American Cuisine

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by Archibald, May 20, 2006.

  1. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I am not a New Englander nor due I feel any hostility toward the south, in fact I find southern food charming in the limited doses that are required to sample all its offerings and do not judge it by the food served at Cracker Barrel.

    I have to question your sweeping claim that Southern food -- "all its offerings," even -- can be sampled in "limited doses." Have you had jam cake? Molasses stack cake? Johnny cakes? Soup beans? Red-eye gravy? None seems to fit into your limited view of Southern food. Many, many traditional Southern dishes are rarely seen on restaurant menus. So if your experience is confined to that, I'd suggest that you probe a bit deeper before making such blanket statements. It's like concluding that eating at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. provides a comprehensive look at Asian cuisines.

    Southern food tends to be salty, yes, partly because that was a common method of preserving meat in hot temperatures. And frying is common. But you're simultaneously condemning Southern food for having defining characteristics while claiming that it is insufficiently defined. What, then, is the standard for defining a cuisine? A daily diet made up of a wide variety of foods? Well, there go most Asian cuisines. Meals that are healthy by today's standards? So much for most traditional French and German.

    It may be that Southern food is not to your taste. Honestly, much of it is not to mine. But to claim it cannot be a cuisine because it is not "refined" enough to please a modern palate strikes me as rather narrow-minded. This is food that evolved to accomodate a very specific area and way of life. That, to me, is a pretty good definition of a cuisine.
     


  2. Kent Wang

    Kent Wang Affiliate Vendor Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    You consider the southern method of frying and covering already greasy food with white gravy which only derives any of its flavor from yet more grease; the basis of a cuisine? Please do tell us about your first hand experience with French Provençal cuisine"”and Southern American food for that matter.
    If you think that is the extent of Southern cuisine, obviously your understanding is quite limited. Perhaps you can learn more from the Southern Foodways Alliance website. There you will discover that Southern cuisine extends far beyond the items you mentioned. I make no attempts to defend the superiority of Southern cuisine; I do recognize that it is quite unhealthy and rarely partake of it. But your original question is not one on the subject of quality but of legitimacy as a distinct cuisine.
     


  3. SGladwell

    SGladwell Senior member

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    In 1890, an unknown St. Louis physician supposedly encouraged the owner of a food products company, George A. Bayle Jr., to process and package ground peanut paste as a nutritious protein substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn't chew meat. The physician apparently had experimented by grinding peanuts in his hand-cranked meat grinder. Bayle mechanized the process and began selling peanut butter out of barrels for about 6¢ per pound.

    My understanding was that peanut butter was invented by George Washington Carver, although I don't remember if the date for such was before or after 1890.

    Also, corn on the cob with butter, as opposed to the lemon juice + masala combination used in India/Pakistan, strikes me as an entirely different food. As does fried chicken; I defy anyone to visit Watershed in Decatur, GA on Tuesday night and not come away feeling that s/he ate an inspired meal, despite the fact that the special was humble fried chicken. (Watershed is Emily Sailer's - of the Indigo Girls - restaurant, and the executive chef, Scott Peacock, is a tour de force. I'm pretty sure Watershed was mentioned in R.W. Apple's restaurant book.)

    And Maryland-style crab cakes also seem distinctly American to me, in addition to the Cajun and southern cuisines already discussed. But I think America's most distinctive haute cuisine innovation, as befitting a modern multicultural nation, is fusion. The remix is an invention, too!
     


  4. JBZ

    JBZ Senior member

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    And Maryland-style crab cakes also seem distinctly American to me

    To this I would add the manner in which steamed crabs are prepared in Maryland (particularly including the use of Old Bay seasoning).

    Also, the fried fish you can get in the Northeast (clams, scallops, shrimp, oysters). Perhaps pedestrian, and certainly unhealthy, but definitely American. Yummy, too.
     


  5. saint

    saint Senior member

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    Reading some of the absurd quibbles on this thread, one would think that Italians can't claim a distinct cuisine since pasta originated in China and tomatoes came from the Americas.

    America has many distinct regional cuisines, but, yes, most of them derive from immigrants adapting traditional methods to local ingredients. But to claim that Louisiana and New Orleans in particular, for example, does not have a distinctive cuisine is ridiculous.

    And I second the motion for an emoticon with a halo.
     


  6. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    My understanding was that peanut butter was invented by George Washington Carver, although I don't remember if the date for such was before or after 1890.


    that was my understanding, I pulled the above off the web. I don't know which is true, nor will I put any more time into it. what I wasn't sure of if africans and chinese had made paste of peanuts for cooking before or after - I thought that they adopted it from america, and this web site states that they developed it first.
     


  7. Archibald

    Archibald Member

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    I have to question your sweeping claim that Southern food -- "all its offerings," even -- can be sampled in "limited doses." Have you had jam cake? Molasses stack cake? Johnny cakes? Soup beans? Red-eye gravy? None seems to fit into your limited view of Southern food. Many, many traditional Southern dishes are rarely seen on restaurant menus. So if your experience is confined to that, I'd suggest that you probe a bit deeper before making such blanket statements.

