would have been done with government (free money) grants :p

    1 Reply
    1. re: cacruden

      I don't know if it was because I just rose from a nap, but there was some very bad wording/spelling in that response :p

    2. I've read there have been studies on this at Yale Univ. in Conn. using MRI techniques that show different parts of the brain are stimulated through smell and taste.

      This would lead me to believe that you would want to study the nerves which send messages to the brain that would stimulate arousal (Front Lobe would be my guess).

      You probably have three main nerves bringing taste to the brainstem. I'm not sure of the names of the nerves, but the trigeminal nerve is what would carry them all to the brain.

      I think you need to do a lot more scientific research rather than finding out how many pizza and Chinese restaurants there are in the USA.

      1. I would guess you are eliminating "American" as a cuisine, even though foods Caruden identifies
        as American have their roots in Immigrant cultures. It seems all foods become Americanized
        after a few years or more so a few generations.
        This might become another of those authentic threads.
        BTW,I'd say Mexican and Thai just to contribute to the mix. :)

        1. 1. spanish
          2. thai

          it would be hard not to put italian/risotto down as 2 but paella (if I don't have to cook) beats risotto - risotto I can do paella is still tricky

          1. For me it would be N/Central European. Potatoes/meat/veg. That covers a lot of ground,literally. Second would be S. Mediterranean. Fish/pasta/rice. I find I frequently think I'd like to eat Asian but when I do I'm not that satisfied. A little, once in a while seems to go a long way.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Puffin3

              Ick Potatoes..... And I had to suffer through it when living on PEI (they did not know what rice was :o).

              1. re: Puffin3

                If you have a great dislike for potatoes then you would be in disagreement with the majority of Americans since French Fries are the biggest seller in all restaurants. ( I don't have data to back that up, but I have heard/seen that french fries are the most important menu item in the majority of American restaurants).

                1. re: John E.

                  Potatoes, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes - can't eat.

                  French Fries no longer taste like potatoes when cider vinegar and salt are applied. But that was not an option for my parents :o

                  1. re: John E.

                    Evil Americans often don't even have vinegar as an option.

                    1. re: cacruden

                      I don't know if it's our proximity to Canada but I have seen malt vinegar on the table in a few places here in Minnesota. I don't happen to enjoy the french fries that way however.

                      1. re: John E.

                        Long John Silver used to offer packets of malt vinegar. I suppose they still do.

                2. I am British (butting in to a US thread) and (Northern, Rural) English would certainly be one of my choices. It's what I grew up with.

                  If you're looking to find out why people gravitate towards one cuisine or another as adults, then I really think that whatever predominant tastes a child grew up with are going to have an effect on those choices.

                  Not that that is going to be the whole story - if I was confined to two cuisines for the rest of my life then the other would be Middle Eastern because I have a real love of spicy sweet stews with ginger and dried fruit. And that is NOTHING like the food I grew up with which was very much plain, basic, stodgy.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: DunkTheBiscuit

                    I personally welcome posts like yours. This is an international board, notwithstanding the USA-centric tendencies of various posters.

                    1. re: huiray

                      Thank you. It can sometimes be hard to find a topic I can contribute much to on here and I'm still feeling my way around the general etiquette of the boards, but I'll butt in when I'm able! :)

                      1. re: DunkTheBiscuit

                        :-) Please do continue to "butt in".

                        1. re: huiray

                          Yes, I agree. DunkTheBiscuit's viewpoint is interesting and refreshing.

                    2. re: DunkTheBiscuit

                      +1 on both of Dunk's choices.

                      I'm no exception to those who gravitate towards whatever our native cuisine is - so British (or, more precisely, North European) cuisine will always head any list I offer. I always find it interesting when folk diss British food on this American-centric board - funnily enough, they never seem to want to evidence their dislike of it or, more pertinently, to discuss the cuisine.

                      My preferred "foreign" cuisine is Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern (Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine to be more specific)

                      (Whoops - just spotted that the OP was posing the question as to what adult Americans might pick. So, as I'm not one, feel free to ignore my comments)

                      1. re: Harters

                        That's fine - I think more non-USA-centric posts the better!

