When the colonists came to the colonies, they farmed animals for clothing and meat in a similar fashion to what they had done in Europe. They had cuisine similar to their previous Dutch and British cuisines. The American colonial diet varied depending on the settled region in which someone lived. Commonly hunted game included deer, bear, buffalo, and wild turkey. A number of fats and oils made from animals served to cook much of the colonial foods. Prior to the Revolution, New Englanders consumed large quantities of rum and beer, as maritime trade provided them relatively easy access to the goods needed to produce these items: rum was the distilled spirit of choice, as the main ingredient, molasses, was readily available from trade with the West Indies. In comparison to the northern colonies, the southern colonies were quite diverse in their agricultural diet.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Americans developed many new foods. During the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, c. 1890s–1920s, food production and presentation became more industrialized. One characteristic of American cooking is the fusion of multiple ethnic or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. A wave of celebrity chefsbegan with Julia Child and Graham Kerr in the 1970s, with many more following after the rise of cable channels, such as the Food Network and Cooking Channel, in the late 20th century.
Seafood in the United States originated with the American Indians in the United States, who often ate cod, lemon sole, flounder, herring, halibut, sturgeon, smelt, drum on the East Coast, and olachen and salmon on the West Coast. Whale was hunted by American Indians off the Northwest coast, especially by the Makah, and used for their meat and oil. Seal and walrus were also eaten, in addition to eel from New York’s Finger Lakes region. Catfish was also popular among native people, including the Modocs. Crustaceans included shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and dungeness crabs in the Northwest and blue crabs in the East. Other shellfish include abalone and geoduck on the West Coast, while on the East Coast the surf clam, quahog, and the soft-shell clam. Oysters were eaten on both shores, as were mussels and periwinkles.
Early American Indians used a number of cooking methods in early American Cuisine that have been blended with early European cooking methods to form the basis of American Cuisine. Grilling meats was common. Spit roasting over a pit fire was common as well. Vegetables, especially root vegetables were often cooked directly in the ashes of the fire. As early Native Americans lacked pottery that could be used directly over a fire, they developed a technique which has caused many anthropologists to call them “Stone Boilers”. They would heat rocks directly in a fire and then add the rocks to a pot filled with water until it came to a boil so that it would cook the meat or vegetables in the boiling water. In what is now the Southwestern United States, they also created adobe ovens, dubbed hornos by the Spanish, to bake products such as cornmeal bread. Other parts of America dug pit ovens; these pits were also used to steam foods by adding heated rocks or embers and then seaweed or corn husks placed on top to steam fish and shellfish as well as vegetables; potatoes would be added while still in skin and corn while in-husk, this would later be referred to as a clambake by the colonists.
When the colonists came to Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, or any of the other English colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America, their initial attempts at survival included planting crops familiar to them from back home in England. In the same way, they farmed animals for clothing and meat in a similar fashion. Through hardships and eventual establishment of trade with Britain, the West Indies and other regions, the colonists were able to establish themselves in the American colonies with a cuisine similar to their previous British cuisine. There were some exceptions to the diet, such as local vegetation and animals, but the colonists attempted to use these items in the same fashion as they had their equivalents or ignore them entirely if they could. The manner of cooking for the American colonists followed along the line of British cookery up until the Revolution. The British sentiment followed in the cookbooks brought to the New World as well.
In 1796, the first American cookbook was published, and others followed. There was a general disdain for French cookery, even with the French Huguenots in South Carolina and French-Canadians. One of the cookbooks that proliferated in the colonies was The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747) by Hannah Glasse, who referred to “the blind folly of this age that would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook!” Of the French recipes given in the text, she speaks out flagrantly against the dishes as she “… think[s] it an odd jumble of trash.” Reinforcing the anti-French sentiment was the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1764. This created a large anxiety against the French, which influenced the English to force many of the French to move, as in the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia to Louisiana. The Acadians left a French influence in the diet of those settled in Louisiana, and among the Acadian Francophones who settled eastern Maine and parts of what is now northern Vermont at the same time they colonized New Brunswick.
The American colonial diet varied depending on the settled region in which someone lived. Local cuisine patterns had established by the mid-18th century. The New England colonies were extremely similar in their dietary habits to those that many of them had brought from England. A striking difference for the colonists in New England compared to other regions was seasonality. While in the southern colonies, they could farm almost year-round, in the northern colonies, the growing seasons were very restricted. In addition, colonists’ close proximity to the ocean gave them a bounty of fresh fish to add to their diet, especially in the northern colonies.
Wheat, however, the grain used to bake bread back in England was almost impossible to grow, and imports of wheat were far from cost productive.[dubious ] Substitutes in cases such as this included cornmeal. The Johnnycake was a poor substitute to some for wheaten bread, but acceptance by both the northern and southern colonies seems evident.
As many of the New Englanders were originally from England, game hunting was useful when they immigrated to the New World. Many of the northern colonists depended upon their ability to hunt, or upon others from whom they could purchase game. Hunting was the preferred method of protein consumption. This was opposed to animal husbandry, which required much more work to defend the kept animals against raids.
Commonly hunted game included deer, bear, buffalo, and wild turkey. The larger muscles of the animals were roasted and served with currant sauce, while the other smaller portions went into soups, stews, sausages, pies, and pastries. In addition to game, colonists’ protein intake was supplemented by mutton. The Spanish in Florida originally introduced sheep to the New World, but this development never quite reached the North, and there they were introduced by the Dutch and English. The keeping of sheep was a result of the English non-practice of animal husbandry. The animals provided wool when young and mutton upon maturity after wool production was no longer desirable. The forage-based diet for sheep that prevailed in the Colonies produced a characteristically strong, gamy flavor and a tougher consistency, which required aging and slow cooking to tenderize.
A number of fats and oils made from animals served to cook much of the colonial foods. Many homes had a sack made of deerskin filled with bear oil for cooking, while solidified bear fat resembled shortening. Rendered pork fat made the most popular cooking medium, especially from the cooking of bacon. Pork fat was used more often in the southern colonies than the northern colonies as the Spanish introduced pigs earlier to the South. The colonists enjoyed butter in cooking as well, but it was rare prior to the American Revolution, as cattle were not yet plentiful.
Prior to the Revolution, New Englanders consumed large quantities of rum and beer, as maritime trade provided them relatively easy access to the goods needed to produce these items. Rum was the distilled spirit of choice, as the main ingredient, molasses, was readily available from trade with the West Indies. Further into the interior, however, one would often find colonists consuming whiskey, as they did not have similar access to sugar cane. They did have ready access to corn and rye, which they used to produce their whiskey. However, until the Revolution, many considered whiskey to be a coarse alcohol unfit for human consumption, as many believed that it caused the poor to become raucous and unkempt drunkards. In addition to these alcohol-based products produced in America, imports were seen on merchant shelves, including wineand brandy.
In comparison to the northern colonies, the Southern Colonies were quite diverse in their agricultural diet. The uplands of the Piedmont and the coastal lowlands made up the two main parts of the southern colonies. The diet of the uplands often included wild game, cabbage, string beans, corn, squashes and white potatoes. People had biscuits as part of their breakfast, along with healthy portions of pork. The lowlands of Louisiana included a varied diet heavily influenced by the French, Spanish, Acadians, Germans, Native Americans, Africans and Caribbeans. Rice played a large part of the diet in Louisiana. In addition, unlike the uplands, the lowlands subsistence of protein came mostly from coastal seafood. Much of the diet involved the use of peppers, as it still does to this day.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Americans developed many new foods. Some, such as Rocky Mountain oysters, stayed regional; some spread throughout the nation but with little international appeal, such as peanut butter (a core ingredient of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich); and some spread throughout the world, such as popcorn, cola, fried chicken, cornbread, unleavened muffins such as the poppyseed muffin, and brownies.
