CHAPTER 38: THE COOKING OF AMERICA.
THE HISTORY OF CUISINE IN NORTH AMERICA
When the colonists came to 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 if they could. The manner of cooking for the American
colonists followed along the line of British cookery up until the Revolution.
There was a general disdain for French cookery, even with the French in South Carolina
and French Canadians. Reinforcing the anti-French sentiment was the French and Indian
War from 1754-1764. This created a large anxiety against the French, which influenced
the English to either deport many of the French, or as in the case of the Acadians, they
migrated to Louisiana. The Acadian French did create a large French influence in the diet
of those settled in Louisiana, but had little or no influence outside of Louisiana.
The American colonial diet varied depending on where the settled region. 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. Substitutes in cases such as this included cornmeal.
As many of the New Englanders were originally from England, game hunting was often a
pastime from back home that paid off when they immigrated to the New World. Much of
the northern colonists depended upon the ability either of themselves to hunt, or for
others from which they could purchase game. This was the preferred method for protein
consumption over animal raising, as it required much less work to defend the kept
animals against Native Americans or the French.
NATIVE MEAT AND LIVESTOCK
The most commonly hunted and eaten game included deer, bear, buffalo (Bison) 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 pasties. In
addition to game, mutton was a meat that colonists would enjoy from time to time. The
Spanish in Florida originally introduced sheep to the New World, in the north however,
the Dutch and English introduced sheep. The keeping of sheep was a result of the English
non-practice of animal raising. The keeping of sheep was of importance as it not only
provided wool, but also after the sheep had reached an age that it was unmanageable for
wool production; it became mutton for the English diet. The forage–based diet for sheep
that prevailed in the Colonies produced a characteristically strong, gamy flavor that had a
tougher consistency. This required aging and slow cooking to tenderize.
OILS & FATS
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.
The American lobster was a staple of the colonial diet
Those that lived near the shores in New England often dined on fish, crustaceans and
other animals that emanated from the waters. Colonists ate large quantities of turtle, and
it was an exportable delicacy for Europe. Cod, in both fresh and salted form was enjoyed,
with the salted variation created for long storage. Lobsters proliferated in the waters as
well, and were extremely common in the New England diet. Cod and Lobster were so
common in the diet, that some often complained about how often the dined on it. The
highest quality cod was usually dried, however, and exported to the Mediterranean in
exchange for fruits not grown in the American colonies.
A number of vegetables grew in the northern colonies, which included turnips, onions,
cabbage, carrots, and parsnips, along with a number of beans, pulses and legumes. These
vegetables kept well through the colder months in storage. Other vegetables grew which
were salted or pickled for preservation, such as cucumbers. As control over the northern
colonies’ farming practices came from the seasons, fresh greens consumption occurred
only during the summer months. Pumpkins and gourds were other vegetables that grew
well in the northern colonies; often used for food for animals in addition to human
consumption. In addition to the vegetables, a large number of fruits were grown
seasonally. Fruits not eaten in season often saw their way into preservation methods like
jam, wet sweetmeats, dried or cooked into pies that could freeze during the winter months
NATIVE AMERICANS & THEIR IMPACT
Native Americans utilized a number of cooking methods. 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 the
proper pottery that could be used directly over a fire, they developed a technique which
has caused many anthropologists to call them "Stone Boilers." The Native Americans
would heat rocks directly in a fire and then add the bricks 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.
Another method was to use an empty buffalo stomach filled with desired ingredients and
suspended over a low fire. The fire would have been insufficient to completely cook the
food contained in the stomach however; as the flesh would burn so heated rocks would be
added to the food as well. Some Native Americans would also use the leather of a
buffalo-hide in the same manner.
The Native Americans are credited as the first in America to create fire-proof pottery to
place in direct flame. The Southwest Native Americans had also created ovens made of
adobe which was used to bake items such as breads made from cornmeal. Native
Americans in other parts of America made ovens out of dug pits, like early Tandoor
ovens in Egypt. These pits were also used to steam foods by adding heated rocks or
embers and then seaweed or corn husks (or other coverings) 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. The hole
was also a location for producing what has become Boston baked beans made from
beans, maple sugar and a piece of bear fat.
