Tuesday, August 12, 2008

American Pie

I partook in a very interesting conversation in the staff room during morning tea yesterday. One of the classrooms is doing a tour of foods around the world and the teacher was consulting with another on what would be typical American fare. I walked in on them as they were trying out their worst American accents and they both blushed deeply, as I could hear in their voices how unmelodious our accent must be to the Kiwi ear. Busted!

As I've noted before, the flip side of living in another culture is that you end up with a better definition of your own, so I was curious to hear what they thought of as American. Burgers and fries were unanimously considered quintessential American, as were pancakes and maple syrup, popcorn, hot dogs, and roast turkey. I groaned in horror when they all enthusiastically sited McDonald's as being uber-American. Oddly enough, it took me a beat or two to think of anything (not true, I immediately thought of Mexican food but quickly realized how stupid that would sound), but I put forth apple pie and pumpkin pie. I think in the end it was decided pancakes and maple syrup would be the easiest for the class to cook together, even if the maple syrup would be Canadian, which I guess is what they can get here.

I continued the conversation with one of the relievers (substitute teacher) who had once driven across the states in a Mustang convertible (which she only realized had no heat when she reached the Canadian border, but I digress.) She said she thought of barbecued spare ribs, and said she ate them every time she had the chance during that trip. I thought barbecue was an excellent suggestion of a true American food, and since our conversation I've been making a mental list of what could be considered uniquely American foods, not an easy list to make when you think of how many cultures we've absorbed and integrated in our short history. What do you think of? I'd be curious to know from both Kiwis, U.S. dwellers and anyone else, what, to you, is true Americana cuisine?


Dr. Cathy Ezrailson said...

Ed and I think that beefsteak -- Angus T-bone, corn-on-the-cob, jello, cherry pie, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, corn dogs, coleslaw, watermelon, Dairy Queen banana split, malts and shakes, candy (or caramel)apples, cotton candy, salt water taffy, New England boiled dinner, clam chowder, gumbo, Cajun dirty rice, lobster rolls, Boston baked beans, pastrami, pizza, Virginia ham, chop suey, pulled pork, "thowed rolls," po-boys, hominey grits, crayfish(crawfish),bourbon, moonshine, sour mash, various beers, mint julips, biscuits and gravy, corned beef hash, venison jerky, pheasant, gator, brisket, buffalo burgers, American fries, toasted ravioli, Chicago deep dish pizza, shad roe, minced meat, Boston cream pie, pecan pie, pralines, buttermilk pie, rhubarb pie, chicken and dumplings, rattlesnake, salmon, dilled pickles, fried green tomatoes, stuffed jalapenos, King Ranch cassarole, three bean salad, and baked Alaska.

Whew! You are making me very hungry with your question. Thanks for the food voyage through the US.
P.S. We can't stop! You've created a monster! M & Ms, Cracker Jacks, red beans and rice, crawfish etoufette, peppermint ice cream, egg salad, ham salad, macaroni salad, fried pork rinds, watermelon rinds, ham hocks, chitlins, collard greens, mustard greens, sweet potato pie, yams with marshmallows, popcorn balls, oysters Rockefeller, banana's foster, twinkies, fry bread, smoked links, red hots, good n' plenty, jujubees, jujyfruits, twizzlers, frito pie, banana pudding, cranberry sauce, oysters/clams on the half shell.

Patois said...

Clearly, I can't add anything now that Cathy has named absolutely everything. I will point out the saying "As American as apple pie" to reinforce that.

Coincidentally, guess what we're having for dinner tonight? BBQ ribs. Yummmmmm.

Steve said...

I think "Cheeseburger and Fries" from a place like Chili's when I think of iconic American Food. Not that Chili's makes particularly great burgers, but the cafe-cum-cantina is pretty ubiquitous in the states and lots of cheeseburgers and fries are served under many different roofs that have walls littered with flea market cast-off kitch.

Memphis BBQ is probably as American as it gets.

Street vendor boiled hot dogs served in a steamed bun New York style would be up there too.

Steve said...

Don't forget

Philly Cheesesteaks!

Brandie said...

What about Jello salad? I mean, I hope it's unique to the states but I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

Well, when I think of uniquely American I don't think first of restaurant food at all. Church basement. We're all a product of where in the U.S. and when and who with, so for me the Jell-0 salad--that would be red with sliced bananas and cool whip tops the list. And then meat and potatoes. Any meat, potatoes any way, probably mashed or in a casserole. For a complete listing of the potluck/church basement specialties go to Prairie Home Companion website or read one of Garrison Keillor's very fun books.

Gonna let you guess who thinks farm USA!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Joanne, for taking many of us on a fun trip down memory lane. The very best of times are best evoked by the memory of smells and tastes.

Truly. It's primal!

SF.Shen said...

In CA, I think of items rather than "dishes" per se:

* Artichokes
* Morel mushrooms
* Pluots