During the 1920s, American farms were mostly self-sufficient; but, certain staples like salt, coffee, sugar and baking soda would be purchased at the town general store. If the family didn’t grow wheat, then flour would also be purchased. Another luxury was canned salmon, which was sometimes eaten for Sunday dinner. Items purchased at the general store would be paid for with eggs, butter or some other food from the farm. Women were responsible for much of the processing of food like straining fresh milk, churning butter, making molasses from sorghum, grinding corn into cornmeal or cleaning whole chickens. Fresh picked apples were pressed into cider, which could be fermented to make apple cider vinegar. Fruits and vegetables were preserved by various means like canning, drying or pickling.One contemporary writer from Michigandescribed October as cider season, when apple butter would be made. Her writings mention johnnycakes; and, as winter fare, buckweat cakes.
Typical farmhouse fare included fried chicken, simmered green beans, boiled corn, chicken and dumplings, fried ham, boiled beans and beets, stewed tomatoes, potatoes, and coleslaw made of shredded cabbage. Pon haus, similar to the scrapple of the Pennsylvania Dutch, was a typical breakfast dish among the Germans who had settled Indiana in the 19th century. Pork scraps and corn meal were cooked into a thick porridge and molded in loaf pans. Once solidified, the mixture would be cut and fried. During the fall months pork might be replaced with fried apples or potatoes. It was served with buttered biscuits, jam, jelly, milk gravy or sorghum syrup. Fruit butter might be made from apples. plums or peaches to accompany the meal.
Jane Pride, New York Herald
Pork was a staple of the rural diet through the Southern and Midwestern United States. Lard was used for baking, frying and even as a seasoning. The cookware of the period was made of cast iron and these were thoroughly seasoned with pork fat. Fried salt pork with gravy was an indulgent fat-laden dish often served with a side of boiled potatoes. In the Appalachian region a dish called “killed lettuce” was made with pokeweed, dandelion and assorted wild greens that were drizzled with hot bacon grease until wilted or “killed”.
Pie could be served up to three times a day and many varieties were prepared depending on the season. During the spring months, pies would be made of rhubarb and strawberry; in summer peach, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, elderberry and grape; and in fall apple.
The staples of the urban diet were bread, dairy and canned goods. Dinner might be tomato bisque from a can topped with cream or a salad made of canned string beans and mayonnaise. Many preferred to purchase food at delicatessen’s, rather then attempt to prepare meals in the cramped kitchenettes. German delicatessens in cities like New York and Milwaukee sold imported cold cuts, potato salads, schmierkase, wienerwurst, North Sea herring, assorted pickles and other prepared foods. Jewish immigrants from Germany soon followed suit, replacing pork dishes with corned beef and pastrami. Ice cream soda was served at soda fountains, along with various other early “soda water” recipes like the Garden Sass Sundae (rhubarb) or the Oh-Oh-Cindy Sundae (strawberry ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, chopped nuts, whipped cream and candied cherries).
In the 20th century highly industrialized processed foods became a dominant feature of American diets. Also appropriation and fusion of the food traditions of various immigrant groups to the US created distinctly Ethnic-American food styles.
During the Progressive Era (1890s–1920s) food production and presentation became more industrialized. Major railroads featured upscale cuisine in their dining cars.Restaurant chains emerged with standardized decor and menus, including the Fred Harvey restaurants along the route of the Sante Fe Railroad in the Southwest.
At the universities, nutritionists and home economists taught a new scientific approach to food. During World War I the Progressives’ moral advice about food conservation was emphasized in large-scale state and federal programs designed to educate housewives. Large-scale foreign aid during and after the war brought American standards to Europe.
The logistical requirements of the US military during WW2 spurred the development and growth of the processed foods industry in the US. The war encouraged production of shelf-stable ingredients processed on a vast industrial scale. Examples include powdered milk, powdered eggs, potato flakes, and frozen concentrated orange juice.
After the war, low cost, highly processed foods became one of the foundational elements of an era of mass prosperity. One such example is the TV dinner in which a multi-course meal was assembled in aluminum packaging in a food factory and flash frozen, then reheated at home in a thermal oven to be served while watching TV.Convenience foods of the era were designed to simplify home preparation. One example is macaroni & cheese created using a powdered artificial cheese product that is reconstituted at home with fresh milk. Newspapers and magazines ran recipe columns, aided by research from corporate kitchens, which were major food manufacturers like General Mills, Campbell’s, and Kraft Foods.
Highly processed foods of the mid-twentieth century included novelty elements like multi-colored Jell-O using various chemical food colorings, prepared breakfast cereals marketed to children with large amounts of sugar and artificial colors (e.g. Froot Loops). Fruit flavored punches made with artificial fruit flavorings (e.g. Tang, Hi-C). Mid-twentieth century foods also added novelty packaging elements like spray cheese in an aerosol can, pimento stuffed olives, and drink pouches.
The development of the microwave oven resulted in the creation of industrial food products and packaging that is intended take advantage of the unique opportunities and overcome the unique challenges of that technology. Microwave popcorn is an example of such a product.
One characteristic of American cooking is the fusion of multiple ethnic or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. For example, spaghetti is Italian, while hot dogs are German; a popular meal, especially among young children, is spaghetti containing slices of hot dogs. Since the 1960s Asian cooking has played a particularly large role in American fusion cuisine.
Some dishes that are typically considered American have their origins in other countries. American cooks and chefs have substantially altered these dishes over the years, to the degree that the dishes now enjoyed around the world are considered to be American. Hot dogs and hamburgers are both based on traditional German dishes, but in their modern popular form they can be reasonably considered American dishes.
Pizza is based on the traditional Italian dish, brought by Italian immigrants to the United States, but varies highly in style based on the region of development since its arrival. For example, “Chicago” style has focus on a thicker, taller crust, whereas a “New York Slice” is known to have a much thinner crust which can be folded. These different types of pizza can be advertised throughout the country and are generally recognizable and well-known, with some restaurants going so far as to import New York City tap water from a thousand or more miles away to recreate the signature style in other regions.
A wave of celebrity chefs began with Julia Child and Graham Kerr in the 1970s, with many more following after the rise of cable channels like Food Network. By the beginning of the 21st century regional variations in consumption of meat began to reduce, as more meat was consumed overall. Saying they eat too much protein, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans asked men and teenage boys to increase their consumption of underconsumed foods such as vegetables.
During the 1980s, upscale restaurants introduced a mixing of cuisines that contain Americanized styles of cooking with foreign elements commonly referred as New American cuisine. New American cuisine refers to a type of fusion cuisine which assimilates flavors from the melting pot of traditional American cooking techniques mixed with flavors from other cultures and sometimes molecular gastronomy components.
Generally speaking, in the present day 21st century, the modern cuisine of the United States is very much regional in nature. Excluding Alaska and Hawaii, the terrain spans 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from east to west and more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from north to south.
New England clam chowder
New England is a Northeastern region of the United States bordering the Maritime Provinces of Canada and portions of Quebec in the north. It includes the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, with its largest city and cultural capital Boston, founded in 1630. The Native American cuisine became part of the cookery style that the early colonists brought with them. Tribes like the Nipmuck, Wampanoag, and other Algonquian cultures were noted for slashing and burning areas to create meadows and bogs that would attract animals like moose and deer, but also encourage the growth of plants like black raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries. In the forest they would have collected nuts of species like the shagbark hickory, American hazel, and American chestnuts and fruits like wild grapes and black cherries. All of these eventually showed up in the kitchens of colonial New England women and many were sent back to England and other portions of Europe to be catalogued by scientists, collectors, and horticulturalists.