One of the most important occurrences in this period was the interaction with the people
of the area and borrowing from Native American cuisine. From this interaction came one
of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize), either ground into meal or limed
with an alkaline salt to make hominy, also called masa. Corn was an essential and
versatile crop for the early settlers. Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes from the
familiar cornbread and grits to liquors such as whiskey and moonshine, which were
important trade items. Though a lesser staple, potatoes were also adopted from Native
American cuisine and were used in many similar ways as corn.
Native Americans introduced the first Southerners to many other vegetables still familiar
on southern tables. Squash, pumpkin, many types of beans, tomatoes (though these were
initially considered poisonous), many types of peppers and sassafras all came to the
settlers via the native tribes. Many fruits are available in this region. Blackberries,
raspberries, and many other wild berries were part of settlers’ diets.
Early settlers also supplemented their diets with meats derived from the hunting of native
game. Venison was an important meat staple due to the abundance of white-tailed deer in
the area. Settlers also hunted rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons, all of which
were pests to the crops they raised. Livestock in the form of hogs and cattle were kept.
When game or livestock were killed, the entire animal was used. Aside from the meat, it
was not uncommon for settlers to eat organ meats such as liver, brains and intestines.
This tradition remains today in hallmark dishes like chitterlings (commonly called
chit’lins) which are fried large intestines of hogs, livermush (a common dish in the
Carolinas made from hog liver), and pork brains and eggs. The fat of the animals,
particularly hogs, was rendered and used for cooking and frying
While the earliest cuisine of the United States was primarily influenced by indigenous
Native Americans, the cuisine of the thirteen colonies or the culture of the American
South; the overall culture of the nation, its gastronomy and the growing culinary arts
became ever more influenced by its changing ethnic mix and immigrant patterns over the
20th century 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 in the nation from after the Civil War and into the History of
United States continental expansion during most of the 19th century. Ethnic influences
already in the nation at that time would include the following groups and their respective
cuisines: Indigenous Native Americans in the United States (Indians) and Native
American cuisine, 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
(Hispanic) and early modern Spanish 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.
RACE & SOCIAL EFFECTS ON AMERICAN CUISINE
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 cuisine and North
American cuisine: African-Americans and “Soul Food.” Louisiana Creole and Louisiana
Creole cuisine. The word Creole refers to people of various racial decedents that
descended from the settlers of Colonial France and Hispanic America in Colonial French
Louisiana, before it became part of the United States in 1803 (with the Louisiana
Purchase, with claim to the culture and Creole cuisine. They are Multi-racial (“Creoles of
Color”) being of mixed (mainly) French, Spanish, African-American, and Native-
Mexican-Americans and Mexican-American cuisine; as well as related regional cuisines:
Like Tex-Mex (regional Texas and Mexican fusion).
AFRICAN AMERICAN INFLUENCES
Plantations were born after the Southern settlers realized the great region's potential for
agricultural profit. The wealthiest land owners began to cultivate the land in larger and
larger tracts and in the process began using slaves from Africa for labor.
Most Africans’ diets consisted of greens and various vegetables. Stews were common
and rice was a familiar staple to them. Foods that became part of the Southern diet from
African-American heritage include eggplant, kola nuts, sesame seeds, okra, sweet
potatoes, field peas, peanuts, black-eyed peas, African rice and some melons.
The African influence is present in traditional Cajun cuisine. Gumbo (a stew using
chicken or seafood, sausage, rice, okra and roux) and étouffée, (a thicker, less liquid
gumbo served over a bed of rice) are all born from African cooking tradition.
The term "soul food" dates only to the first half of the 1960s. In the South the phrase is
not used and it is simply thought of as home cooking. There are many stories about non-
black Southerners going to other parts of the country and having to seek out African
American restaurants for the food they grew up on. In some cases they have been told
they cannot get certain grocery items and to try the foreign sections. Generally speaking
white Southerners eat the exact same food in the exact same way as traditional African
Americans. There are some foods, however, like chitlins and pig's feet that are more
associated with poverty (even among white Southerners) and have simply been employed
over time more by blacks than whites.