    I did not mean to offend your southern roots but that is not to say that I will concede and admit that there is a cohesive southern cuisine, because simply put; it does not go far beyond the items you and I have mentioned already. Red-eye gravy is not all that distinct as it’s essentially made from ham drippings, while I have heard that some use coffee in its preparation but I have yet to sample that concoction, perhaps it will profoundly change the way I think of southern cooking in the same manner the first time I had mole Puebla did with my perception of Mexican cuisine. In regards to soup beans: the idea of cooking beans with smoked pork can be found and done much better, in countries such as Spain and Portugal—the matter of distinction in this case is moot, it essentially came from necessity to eat during the winter and never evolved, as not is the case in other countries which do have developed cuisines.

    A daily diet made up of a wide variety of foods? Well, there go most Asian cuisines.
    While I have only been to Asia on two occasions, it was enough to know that this statement is misinformed to a point of ridiculousness. The average diet in China is far more varied than that of the US. While rice is served at every meal, it is accompanied by a nearly endless supply of imaginative dishes, many of which could be described as frugal despite an inherent sophistication.

    Meals that are healthy by today's standards? So much for most traditional French and German.
    I never cited actual health concerns as a reason for disqualifying southern cooking from what I consider as having the distinction of being an actual cuisine and not just a hodgepodge of dishes united by a couple methods of similar preparation (frying and salting in this case). Hot grease is a component of many cuisines but not their defining characteristic—unless you also consider Scotland’s fry shops as bastions of culinary distinction.

    Ken,

    I looked at that website you provided for nearly 30 minutes and could only find reference to tamales, barbecue and bacon. Would you say these items are the foundation of southern cuisine in your opinion?
     


  8. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Senior member

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    mmmmmmmmmm... barbecue sauce. i love american food and people all over the world love it too. the real question is, does canada have a national cuisine?

    jen, quesadillas are authentic mexican food, but they're made with corn tortillas. if you add ham, it's called a sincronizada.

    in mexico city, they add all sorts of other ingredients, from mushrooms to grasshoppers (considered a delicacy by the aztecs)!
     


  9. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    mmmmmmmmmm... barbecue sauce. i love american food and people all over the world love it too. the real question is, does canada have a national cuisine?

    !



    poutine
     


  10. Kent Wang

    Kent Wang Affiliate Vendor Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    I looked at that website you provided for nearly 30 minutes and could only find reference to tamales, barbecue and bacon. Would you say these items are the foundation of southern cuisine in your opinion?
    I will list what I can think of off the top of my head: chicken fried steak okra black eyed peas pork chops blackened anything catfish chitlins grits fried chicken barbecue cornbread creamed corn rice (Southern cultivars prepared with butter, and sometimes herbs) green beans with bacon peach cobbler Only a few of those items are fried, the rest are varied enough to constitute a cuisine of their own. How many dishes can you name for French Provencal or Tuscan Italian? Someone else also mentioned creole/Lousiana cuisine which although many of its dishes are French-influenced I agree must be considered a distinct cuisine. Consider gumbo, etouffee, alligator, crawfish, etc.
     


  11. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    mmmmmmmmmm... barbecue sauce. i love american food and people all over the world love it too. the real question is, does canada have a national cuisine?


    "People all over the world" tend not to know American cuisine. As to Canada, I suppose it was said in jest, but I can certainly vouch for the French speaking areas, at least: they do have very distinctive dishes.
     


  12. matadorpoeta

    matadorpoeta Senior member

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    "People all over the world" tend not to know American cuisine. As to Canada, I suppose it was said in jest, but I can certainly vouch for the French speaking areas, at least: they do have very distinctive dishes.

    i didn't mean every single country, but american or american style food is eaten in many countries. you can eat at mcdonald's or kfc almost anywhere. and all the europeans i know have at some point mentioned wanting to go to new orleans to try the food, so how do they not know american food?
     


  13. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    i didn't mean every single country, but american or american style food is eaten in many countries. you can eat at mcdonald's or kfc almost anywhere. and all the europeans i know have at some point mentioned wanting to go to new orleans to try the food, so how do they not know american food?

    You must have enlightened European acquaintances, or know Europeans who have travelled to the States, for them to be capable of going beyond the hamburger.
     


  14. alflauren

    alflauren Senior member

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    As to Canada, I suppose it was said in jest, but I can certainly vouch for the French speaking areas, at least: they do have very distinctive dishes.

    They have poutine, quite possibly the only dish in the world that's more dangerous than drinking a straight cup of bacon grease. [​IMG]
     


  15. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    They have poutine, quite possibly the only dish in the world that's more dangerous than drinking a straight cup of bacon grease. [​IMG]

    But such a cute name, especially with a QuÃ[​IMG][​IMG]cois accent. Poutsène...
     


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