The style of New England cookery originated from its colonial roots, that is to say practical, frugal, and willing to eat anything other than what they were used to from their British roots. Most of the initial colonists came from East Anglia in England, with other groups following them over the ages like francophone regions of Canada (this was especially true of Northern New England, where there are still many speakers of a dialect of French), from Ireland, from Southern Italy, and most recently from Haiti, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Portugal. The oldest forms of the cuisine date to the early 17th century and in the case of Massachusetts, out of the entire country only the state of Virginia can claim recipes that are older. East Anglian cookery would have included recipes for dishes like suet puddings, wheaten breads, and a few shellfish delicacies, like winkles, and would have been at the time of settlement simple Puritan fare quite in contrast to the fineries and excesses expected in London cavalier circles. Most of the cuisine started with one-pot cookery, which resulted in such dishes as succotash, chowder, baked beans, and others. Starches are fairly simple, and typically encompass just a handful of classics like potatoes and cornmeal, and a few native breads like Anadama bread, johnnycakes, bulkie rolls, Parker house rolls, popovers, and New England brown bread. This region is fairly conservative with its spices, but typical spices include nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, especially in desserts, and for savory foods, thyme, black pepper, sea salt, and sage. Typical condiments include maple syrup, grown from the native sugar maple, molasses, and cranberry sauce.
New England is noted for having a heavy emphasis on seafood, a legacy inherited from coastal tribes like the Wampanoag and Narragansett, who equally used the rich fishing banks offshore for sustenance. Favorite fish include cod, salmon, winter flounder, haddock, striped bass, pollock, hake, bluefish, and, in southern New England, tautog. All of these are prepared numerous ways, such as frying cod for fish fingers, grilling bluefish over hot coals for summertime, smoking salmon or serving a whole poached one chilled for feasts with a dill sauce, or, on cold winter nights, serving haddock baked in casserole dish with a creamy sauce and crumbled breadcrumbs as a top so it forms a crust. Clam cakes, a savory fritter based on chopped clams, are a specialty of Rhode Island. Farther inland, brook trout, largemouth bass, and herringare sought after, especially in the rivers and icy finger lakes in upper New England.
Meat is present though not as prominent, and typically is either stewed in dishes like Yankee pot roast and New England boiled dinner or braised, as in a picnic ham; these dishes suit the weather better as summers are humid and hot but winters are raw and cold, getting below 0 °C for most of the winter and only just above it by March. The roasting of whole turkeys began here as a centerpiece for large American banquets, and like all other East Coast tribes, the Native American tribes of New England prized wild turkeys as a source of sustenance and later Anglophone settlers were enamored of cooking them using methods they knew from Europe: often that meant trussing the bird and spinning it on a string or spit roasting. Today turkey meat is a key ingredient in soups, and also a favorite in several sandwiches like the Pilgrim. For lunch, hot roast beef is sometimes chopped finely into small pieces and put on a roll with salami and American or provolone cheese to make a steak bomb.Bacon is often maple cured, and it is often the drippings from this bacon that are an ingredient in corn chowder. Veal consumption was prevalent in the North Atlantic States prior to World War II. A variety of linguiça is favored as a breakfast food, brought with Portuguese fisherman and Brazilian immigrants. In contrast with some parts of the United States, lamb (although less so mutton or goat) is a popular roasted or grilled meat across diverse groups in New England. Dairy farming and its resultant products figure strongly on the ingredient list, and homemade ice cream is a summertime staple of the region: it was a small seasonal roadside stand in Vermont that eventually became Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Vermont is known for producing farmhouse style cheeses, especially a type of cheddar. The recipe goes all the way back to colonial times when English settlers brought the recipe with them from England and found the rocky landscape eminently suitable to making the cheese. Today Vermont has more artisanal cheese makers per capita than any other state, and diversity is such that interest in goat’s milk cheeses has become prominent.
Crustaceans and mollusks are also an essential ingredient in the regional cookery. Maine is noted for harvesting peekytoe crab and Jonah crab and making crab bisques, based on cream with 35% milkfat, and crabcakes out of them, and often they appear on the menu as far south as to be out of region in New York City, where they are sold to four star restaurants. Squid are heavily fished for and eaten as fried calamari, and often are an ingredient in Italian American cooking in this region. Whelks are eaten in salad, and lobster, which is indigenous to the coastal waters of the region and are a feature of many dishes, baked, boiled, roasted, and steamed, or simply eaten as a sandwich, chilled with mayonnaise and chopped celery in Maine and Massachusetts, or slathered with melted butter on Long Island and in Connecticut.
Shellfish of all sorts are part of the diet, and shellfish of the coastal regions include little neck clams, sea scallops, blue mussels, oysters, soft shell clams, and razor shell clams. Much of this shellfish contributes to New England tradition, the clambake. The clambake as known today is a colonial interpretation of an American Indian tradition. In summer, oysters and clams are dipped in batter and fried, often served in a basket with french fries, or commonly on a wheaten bun as a clam roll. Oysters are otherwise eaten chilled on a bed of crushed ice on the half shell with mignonette sauce, and are often branded on where they were harvested. Large quahogs are stuffed with breadcrumbs and seasoning and baked in their shells, and smaller ones often find their way into clam chowder. Other preparations include clams casino, clams on the half shell served stuffed with herbs like oregano and streaky bacon.
The fruits of the region include the Vitis labrusca grapes used in grape juice made by companies such as Welch’s, along with jelly, Kosher wine by companies like Mogen David and Manischewitz along with other wineries that make higher quality wines. Apples from New England include the traditional varieties Baldwin, Lady, Mother, Pomme Grise, Porter, Roxbury Russet, Wright, Sops of Wine, Hightop Sweet, Peck’s Pleasant, Titus Pippin, Westfield-Seek-No-Further, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Beach plums a small native species with fruits the size of a pinball, are sought after in summer to make into a jam. Cranberries are another fruit indigenous to the region, often collected in autumn in huge flooded bogs. Thereafter they are juiced so they can be drunk fresh for breakfast, or dried and incorporated into salads. Winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut squashes have been a staple for generations owing to their ability to keep for long periods over icy New England winters and being an excellent source of beta carotene; in summer, they are replaced with pattypan and zucchini, the latter brought to the region by immigrants from Southern Italy a century ago. Blueberries are a very common summertime treat owing to them being an important crop, and find their way into muffins, pies and pancakes. Typical favorite desserts are quite diverse, and encompass hasty pudding, blueberry pie, whoopie pies, Boston cream pie, pumpkin pie, Joe Frogger cookies, hand crafted ice cream, Hermit cookies, and the chocolate chip cookie, invented in Massachusetts in the 1930s.
Southern New England, particularly along the coast, shares many specialties with the Mid-Atlantic, including especially dishes from Jewish and Italian-American cuisine. Coastal Connecticut is known for distinctive kinds of pizza, locally called apizza (pronounced locally as abeetz), differing in texture (thin and slightly blackened) and toppings (such as clams) from pizza further south in the so-called pizza belt, which stretches from New Haven, Connecticut southward through New York, New Jersey, and into Maryland.
The mid-Atlantic states comprise the states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Northern Maryland. The oldest major settlement in this area of the country is found in the most populous city in the nation, New York City, founded in 1653 by the Dutch. Today, it is a major cultural capital of the United States. The influences on cuisine in this region are extremely eclectic owing to the fact that it has been and continues to be a gateway for international culture as well as a gateway for new immigrants. Going back to colonial times, each new group has left their mark on homegrown cuisine and in turn the cities in this region disperse trends to the wider United States. In addition, cities like New York and Philadelphia have had the past influence of Dutch, Italian, German, Irish, British, and Jewish cuisines, and that continues to this day. Baltimore has become the crossroads between North and South, a distinction it has held since the end of the Civil War.