WHAT IS AMERICAN CUISINE?
One characteristic of American cooking is called fusion food; a fusion of multiple ethnic
or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. The cuisine of the South, for
example, has been heavily influenced by immigrants from Africa, France, and Mexico,
among others. Asian cooking has played a particularly large role in American fusion
cuisine. Similarly, while some dishes considered typically American many have their
origins in other countries, American cooks and chefs have substantially altered them over
the years, to the degree that the dish as now enjoyed the world over may even be
considered American. Hot dogs and hamburgers are both based on traditional German
dishes, brought over to America by German immigrants to the United States, but in their
modern popular form they can be reasonably considered American dishes.
Many companies in the American food industry develop new products requiring minimal
preparation, such as frozen entrees. Some corporate kitchens such as Campbell's develop
consumer recipes featuring their company's products. Many of these recipes have become
very popular. For example, the General Mills Betty Crocker's Cookbook, first published
in 1950 and currently in its 10th edition, is commonly found in American homes.
The second characteristic of American cooking is called Immigrant cuisine, which refers
to food that originates as a foreign cuisine (usually one carried over by immigrants) that
has been altered, sometimes dramatically, to use tastes, techniques, and ingredients
common or unique to the new culture. Immigrant cuisines are in many ways similar to
fusion cuisines in how they combine elements of different cultures; however, where a
fusion dish is generally an intentional combination of sometimes-clashing styles, an
immigrant cuisine is formed from a process of adapting old-country recipes to different
ingredients and social pressures. Well-known examples include Americanized cuisines
such as Italian-American and Chinese-American cuisines, as well as cuisines such as
Mexican, Brazilian, and Caribbean where Native American food traditions intermingled
with imported traditions from the British Isles, Western Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa.
New England is the most northeastern region of the United States, including the six states
of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The
region consists of a heritage linking it to Britain. The Native American cuisine became
part of the cookery style that the early colonists brought with them. 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. Much
of the cuisine started with one-pot cookery, which resulted in such dishes as succotash,
chowder, baked beans, and others.
Lobster is an integral ingredient to the cuisine, indigenous to the shores of the region.
Other 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 a Native American tradition. The fruits of the region include the grapes
used in grape juice made by companies such as Welch's, along with jelly. Apples from
New England include the original varieties, Baldwin, Lady, Mother, Pomme Grise,
Porter, Roxbury Russet, Wright, Sops of Wine, Peck's Pleasant, Titus Pippin, Westfield-
Seek-No-Further, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Cranberries are another fruit indigenous to
NORTHEAST – MID-ATLANTIC
Maryland boasts a plethora of marine fare, including blue crabs, crab cakes, crab soup,
seafood lasagna, raw oysters, and rock fish. The state even has its own brand of potato
chip, called Crab Chips. Marylanders use Old Bay, a local spice, to season everything
from crabs to applesauce to peaches to popcorn. Pennsylvania could easily be called the
junk food capital of the United States. It is the home of Hershey's, Tastykake, Snyder's of
Hanover, Peanut Chews, and the cheese steak. Pretzels are a common snack in
Pennsylvania. They come in many varieties, from the hot, soft, chewy pretzels sold by
vendors on the street or stadium to the salty, hard, crunchy variety sold by pretzels
manufacturers in the grocery and quick stop stores of Pennsylvania. New York City is
known as one of the gastronomical capitals of the United States. With its large immigrant
population virtually every cuisine could be found here. New York City is famous for its
New York-style pizza, Bagels, Calzone, Pastrami, and Manhattan clam chowder. Buffalo,
New York is known for its Buffalo wings, and Sponge Toffee.
Boston is the center of Massachusetts, and its norms and modes have influenced the
whole of the state. A major seaport from Colonial times, Boston is famous for its clam
chowder, called "New England clam chowder" to distinguish it from a similar soup made
in New York.