                        1. re: huiray

                          Americans laughing at English cuisine is like the kettle calling the pot black..... Hot dogs, Hamburgers, Pizza (American), BBQ steaks - while all good.... are not a gourmets dream :o

                          1. re: cacruden

                            When I think american cuisine though I usually start with Louisiana (gumbo, po boys, jambalaya etc.) then migrate to the north east with clam chowders, lobster rolls, etc. Also love cioppino, (yes it's american, from SF) and of course great southern BBQ, pulled pork, ribs etc. Yumm. So much more than hamburgers and hot dogs :) And I'm Canadian so not really biased.

                            But I would choose Italian and South East Asian cuisines.

                            1. re: cacruden

                              Real BBQ is no laughing matter, nor is turkey dinner. Bash American food all you want, but there are some amazing choices in this country. You just gotta get out of the supermarket and get on the road.

                              1. re: FoodChic

                                +1. Someone who has either eaten nothing but Lowest Common Denominator fast food-level American cuisine, or (even worse) - only read about it or seen it on the TV - really hasn't experienced artisan-level joys like a country ham, BBQ (I personally like Texas-style) or a sweet dungeness crab simply steamed and served with drawn butter. And don't even get started on cuisines by US regions. I tend to be verbose, but even I don't have the energy(nor enough knowledge) to cover all of those. Briefly:

                                Southern - fried chicken, hushpuppies, greens
                                New England - lobster rolls, chowder, clam bake
                                Cajun - jambalaya, oysters rockefeller, etouffee
                                Midwest - pork tenderloin sandwich, fish fry, the Reuben sandwich
                                Hawaiian - poke, lau lau, plate lunch
                                West Coast - think Alice Waters - she pioneered a whole new school of thinking relative to food in America.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Nice post. When I think of "American cuisine" the items that jump to mind are clam chowder and other New England seafood dishes, and jambalaya (though I've never had it).

                                  When my mom's uncle, who worked as a chef for years, visits from Italy, his biggest food interest is a perfectly executed hamburger. He claims no one but the holes in the wall in America get it right. Such a statement could be applied to any cuisine in its native region. No shame in it.

                                2. re: FoodChic

                                  Not to mention, why would ANYONE ever BBQ a steak?

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    Truly barbecuing a steak--unless it's utterly massive--is almost impossible. But a nice New York strip grilled over an open flame with chunks of pecan on the coals for a smoky hit...man that's some bona fide eatin'. And I'll put it up against the classic dishes from France, Italy, Mexico and China anytime.

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      I'm guessing that cacruden probably is meaning grilled steak. Many interchangeably use the term, "BBQ" or "barbecue" with grilling. Most that do this don't understand the difference/have little or no knowledge of the two extremely different methods. I've been guilty of this - not because I didn't know the difference, but because the outdoor appliances used (here in LA) are usually similar if not the same. Most in LA will refer to their outdoor charcoal or gas appliance as either a BBQ, a grill, or a BBQ grill. The difference becomes apparent when one has both a grill and some sort of dedicated smoker.

                            2. re: Harters

                              Ah! I forgot Middle Eastern. I do love Persian and Afghan food.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I have to admit I do like things like: Steak and Kidney Pie, Fish and Chips (only when good), Devilled Kidneys on Toast, and when I was in London -- bacon on a roll with brown sauce :o

                                Still, for daily consumption - Thai has it for me (90- 95%), then maybe italian and Mexican (Burritos mostly).

                            3. Mexican and Italian.

                              I have often wondered what kind of meat(assuming meat eaters) would pick it you had to spend the rest of your life on an island and you could only pick one type of meat: Beef, Chicken, Fish, or Pork, I would pick Chicken because it can be prepared so many different ways.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: malibumike

                                Mine would be Mexican and Italian as well.

                                For most of my adult life, I thought that I was weird because I didn't like Chinese food, and it seemed like everyone around me did. I kept trying to eat it and like it, and I never did. When I started having lots of allergy problems (constant hives and more severe symptoms after eating) and got tested, I had developed a soy allergy - the allergist said sometimes your body is just trying to tell you to stop being an idiot and making yourself sick...took me awhile to figure that out.

                                1. re: jw615

                                  If I were to choose for myself, I too would choose Mexican and Italian. However, the question is not what we would choose but what we think the majority of adult Americans would choose.