A global power city, New York City is well-known for its diverse and cosmopolitan dining scene. and compete fiercely for good reviews in the Food and Dining section of The New York Times, online guides, and Zagat’s, the last of which is widely considered the premier American dining guide, published yearly and headquartered in New York City.
Since the first reference to an alcoholic mixed drink called a cocktail comes from New York State in 1803, it is thus not a surprise that there have been many cocktails invented in New York and the surrounding environs. Even today New York City bars are noted for being highly influential in making national trends. Cosmopolitans, Long Island iced teas, Manhattans, Rob Roys, Tom Collins, Aviations, and Greyhounds were all invented in New York bars, and the gin martini was popularized in New York in speakeasies during the 1920s, as evidenced by its appearance in the works of New Yorker and American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Like its neighbor Philadelphia, many rare and unusual liquors and liqueurs often find their way into a mixologist’s cupboard or restaurant wine list. New York State is the third most productive area in the country for wine grapes, just behind California and Washington. It has AVA’s near the Finger Lakes, the Catskills, and Long Island, and in the Hudson Valley has the second most productive area in the country for growing apples, making it a center for hard cider production, just like New England. Pennsylvania has been growing rye since Germans began to emigrate to the area at the end of the 17th century and required a grain they knew from Germany. Therefore, overall it is not unusual to find New York grown Gewürtztraminer and Riesling, Pennsylvania rye whiskey, or marques of locally produced ciders like Original Sin on the same menu.
In the winter, New York City pushcarts sell roasted chestnuts, a delicacy dating back to English Christmas traditions, and it was in New York and Pennsylvania that the earliest Christmas cookies were introduced: Germans introduced crunchy molasses based gingerbread and sugar cookies in Pennsylvania, and the Dutch introduced cinnamon based cookies, all of which have become part of the traditional Christmas meal.Scrapple was originally a type of savory pudding that early Pennsylvania Germans made to preserve the offal of a pig slaughter. The Philadelphia soft pretzel was originally brought to Eastern Pennsylvania in the early 18th century, and later, 19th-century immigrants sold them to the masses from pushcarts to make them the city’s best-known bread product, having evolved into its own unique recipe.
The Irish arrived in America in a rather woeful state, as Ireland at the time was often plagued by some of the worst poverty in Europe and often heavy disenfranchisement among the masses: many of them arrived barely alive having ridden coffin ships to the New World, sick with typhus and starvation. In addition, they were the first to face challenges other groups did not have: they were the first large wave of Catholics. They faced prejudice for their faith and the cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore were not always set up for their needs. For example, Catholic bishops in the U.S. mandated until the 1960s that all Catholics were forbidden from eating red meat on Fridays and during Lent, and attending Mass sometimes conflicted with work as produce and meat markets would be open on holy days; this was difficult for Irishmen supporting families since many worked as laborers. Unsurprisingly, many Irishmen also found their fortunes working as longshoremen, which would have given their families access to fish and shellfish whenever a fisherman made berth, which was frequent on the busy docks of Baltimore and New York. Though there had been some activity in Baltimore in founding a see earlier by the Carroltons, the Irish were the first major wave of Catholic worship in this region, and that meant bishops and cardinals sending away to Europe for wine. Part of the Catholic mass includes every parishioner taking a sip of wine from the chalice as part of the Eucharist. Taverns had existed prior to their emigration to America in the region, though the Irish brought their particular brand of pub culture and founded some of the first saloons and bars that served stoutand red ale; they brought with them the knowledge of single malt style whiskey and sold it. The Irish were the first immigrant group to arrive in this region in massive millions, and these immigrants also founded some of the earliest saloons and bars in this region, of which McSorley’s is an example.
Immigrants from Southern Europe, namely Sicily, Campania, Lazio, and Calabria, appeared between 1880 and 1960 in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Eastern Maryland hoping to escape the extreme poverty and corruption endemic to Italy; typically none of them spoke English, but rather dialects of Italian and had a culture that was more closely tied to the village they were born in than the high culture only accessible to those who could afford it at this time; many could not read or write in any language. They were employed in manual labor or factory work but it is because of them that dishes like spaghetti with meatballs, New York–style pizza, calzones, and baked ziti exist, and Americans of today are very familiar with semolina based pasta noodles. Their native cuisine had less of an emphasis on meat, as evidenced by dishes they introduced like pasta e fagioli and minestrone, but the dishes they created in America often piled it on as a sign of wealth and newfound prosperity since for the first time even cheap cuts of it were affordable: the American recipe for lasagna is proof of this, as mostly it is derived from the Neapolitan version of the dish with large amounts of meat and cheese.
A summertime treat, Italian ice, began its life as a lemon flavored penny lick brought to Philadelphia by Italians; its Hispanic counterpart, piragua, is a common and evolving shaved ice treat brought to New York City by Puerto Ricans in the 1930s. Unlike the original dish which included flavors like tamarind, mango, coconut, piragua is evolving to include flavors like grape, a fruit not grown in Puerto Rico. Taylor Ham, a meat delicacy of New Jersey, first appeared around the time of the Civil War and today is often served for breakfast with eggs and cheese on a kaiser roll, the bread upon which this is served was brought to the area by Austrians in the second half of the nineteenth century and is a very common roll for sandwiches at lunchtime, usually tipped with poppyseeds. This breakfast meat is generally known as pork roll in southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, and Taylor Ham in northern New Jersey.
This region today comprises the states near the Great Lakes and also the Great Plains; much of it is prairie with a very flat terrain where the blue sky meets a neverending horizon. Winters are bitterly cold, windy, and wet. Often that means very harsh blizzards especially near the Great Lakes where Arctic winds blow off of Canada and where the ice on rivers and lakes freezes reliably thick enough for ice hockey to be a favorite pastime in the region and for ice fishing for pike, walleye and panfish to be ubiquitous in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where they often there after become part of the local tradition of the fish fry. Population density is extremely low away from the Great Lakes and very small towns dominated by enormous farms are the rule with larger cities being the exception. Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and her twin sister city across the river St. Paul dominate the landscape in wealth and size, owing to their ties with manufacturing, finance, transportation, and meatpacking. Smaller places like Omaha, Tulsa, and Kansas City make up local capitals, but the king of them all is Chicago, third largest city in the country.
Typical fruits of the region are cold weather crops. Once it was believed that the region had winters that were far too harsh for apple growing, but then a breeder in Minnesota came forth with the Wealthy apple and thence came forth the third most productive region for apple growing in the land, with local varieties comprising Wolf River, Enterprise, Melrose, Paula Red, Rome Beauty, Honeycrisp, and the Red Delicious. Cherries are important to Michigan and Wisconsin grows many cranberries, a legacy of early-19th-century emigration of New England farmers. Crabapple jelly is a favorite condiment of the region.