                                2. re: malibumike

                                  For me it would be pork. A pig is a very versatile animal. Though to take full advantage of that, I'd have to spend an awful lot of time figuring out how to most effectively extract salt from the ocean... ;-)

                                  1. re: DunkTheBiscuit

                                    >>I'd have to spend an awful lot of time figuring out how to most effectively extract salt from the ocean... ;-)<<

                                    Scoop up some sea water with your pot, boil it down, and you have sea salt. Straining prior to boiling is optional.

                                  2. re: malibumike

                                    Mexican and Italian also. The one meat would definitely be the almighty pig.

                                    Chicken would be the first eliminated from the list.

                                    1. re: malibumike

                                      You might like to read this thread again about choosing products from only one animal forever...
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/792196

                                    2. Can I say Asian and take in Chinese, Japanese & Thai, and Spanish to include Mexican, and some of the Caribbean? I could never give up Sushi & Sashimi, and good old take out Chinese, and the little Thai I have tasted was wonderful. Could not imagine my world without some of the wonderful seafood dishes from the Caribbean and the Mexican comfort food I love.

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          I am god, and I have destroyed both old and new worlds.... now what :) Besides - old and new -- hate to tell you this... but the world pretty much has only one age :p

                                          1. re: cacruden

                                            From the American perspective, which also happens to be my perspective, there is an old world and a new world. If you don't like it, take it up with Antonin Dvorak.

                                        2. Without question, Greek and Lebanese.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: arktos

                                            count me in for Greek and Indian.

                                            1. My immediate thought was Italian and Mexican, which I will stay with. Although I will elaborate to say that I'd want each cuisine to inclulde both the traditional and the Americanized versions of them. I've never been to Italy, so I can't speak for traditional cuisine, but I love Italian food and in my personal world this includes pizza. I have been to Mexico a few times and love the traditional cuisine, but I also have a soft spot in my heart for Tex Mex after working at ChiChis throughout college.

                                              1. I would cleverly call my choices "Asian" and "European." Asian meaning Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai/Indian/Japanese (sushi!) and European meaning Italian and roasted meat and sausages and potato preps not seen in Asian cooking.

                                                1. Why choose two cuisines? Why not cook globally influenced! Many of us are doing it already anyway?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: RUK

                                                    My explanation was deleted yesterday along with some other "stuff"....
                                                    The OP mentions specific ingredients, such as Tomatoes and Soy sauce. Then why connect those two ingredients with a distinct cuisine?
                                                    Herbs like Parsley or Cilantro/Coriander etc etc for example are used in different cuisines and one could imagine lots of crossovers preparing dishes with those ingredients. The examples are numerous.
                                                    Don't choose a cuisine, choose ingredients?

                                                    1. re: RUK

                                                      Bingo. You know what goes really well with tandoori chicken? American Southern baked big huge hot sweet potatoes busted open and filled with butter and brown sugar. And some lingonberry sauce on the side.

                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                        You just made my day! Thanks! :-) And that sounds great!

                                                    2. The USA has only 61K pizza places and only 41K Chinese restaurants?? Really?? I'm not doubting your research, I'm just shocked.

                                                      I think two (2) cuisines would be very difficult to chose. So I could probably live with South American, Mexican, Guatemala cuisine for a very long time and be happy however I know I'd get a craving for pizza, and pumpkin pie, and meatloaf, and apple fritters, and mashed potatoes, and, and, and.

                                                      1. Chinatown Chinese (not American-style, the real deal--well as close to it as you can get) & Japanese. Hands down. No contest. (And my ancestors aren't from either.)

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: GraceW

                                                            Grace W, l am with you, except to refine the Japanese to sushi/sashimi.

                                                          2. the two cuisines that will matter until the end don't matter, all that does is my husband on both accounts. don't expect many to enjoy that but it's true.

                                                            1. My guess as to what the adult American populace would choose?

                                                              Fast food and All-You-Can-Eat Buffets.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. In a fantasy world with a wealth of ingredients and chefs to prepare them, I would choose Thai. And for my own cooking, "North American". This latter may be a bit of a cheat because it includes many influences, but I am a baker and when it comes to desserts, I truly love the North American-style pies, cakes and cookies the best.
                                                                I enjoy French, Japanese and Catonese Chinese food very much on occasion but I honestly think I could live without them.