The influence of German, Scandinavian, and Slavic peoples on the northern portion of the region is very strong; many of these emigrated to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois in the 19th century to take advantage of jobs in the meatpacking business as well as being homesteaders. Bratwurst is a very common sausage eaten at tailgate parties for the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, or Detroit Lions football teams and is often served boiled in lager beer with sauerkraut, different than many of the recipes currently found in Germany. Polish sausage, in particular a locally invented type of kielbasa, is an essential for sporting events in Chicago: Chicago today has approximately 200,000 speakers of Polish and has had a population of that description for over a hundred years. When Poles came to Chicago and surrounding cities from Europe, they brought with them long ropes of kielbasa, cabbage rolls, and pierogis. Poles that left Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the descendants of earlier immigrants still make all of the above and such comestibles are common in local diners and delis as result. Today alongside the pierogi, the sausage is served on a long roll with mustard like a hot dog or as a Maxwell Street Polish, a sandwich that has caramelized onions as an essential ingredient. In Cleveland, the same sausage is served in the form of the Polish boy: this is a weird but tasty sandwich made of french fries, spicy barbecue sauce, and coleslaw; unlike cities in the East where the hot dog alone is traditional fans of the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, and Milwaukee Brewers favor at least two or three different kinds of sausage sold in the little pushcarts outside the stadium; the hot dogs themselves tend to follow the Chicago style, which is loaded with mustard, and pickled vegetables. In Cincinnati, where the Cincinnati Reds play, the predilection for sausage has a competitor in Cincinnati chili, invented by Macedonian immigrants: this bizarre but tasty dish includes spaghetti as its base, chili with a Mediterranean-inspired spice mix, and cheddar cheese; the chili itself is often a topping for local hot dogs at games.
In the Midwest and especially Minnesota, the tradition of the church potluck has become a gathering in which local foods reign, and so it has been since the era of the frontier: pioneers would often need to pool resources together to have a celebration in the 19th century and that simply never changed. Nowhere is this more clear than with the hotdish: this is a type of casserole believed to have derived somehow from a Norwegian recipe, and it is usually topped with potatoes or tater tots. Next to the hotdish at the potlucks usually is where the glorified rice is found: this is a dish made of a kind of rice pudding mixed with crushed pineapple and maraschino cherries. Next to that is the booyah, a thick soup made of a number or combinations of meat, vegetables, and seasonings that is meant to simmer on the stove for up to two days. Lefse, traditionally a Scandinavian flatbread, has been handed down to descendants for over a hundred years and is common on the table. Behind that is the venison, a popular meat around the Great Lakes and often eaten in steaks, sandwiches, and crown roasts for special events. If in North or South Dakota, tiger meat, a dish similar to steak tartare, is present. Last on the table are the dessert bars and most especially the brownies: this confection was created originally in 1898 in Chicago and has gone on to become a global food.Further South, barbecue has its own style in places in Kansas and St. Louis that are different to the South and the American West. Kansas City and St. Louis were and remain important hubs for the railroad that connected the plains with the Great Lakes and cities farther east, like Philadelphia. At the turn of the 19th century, the St. Louis area, Omaha, and Kansas City had huge stockyards, waystations for cattle and pigs on their way East to the cities of the coast and North to the Great Lakes. They all had large growing immigrant and migrant populations from Europe and the South respectively, so this region has developed unique styles of barbecue. St. Louis-style barbecue favors a heavy emphasis on a sticky sweet barbecue sauce. Its standbys include the pork steak, a cut taken from the shoulder of the pig, grilled, and then slowly stewed in a pan over charcoal, crispy snoots, a cut from the cheek and nose of the pig that is fried up like cracklin and eaten dipped in sauce, pork spare ribs, and a mix of either beer boiled bratwurst or grilled Italian derived sausage, flavored with fennel. Dessert is usually something like gooey butter cake, invented in the city in the 1930s. Kansas City-style barbecue uses several different kinds of meat, more than most styles of American barbecue- turkey, mutton, pork, and beef just to name a few- but is distinct from St. Louis in that the barbecue sauce adds molasses in with the typical tomato based recipe and typically has a more tart taste. Traditionally, Kansas City uses a low-and-slow method of smoking the meat in addition to just stewing it in the sauce. It also favors using hickory wood for smoking and continual watering or layering of the sauce while cooking to form a glaze; with burnt ends this step is necessary to create the “bark” or charred outer layer of the brisket.
When referring to the American South as a region, typically it should indicate Southern Maryland and the states that were once part of the Old Confederacy, with the dividing line between the East and West jackknifing about 100 miles west of Dallas, Texas, and mostly south of the old Mason–Dixon line. Cities found in this area include New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Memphis, Charleston, and Charlotte with Houston, Texas being the largest. These states are much more closely tied to each other and have been part of US territory for much longer than states much farther west than East Texas, and in the case of food, the influences and cooking styles are strictly separated as the terrain begins to change to prairie and desert from bayou and hardwood forest.
This section of the country has some of the oldest known foodways in the land, with some recipes almost 400 years old. Native American influences are still quite visible in the use of cornmeal as an essential staple and found in the Southern predilection for hunting wild game, in particular wild turkey, deer, woodcock, and various kinds of waterfowl; for example, coastal North Carolina is a place where hunters will seek tundra swan as a part of Christmas dinner; the original English and Scottish settlers would have rejoiced at this revelation owing to the fact that such was banned amongst the commoner class in what is now the United Kingdom, and naturally, their descendants have not forgotten. Native Americans also consumed turtles and catfish, specifically the snapping turtle and blue catfish. Catfish are often caught with one’s bare hands, gutted, breaded, and fried to make a Southern variation on English fish and chips and turtles are turned into stews and soups. Native American tribes of the region such as the Cherokee or Choctaw often cultivated or gathered local plants like pawpaw, maypop and several sorts of squashes and corn as food and spicebush, sassafras as spices, and the aforementioned fruits are still cultivated as food in the South. Maize is to this day found in dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the form of grits, hoecakes, baked cornbread, and spoonbread, and nuts like the hickory, black walnut and pecan are commonly included in desserts and pastries as varied as mince pies, pecan pie, pecan rolls and honey buns (both are types of sticky bun), and quick breads, which were themselves invented in the South during the American Civil War.
European influence began soon after the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 and the earliest recipes emerged by the end of the 17th century. Specific influences from Europe were quite varied, and remain traditional and essential to the modern cookery overall. German speakers often settled in the Piedmont on small farms from the coast, and invented an American delicacy that is now nationally beloved, apple butter, based on their recipe for apfelkraut, and later introduced red cabbage and rye. From the British Isles, an enormous amount of influence was bestowed upon the South, specifically foodways found in 17th- and 18th-century Ulster, the borderlands between England and Scotland, the Scottish Highlands, portions of Wales, the West Midlands and Black Country. Settlers bound for America fled the tumult of the Civil War, Ulster and the Highland Clearances. Often ships’ manifests show their belongings nearly always included cookpots or bakestones and seed stock for plants like peaches, plums, and apples to grow orchards which they planted in their hundreds. Each group brought foods and ideas from their respective regions.
Settlers from Ireland and Scotland were well known for creating peatreak and poitín, strong hard liquor based on fermenting potatoes or barley. In time they came up with a method for distilling a corn mash with added sugar and aging in charred barrels made of select hardwoods, which created a whiskey with a high proof. This gave birth to American whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, and its cousins moonshine and Everclear.
Closer to the coast, 18th-century recipes for English trifle turned into tipsy cakes, replacing the sherry with whiskey and their recipe for pound cake, brought to the South around the same time, still works with American baking units: 1 pound sugar, one pound eggs, one pound butter, one pound flour.
Pork is the popular choice for Southern style barbecue and features in other preparations like sausages and sandwiches. For most Southerners in the antebellum period, corn and pork were staples of the diet. Country sausage is an ingredient in the Southern breakfast dish of biscuits and gravy. Country ham is often served for breakfast and cured with salt or sugar and hickory-smoked. Accompanying many meals is the southern style fluffy biscuit, where the leavening agent is baking soda and often includes buttermilk, and for breakfast they often accompany country ham, grits, and scrambled eggs.