                                                                1. The food of the Austro-Hungarian empire (Vienese, Hungarian, Milanese, Southern Poland and the former Jugoslavia) and Cantonese Chinese. China is way too big to be considered one cuisine and I don't care for the spices of Szechuan or Hunan.

                                                                  1. I originally thought Italian and Mexican.

                                                                    However, I'm going to say Italian and American. (I thought about steaks, prime rib, bbq, and cheeseburgers)

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. I would say Chinese and Italian as well. For each that would include the whole country, all the regions, etc.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                        Ditto for me. That "ditto" includes the 'country-wide' attributes & wide regionalities of both cuisines, although I have preferences within each.

                                                                      2. I think for Middle America it would be Italian and whatever cuisine hamburgers fit into.

                                                                        For me, it would be Mexican and Japanese. Just don't ask me to pick one only style of either of these cuisines.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: ocshooter

                                                                          OCShooter -- that would be my pick, too! I am from California, but have lived in Japan all my adult life. Besides, there is so much variety in both Mexican and Japanese.

                                                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                                                            Definitely. There is a huge variety in meat and shellfish, and plenty of healthy options with fruits and veggies.

                                                                          1. Indian & Italian. Since I'm allergic to shellfish, it makes it a *little* easier to discard the Asian cuisines. Would really miss the hamburger but will be happy with a lamb burger :)

                                                                              1. cajun/creole and italian

                                                                                1. Indian and Italian for me.

                                                                                  1. Italian and French. Would never need another thing.

                                                                                    1. Vietnamese and Lebanese.

                                                                                      1. Tough choice. I would say Creole/Cajun and Chinese. Vietnamese a close third.

                                                                                        1. Wow- I could narrow it down to three- Mexican, American (the super beef post made me need to include it), and Japanese. With a side of Vietnamese. Sorry, I get all ferklempt when it comes down to narrowing my food choices.

                                                                                          1. Heh, from the title I first thought Thai and French. After reading your explanation I think I am still lumped in with Chitalian, except fish sauce subbed in for soy.

                                                                                            Cool thread though. Cheers.

                                                                                            1. 1. A highly spicy cuisine -- Various Southeast Asia, India, Caribbean, Mexico, (China)
                                                                                              2. A savory cuisine -- France, Italy, Middle East, Spain, (China)

                                                                                              Don't make me choose! My head will explode!!!

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. British and Thai. Thai for the balance of flavours and hot options and British for comfort classics.

                                                                                                1. There have been brain studies similar to what you are speaking of, although even though some think it falls under 'behavorial psychology," it falls under the category of "neuroscience."

                                                                                                  My cuisine for the rest of my day would have to be Indian, then Italian.

                                                                                                  1. I would pick Italian (real Italian, not Amer-Italian) and Thai.

                                                                                                    1. According to Calvin Trillin, Americans' favorite flavor is "crisp" - not a flavor at all, but a taste sensation of crunchiness, oiliness, and saltiness. I expect he's right, given the overwhelming popularity of french fries, pizza and fried tortillas (taco shells, tortilla chips, etc.).

                                                                                                      As a New Yorker who has catered many dinners of French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine, I'd pick - as my two desert-island cuisines - Chinese and Greek/Middle Eastern. Chinese because the repertoire is so very large, from Mongolia to Beijing to Sichuan to Shanghai to Canton (and many other regions). Greek/Middle Eastern because the diet is both delicious and the most healthful I know (lots of olive oil and vegetables and nuts/seeds and legumes and fish, but with little white flour - aside from phyllo sheets - or meat or butterfat, though one must watch the sugary sweets, e.g., halvah, baklava, etc.).

                                                                                                      1. OK - rest of my life eh?

                                                                                                        French (including the wines) and Mexican, but NOT including their wines.

                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                        1. Turkish and Sushi, with a special dispensation once a year for American Thanksgiving Dinner.

                                                                                                          Turkish, because it is the food I grew up with and covers so many bases -- great grilled meats and seafood, unbelievably diverse vegetable dishes, wonderful breads and the yogurt......

                                                                                                          Sushi because it makes me happy every single time

                                                                                                          and Thanksgiving Dinner because I don't think I could live without it.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Fargo

                                                                                                            And a small tray of exquisite Turkish Delights with a nice cup of tea please...