Desserts in the South tend to be quite rich and very much a legacy of entertaining to impress guests, since a Southern housewife was (and to a degree still is) expected to show her hospitality by laying out as impressive a banquet as she is able to manage. Desserts are vast and encompass Lane cake, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, pecan pie, hummingbird cake, Jefferson Davis pie, peanut brittle, coconut cake, apple fritters, peanut cookies, Moravian spice cookies, chess pie, doberge cake, Lady Baltimore cake, bourbon balls, and caramel cake. American style sponge cakes tend to be the rule rather than the exception as is American style buttercream, a place where Southern baking intersects with the rest of the United States. Nuts like pecan and hickory tend to be revered as garnishes for these desserts, and make their way into local bakeries as fillings for chocolates.
Cajun French is more closely related to dialects spoken in Northern Maine, New Brunswick, and to a lesser degree Haiti than anything spoken in modern France, and likewise their terminology, methodology, and culture concerning food is much more closely related to the styles of these former French colonies even today. Unlike other areas of the South, Cajuns were and still are largely Catholics and thus much of what they eat is seasonal; for example pork is an important component of the Cajun boucherie(a large community event where the hog is butchered, prepared with a fiery spice mix, and eaten snout to tail) but it is never consumed in the five weeks of Lent, when such would be forbidden. Cajun cuisine tends to focus on what is locally available, historically because Cajuns were often poor, illiterate, independent farmers and not plantation owners but today it is because such is deeply imbedded in local culture. Boudin is a type of sausage found only in this area of the country, and it is often by far more spicy than anything found in France or Belgium. Chaudin is unique to the area, and the method of cooking is comparable to the Scottish dish haggis: the stuffing includes onions, rice, bell peppers, spices, and pork sewn up in the stomach of a pig, and served in slices piping hot. Crayfish are a staple of the Cajun grandmother’s cookpot, as they are abundant in the bayous of Southern Louisiana and a main source of livelihood, as are blue crabs, shrimp, corn on the cob, and red potatoes, since these are the basic ingredients of the Louisiana crawfish boil.
African American influences came with slaves from Ghana, Benin, Mali, Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and other portions of West Africa, and the mark African Americans and their descendants have made on Southern food is extremely strong today and an essential addition to the Southern table. Crops like okra, sorghum, sesame seeds, eggplant, and many different kinds of melons were brought with them from West Africa along with the incredibly important introduction of rice to the Carolinas and later to Texas and Louisiana, whence it became a staple grain of the region and still remains a staple today, found in dishes like Hoppin John, purloo, and Charleston red rice. Like the poorer indentured servants that came to the South, slaves often got the leftovers of what was slaughtered for the consumption of the master of the plantation and so many recipes had to be adapted for offal, like pig’s ears and fatbacks though other methods encouraged low and slow methods of cooking to tenderize the tougher cuts of meat, like braising, smoking, and pit roasting, the last of which was a method known to West Africans in the preparation of roasting goat.
Certain portions of the South often have their own distinct subtypes of cuisine owing to local history and landscape, i.e. Cajun cuisine, Floridian cuisine, for example, has a distinct way of cooking that includes ingredients her other Southern sisters do not use, especially points south of Tampa and Orlando. The Spanish Crown had control of the state until the early 19th century and used the southern tip as an outpost to guard the Spanish Main beginning in the 1500s, but Florida kept and still maintains ties with the Caribbean Sea, including the Bahamas Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. South of Tampa, there are and have been for a long time many speakers of Caribbean Spanish, Haitian French, Jamaican Patois, and Haitian Creole and each Caribbean culture has a strong hold on cooking methods and spices in Florida. In turn, each mixes and matches with the foodways of the Seminole tribe and Anglophone settlers. Thus, for almost 200 years, Floridian cooking has had a more tropical flavor than any other Southern state. Allspice, a spice originally from Jamaica, is an ingredient found in spice mixes in summer barbecues along with ginger, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, sea salt, and nutmeg; in Floridian cooking this is often a variant of Jamaican jerk spice. Coconuts are grown in the areas surrounding Miami and are shipped in daily through its port for consumption of the milk, meat, and water of the coconut. Bananas are not just the yellow Cavendish variety found in supermarkets across America: in Florida they are available as bananitos, colorados, plátanos, and maduros. The first of these is a tiny miniature banana only about 4-5 inches (10–13 cm) in length and it is sweet. The second has a red peel and an apple like after taste, and the third and fourth are used as a starch on nearly every Caribbean island as a side dish, baked or fried: all of the above are a staple of Florida outdoor markets when in season and all have been grown in the Caribbean for almost 400 years. Mangoes are grown as a backyard plant in Southern Florida and otherwise are a favorite treat coming in many different shapes in sizes from Nam Doc Mai, brought to Florida after the Vietnam War, to Madame Francis, a mango from Haiti. Sweetsop and soursop are popular around Miami, but nearly unheard of in other areas of the South.
Citrus is a major crop of Florida, and features at every breakfast table and every market with the height of the season near the first week of January. Hamlin oranges are the main cultivar planted, and from this crop the rest of the United States and to a lesser extent Europe gets orange juice. Other plantings would include grapefruits, tangerines, clementine oranges, limes, and even a few more rare ones, like cara cara navels, tangelos, and the Jamaican Ugli fruit. Tomatoes, bell peppers, habanero peppers, and figs, especially taken from the Florida strangler fig, complete the produce menu. Blue crab, conch, Florida stone crab, red drum, dorado, and marlins tend to be local favorite ingredients. Dairy is available in this region, but it is less emphasized due to the year round warmth. Traditional key lime pie, a dessert from the islands off the coast of Miami, is made with condensed milk to form the custard with the eye wateringly tart limes native to the Florida Keys in part because milk would spoil in an age before refrigeration. Pork in this region tends to be roasted in methods similar to those found in Puerto Rico and Cuba, owing to mass emigration from those countries in the 20th century, especially in the counties surrounding Miami. Orange blossom honey is a specialty of the state, and is widely available in farmer’s markets.
Ptarmigan, grouse, crow blackbirds, dove, ducks and other game fowl are consumed in the United States. In the American state of Arkansas, beaver tail stew is consumed in Cotton town. Squirrel, raccoon, possum, bear, muskrat, chipmunk, skunk, groundhog, pheasant, armadillo and rabbit are also consumed in the United States.
Cooking in the American West gets its influence from Native American and Hispanophone cultures, as well as later settlers that came in the 19th century: Texas, for example, has some influence from Germany in its choice of barbecue by using sausages. Another instance can be found in the Northwestern region, which encompasses Oregon, Washington, and Northern California. All of the aforementioned rely on local seafood and a few classics of their own. In New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, West Texas, and Southern California, Mexican flavors and influences are extremely common, especially from the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Baja California, and Sonora.
The Pacific Northwest as a region generally includes Alaska and the state of Washington near the Canada–US border and terminates near Sacramento, California. Here, the terrain is mostly temperate rainforest on the Coast mixed with pine forest as one approaches the Canada–US border inland. One of the core favorite foodstuffs is Pacific salmon, native to many of the larger rivers of the area and often smoked or grilled on cedar planks. In Alaska, wild game like ptarmigan and moose meat feature extensively since much of the state is wilderness. Fresh fish like steelhead trout, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, and pollock are fished for extensively and feature on the menu of many restaurants, as do a plethora of fresh berries and vegetables, like Cameo apples from Washington state, the headquarters of the U.S. apple industry, cherries from Oregon, blackberries, and marionberries, a feature of many pies. Hazelnuts are grown extensively in this region and are a feature of baking, such as in chocolate hazelnut pie, an Oregon favorite, and Almond Roca is a local candy.
This region is also heavily dominated by some notable wineries producing a high quality product, with Sonoma found within this region as well as the newer vinicultural juggernauts of Washington State, like the Yakima Valley. The first plantings of vineyards in the United States began many miles to the South on the Pacific coast in what is now San Diego, because the Franciscan friars that settled Alta California required wines they could use for their table and for the Eucharist, and the variety they planted, the mission grape, is still available on a limited basis. Today, French, Spanish, and Italian varietals are sold by the hogshead, and much of the area directly north of San Francisco is under vine, in particular Pinot noir, Garnacha, and Ruffina and several Tuscan varietals.
Like its counterpart on the opposite coast to the East, there is a grand variety of shellfish in this region. Geoducks are a native species of giant clam that have incredibly long necks, and they are eaten by the bucket full as well as shipped to Asia for millions of dollars as they are believed to be an aphrodisiac. Gaper clams are a favorite food, often grilled or steamed in a sauce, as is the native California abalone, which although protected as a food source is a traditional foodway predating settlement by whites and today features heavily in the cooking of fine restaurants as well as in home cooking, in mirin-flavored soups (the influence of Japanese cooking is strong in the region) noodle dishes and on the barbecue. Olympia oysters are served on the half shell as well as the Kumamoto oyster, introduced by Japanese immigrants and a staple at dinner as an appetizer. California mussels are a delicacy of the region, and have been a feature of the cooking for generations: there is evidence that Native American tribes consumed them up and down the California coast for centuries in their masses.
Crabs are a delicacy, and included in this are Alaskan king crab, red crab, yellow crab, and Dungeness crab. Californian and Oregonian sportsmen pursue the last three extensively using hoop nets, and prepare them in a multitude of ways. Alaska king crab, able to get up to 10 kg, is often served steamed for a whole table with lemon butter sauce or put in chunks of salad with avocado, and native crabs are the base of dishes like the California roll, cioppino, a tomato based fisherman’s stew, and Crab Louie, another kind of salad native to San Francisco. Favorite grains are mainly wheat, and the region is known for sourdough bread. Cheeses of the region include Humboldt Fog, Cougar Gold and Teleme.
The states of the Four Corners (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah) plus Nevada, Southern California, and West Texasmake up a large chunk of the United States and there is a distinct Hispanic accent to the cookery here, with each having cultural capitals in Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and Tucson. For centuries, prior to California’s statehood in the 1830s, it was part of the Spanish Empire, namely Alta California (modern California), Santa Fe de Nuevo México (modern New Mexico), and Tejas (modern Texas). Today it is home of a large population of Native Americans, Hispanos, descendants of the American frontier, Asian Americans, and immigrants from Mexico and Latin America; California, New Mexico, and Texas continue to hold their unique identities which is reflected in their distinct regional cuisines, the multiple cuisines of California, New Mexican cuisine, Texan cuisine, and Tex-Mex. Spanish is a commonly spoken secondary language here; the state of New Mexico has its own distinct dialect.
With the exception of Southern California, the signature meat is beef, since this is one of the two regions in which cowboys lived and modern cattle ranchers still eke out their living today. High quality beefstock is a feature that has been present in the region for more than 200 years and the many cuts of beef are unique to the United States. These cuts of meat are different from the related Mexican cuisine over the border in that certain kind of offal, like lengua (tongue) cabeza (head) and tripas (tripe) are considered less desirable and are thus less emphasized. Typical cuts would include the ribs, brisket, sirloin, flank steak, skirt steak, and t-bone.
Introduction of agriculture was limited prior to the 20th century and the development of better irrigation techniques, but included the addition of peaches, a crop still celebrated by Native American tribes like the Havasupai, and oranges; today in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico the favored orange today is the Moro blood orange, which often finds its way into the local cuisine, like cakes and marmalade. Pine nutsare a particular regional specialty and feature often in fine dining and cookies; indeed in Nevada the Native American tribes that live there are by treaty given rights to exclusive harvest. From Native Americans, Westerners learned the practice of eating cactus fruit from the myriad species of opuntia that occupy the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave desert lands. In California, Spanish missionaries brought with them the mission fig: today this fruit is a delicacy.
In Texas, the local barbecue is often entirely made up of beef brisket or large rib racks, where the meat is seasoned with a spice rub and cooked over coals of mesquite, and in other portions of the state they smoke their meat and peppery sausages over high heat using pecan, apple, and oak and served it with a side of pickled vegetables, a legacy of German and Czech settlers of the late 1800s. California is home to Santa Maria-style barbecue, where the spices involved generally are black pepper, paprika, and garlic salt, and grilled over the coals of coast live oak.
Southern California is located more towards the coast and has had more contact with immigration from the West Pacific and Baja California, in addition to having the international city of Los Angeles as its capital. Here, the prime mode of transportation is by car. Drive through fast food was invented in this area, but so was the concept of the gourmet burger movement, giving birth to chains like In and Out Burger, with many variations of burgers including chili, multiple patties, avocado, special sauces, and angus or wagyu beef; common accompaniments include thick milkshakes in various flavors like mint, chocolate, peanut butter, vanilla, strawberry, and mango. Smoothies are a common breakfast item made with fresh fruit juice, yogurt, and crushed ice. Agua fresca, a drink originated by Mexican immigrants, is a common hot weather beverage sold in many supermarkets and at mom and pop stands, available in citrus, watermelon, and strawberry flavors; the California version usually served chilled without grain in it.
Fresh fish and shellfish in Southern California tends to be expensive in restaurants, but every year since the end of WWII, the Pismo clam festival has taken place where the local population takes a large species of clam and bakes, stuffs, and roasts it as it is a regional delicacy. Fishing for pacific species of octopus and the Humboldt squid are common, and both are a feature of East Asian and other L.A. fish markets.Lingcod is a coveted regional fish that is often caught in the autumn off the coast of San Diego and in the Channel Islands and often served baked. California sheephead are often grilled and are much sought after by spear fishermen and the immigrant Chinese population, in which case it is basket steamed. Most revered of all in recent years is the California spiny lobster, a beast that can grow to be 20 kg, and is a delicacy that now rivals the fishery for Dungeness crab in its importance.
Much of this cuisine mixes and melts into traditions like the lu’au, whose traditional elaborate fare was once the prerogative of kings and queens but today is the subject of parties for both tourists and also private parties for the ‘ohana (meaning family and close friends.) Traditionally, women and men ate separately under the Hawaiian kapusystem, a system of religious beliefs that honored the Hawaiian gods similar to the Maori tapu system, though in this case had some specific prohibitions towards females eating things like coconut, pork, turtle meat, and bananas as these were considered parts of the male gods. Punishment for violation could be severe, as a woman might endanger a man’s mana, or soul, by eating with him or otherwise by eating the forbidden food because doing so dishonored all the male gods. As the system broke down after 1810, introductions of foods from laborers on plantations began to be included at feasts and much cross pollination occurred, where Asian foodstuffs mixed with Polynesian foodstuffs like breadfruit, kukui nuts, and purple sweet potatoes.
Some notable Hawaiian fare includes seared ahi tuna, opakapaka (snapper) with passionfruit, Hawaiian island-raised lamb, beef and meat products, Hawaiian plate lunch, and Molokai shrimp. Seafood traditionally is caught fresh in Hawaiian waters, and particular delicacies are ula poni, papaikualoa, ‘opihi, and ‘opihi malihini, better known as Hawaiian spiny lobster, Kona crab, Hawaiian limpet, and abalone, the last brought over with Japanese immigrants. Some cuisine also incorporates a broad variety of produce and locally grown agricultural products, including tomatoes, sweet Maui onions, taro, and macadamia nuts. Tropical fruits equally play an important role in the cuisine as a flavoring in cocktails and in desserts, including local cultivars of bananas, sweetsop, mangoes, lychee, coconuts, papayas, and lilikoi (passionfruit). Pineapples have been an island staple since the 19th century and figure into many marinades and drinks.
A movement began during the 1980s among popular leading chefs to reclaim America’s ethnic foods within its regional traditions, where these trends originated. One of the earliest was Paul Prudhomme, who in 1984 began the introduction of his influential cookbook, Paul Prodhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, by describing the over 200-year history of Creole and Cajun cooking; he aims to “preserve and expand the Louisiana tradition.” Prodhomme’s success quickly inspired other chefs. Norman Van Aken embraced a Floridian type cuisine fused with many ethnic and globalized elements in his Feast of Sunlight cookbook in 1988. California became swept up in the movement, then seemingly started to lead the trend itself, in, for example, the popular restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Examples of the Chez Panisse phenomenon, chefs who embraced a new globalized cuisine, were celebrity chefs like Jeremiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck, both former colleagues at the restaurant. Puck went on to describe his belief in contemporary, new style American cuisine in the introduction to The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook:
Puck’s former colleague, Jeremiah Tower became synonymous with California Cuisine and the overall American culinary revolution. Meanwhile, the restaurant that inspired both Puck and Tower became a distinguished establishment, popularizing its so called “mantra” in its book by Paul Bertolli and owner Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cooking, in 1988. Published well after the restaurants’ founding in 1971, this new cookbook from the restaurant seemed to perfect the idea and philosophy that had developed over the years. The book embraced America’s natural bounty, specifically that of California, while containing recipes that reflected Bertoli and Waters’ appreciation of both northern Italian and French style foods.
While the earliest cuisine of the United States was influenced by Native Americans, the thirteen colonies, or the antebellum South; the overall culture of the nation, its gastronomy and the growing culinary arts became ever more influenced by its changing ethnicmix and immigrant patterns from the 18th and 19th centuries unto the present. Some of the ethnic groups that continued to influence the cuisine were here in prior years; while others arrived more numerously during “The Great Transatlantic Migration” (of 1870—1914) or other mass migrations.
Some of the ethnic influences could be found across the nation after the American Civil War and into the continental expansion for most of the 19th century. Ethnic influences already in the nation at that time would include the following groups and their respective cuisines:
- Select nationalities of Europe and the respective developments from early modern European cuisine of the colonial age:
- British-Americans and on-going developments in New England cuisine, the national traditions founded in cuisine of the thirteen colonies and some aspects of other regional cuisine.
- Spanish Americans and early modern Spanish cuisine, as well as Basque-Americans and Basque cuisine.
- Early German-American or Pennsylvania Dutch and Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine
- French Americans and their New World regional identities such as:
- Cajun and Cajun cuisine
- Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Creole cuisine. Louisiana Creole (also called French Créole) refers to native born people of the New Orleans area who are descended from the Colonial French and Spanish settlers of Colonial French Louisiana, before it became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.
- The various ethnicities originating from early social factors of Race in the United States and the gastronomy and cuisines of the New World, Latin American cuisineand North American cuisine:
- Indigenous Native Americans in the United States and American Indian cuisine
- African Americans and Soul food.
- Puerto Rican cuisine
- Mexican Americans and Mexican-American cuisine; as well as related regional cuisines:
- Tex-Mex (regional Texas and Mexican fusion)
- Some aspects of “Southwestern cuisine.”
- Cuisine of New Mexico
Mass migrations of immigrants to the United States came in several waves. Historians identify several waves of migration to the United States: one from 1815 to 1860, in which some five million English, Irish, Germanic, Scandinavian, and others from northwestern Europe came to the United States; one from 1865 to 1890, in which some 10 million immigrants, also mainly from northwestern Europe, settled, and a third from 1890 to 1914, in which 15 million immigrants, mainly from central, eastern, and southern Europe (many Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish, Lithuanian, Russian, Jewish, Greek, Italian, and Romanian) settled in the United States.
Together with earlier arrivals to the United States (including the indigenous Native Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, particularly in the West, Southwest, and Texas; African Americans who came to the United States in the Atlantic slave trade; and early colonial migrants from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere), these new waves of immigrants had a profound impact on national or regional cuisine. Some of these more prominent groups include the following:
- Arab Americans, particularly Lebanese Americans (the largest ethnic Arab group in the United States) – Arab cuisine, Lebanese cuisine
- Chinese Americans – American Chinese cuisine, Chinese cuisine
- Cuban Americans – Cuban cuisine
- Dominican Americans – Dominican Republic cuisine
- German Americans – German cuisine (the Pennsylvania Dutch, although descended from Germans, arrived earlier than the bulk of German migrants and have distinct culinary traditions)
- Greek Americans – Greek-American cuisine, Greek cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine
- Haitian Americans – Haitian cuisine
- Hungarian Americans – Hungarian cuisine
- Indian Americans – Indian cuisine
- Irish Americans – Irish cuisine
- Italian Americans – Italian-American cuisine, Italian cuisine
- Japanese Americans – Japanese cuisine, with influences on the Hawaiian cuisine
- Jewish Americans – Jewish cuisine, with particular influence on New York City cuisine
- Lithuanian Americans – Lithuanian cuisine, Midwest
- Nicaraguan American– Nicaraguan cuisine
- Pakistani Americans – Pakistani cuisine
- Polish Americans – Polish cuisine, with particular impact on Midwest
- Polynesian Americans – Hawaiian cuisine
- Portuguese Americans – Portuguese cuisine
- Romanian Americans – Romanian cuisine
- Russian Americans – Russian cuisine, with particular impact on Midwest
- Salvadoran Americans – Salvadoran cuisine
- Scottish Americans – Scottish cuisine
- Thai Americans – Thai cuisine
- Turkish Americans – Turkish cuisine, Balkan cuisine
- Vietnamese Americans – Vietnamese cuisine
- West Indian Americans – Caribbean cuisine, Jamaican cuisine, Trinidad and Tobago cuisine
Contributions from these ethnic foods have become as common as traditional “American” fares such as hot dogs, hamburgers, beef steak, which are derived from German cuisine, (chicken-fried steak, for example, is a variation on German schnitzel), cherry pie, Coca-Cola, milkshakes, fried chicken (Fried chicken is of Scottish and African influence) and so on. Nowadays, Americans also have a ubiquitous consumption of foods like pizza and pasta, tacos and burritos to “General Tso’s chicken” and fortune cookies. Fascination with these and other ethnic foods may also vary with region.
American chefs have been influential both in the food industry and in popular culture. An important 19th-century American chef was Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City. American cooking has been exported around the world, both through the global expansion of restaurant chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s and McDonald’s and the efforts of individual restaurateurs such as Bob Payton, credited with bringing American-style pizza to the UK.
The first generation of television chefs such as Robert Carrier and Julia Child tended to concentrate on cooking based primarily on European, especially French and Italian, cuisines. Only during the 1970s and 1980s did television chefs such as James Beard and Jeff Smith shift the focus towards home-grown cooking styles, particularly those of the different ethnic groups within the nation. Notable American restaurant chefs include Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz, Alfred Portale, Paul Prudhomme, Paul Bertolli, Frank Stitt, Alice Waters, Patrick O’Connell and celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, David Chang, Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse, Cat Cora, Michael Symon, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Todd English, Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri, Colonel Sanders and Paula Deen.
Regional chefs are emerging as localized celebrity chefs with growing broader appeal, such as Peter Merriman (Hawaii Regional Cuisine), Jerry Traunfeld, Alan Wong(Pacific Rim cuisine), Norman Van Aken (New World Cuisine – fusion Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American), and Mark Miller (American Southwest cuisine).
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