The most notable influences come from African, Native American, British, Irish, French,
and Spanish cuisines. Soul food, Creole, Cajun, and Floribbean are examples of Southern
cuisine. In more recent history, elements of Southern cuisine have spread north, having
an effect on the development of other types of American cuisine.
The food of the American South is quite multicultural. Many items like squash, tomatoes,
corn (and its derivatives, including grits itself), to say nothing of types of cornbreads) as
well as the practice of deep pit barbecuing have been inherited from the indigenous
Americans. Many foods associated with sugar, flour, milk, eggs (many kinds of baking or
dairy products like breads and cheeses) are more associated with Europe. The South's
propensity for a full breakfast (as opposed to a Continental one with a simple bread item
and drink) is derived from the British fry up, although it was altered substantially. Much
of Cajun/Creole cuisine is based on France and on Spain to a lesser extent. Floribbean is
more Spanish-based with obvious Caribbean influences; while Tex-Mex has considerable
Mexican and native tribe touches
Southwestern cuisine is food styled after the rustic cooking of California, New Mexico,
Arizona, Nevada, Utah, as well as parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. It comprises
a fusion of recipes for things that might have been eaten by cowboys, Native Americans,
and Mexicans throughout the post-Columbian era; however, there is a great diversity in
this kind of cuisine within the above-mentioned states.
Southwestern cuisine is heavily influenced by Mexican cuisine but often involves larger
cuts of meat, and less use of tripe, brain, and other parts not considered as desirable in the
United States. Like Mexican cuisine, it is also known for its use of spices (particularly the
Chile, or Chili pepper) and accompaniment with beans (frijoles), cooked in a variety of
manners. Chili con carne, fajitas, certain kinds of chiles rellenos (stuffed chiles), and
various steak-chile combinations are particularly well-known Southwestern foods. Note
that "chili" generally refers to a thick stew or soup prepared with beans and meat, while
"chile" refers to the peppers that grow in this region and have been eaten for thousands of
years by the native people.
Tex-Mex is a term for a type of American food which is used primarily in Texas and the
Southwestern United States to describe a regional cuisine which blends food products
available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans that are
influenced by the cuisines of Mexico. A given Tex-Mex food may or may not be similar
to Mexican cuisine, although it is common for all of these foods to be referred to as
"Mexican food" in Texas, the United States and in some other countries. In many parts of
the country outside of Texas this term is synonymous with Southwestern cuisine.
Midwestern cuisine is a regional cuisine of the American Midwest. It draws its culinary
roots most significantly from the cuisines of Central, Northern and Eastern Europe.
Midwestern cuisine generally showcases simple and hearty dishes that make use of the
abundance of locally grown foodstuffs. Its culinary profiles may seem synonymous with
"American food." "Think of Thanksgiving dinner, turkey with cranberry sauce, wild rice,
and apple pie." Sometimes called "the breadbasket of America," the Midwest serves as a
center for grain production, particularly wheat, corn and soybeans. Midwestern states also
produce most of the country's wild rice. Beef and pork processing always have been
important Midwestern industries, with a strong role in regional diets. Chicago and Kansas
City were historically stockyard and processing centers of the beef trade, while Iowa
remains the center of pork production in the U.S. Far from the oceans, Midwesterners
traditionally ate little seafood, relying on local freshwater fish, such as perch and trout,
supplemented by canned tuna and canned or cured salmon and herring, although modern
air shipping of ocean seafood has been increasing Midwesterners' taste for fish.
Dairy products, especially cheese, form an important group of regional ingredients, with
Wisconsin known as "America's Dairy Capital," although other Midwest states make
cheese as well. The upper Midwest, a prime fruit-growing region, sees the extensive use
of apples, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, peaches and other cold-climate fruit in its
cuisine. As with many American regional cuisines, Midwestern cooking has been heavily
influenced by immigrant groups. Throughout the northern Midwest, northern European
immigrant groups predominated, so Swedish pancakes and Polish pierogi are common.
Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio and Illinois were destinations for many ethnic
German immigrants, so pork sausages and potatoes are prevalent. In the Rust Belt, many
Greeks and Greek Macedonians became restaurateurs, imparting a Mediterranean
influence. Native American influences show up in the uses of corn and wild rice.
Traditionally, Midwestern cooks used a light hand with seasonings, preferring sage, dill,
caraway, mustard, parsley, not to bold or spicy flavors. However, with new waves of
immigrants from Latin America and Asia moving into the region, these tastes are
changing. This section of the country is also headquarters for several seminal hamburger
chains, notably McDonald's in Oak Brook, Illinois (founded in California, but turned into
the iconic franchise by Ray Kroc beginning with a still-standing store in Des Plaines,
As one of the U.S. states nearest Asia, and with a long-standing Asian American
population, the state tends to adopt Asian foods fairly liberally. The American sushi craze
no doubt began in California; the term 'California roll' is used to describe sushi with
avocado as a primary ingredient. These days, items like mochi ice cream and boba are
popular. Because Californians tend to be culturally diverse, tend to be more traveled, and
have culinary sophistication and openness to new eating experiences, fusion cuisine is
accepted and popular in California. California Chef Wolfgang Puck is known as one of
the pioneers of fusion cuisine, popularizing such dishes as Chinese chicken salad at the
restaurant Ma Maison. His restaurant "Chinois" was named after the term attributed to
Richard Wing, who in the 1960s combined French and Chinese cooking at the former
Imperial Dynasty restaurant in Hanford, California. In addition to traditional and/or
commercialized "Mexican" food, California restaurants serve up Honduran, Oaxacan and
nearly every other variation of South American food there is. For example, Pupusarias
are common in areas with a large population of Salvadorians (Pupusas are stuffed tortillas
from El Salvador). Of late, "Fresh Mex" or "Baja-style" Mexican food, which places an
emphasis on fresh ingredients and sometimes seafood, is highly popular. El Pollo Loco
("The Crazy Chicken"), a fast food chain that originated in Northern Mexico, is a
common sight. Baja Fresh, Rubio's Baja Grill, Wahoo's Fish Taco, Chipotle, Qdoba and
La Salsa are examples of the Baja-style Mexiamerican food trend. Modern cuisine of
Hawaii is a fusion of many cuisines brought by multi-ethnic immigrants to the islands,
particularly of American, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Polynesian and
Portuguese origins, and including food sources from plants and animals imported for
Hawaiian agricultural use from all over the world. Since fresh fish is in such abundance,
sushi is number two to the ever famous, “Spam” (processed ham) on the islands.
The best chefs in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States—principally the states
of Washington and Oregon (though the northern panhandle of Idaho may also qualify)—
stress the use of fresh local ingredients. Vegetables, fruits, and berries from the region’s
vast agricultural areas, its great wealth of distinctive seafood, and its vital wines, all play
a part in the cuisine. The region is also an active part of the food culture of the Pacific
Rim and looks to Asia for many culinary influences. Salmon is the ingredient that comes
to mind most readily, and with good reason; the several varieties of local salmon are
relatively easy to prepare and have good reputations as healthy protein sources. Many
restaurants plank roast salmon in the tradition of several of the coastal Native American
tribes of the region. The cook seasons the salmon and bakes it on a board of fragrant
cedar or alder wood. Another simple option would be to sauté or bake the salmon with a
Japanese soy-based or teriyaki sauce. A third option would be to top the salmon with a
sauce of local huckleberries or chanterelle mushrooms. Dungeness crab, Alaska king
crab, scallops, mussels, and clams are only a few of the other seafood choices. The region
has a large oyster cultivation industry and hence uses oysters in many ways: barbecued,
baked, fried or raw on the shell. Both Washington and Oregon are major producers of
fruit; Washington ranks first among American states in apple production, accounting for
fully half the nation’s supply. Pears and stone fruits like peaches, apricots and cherries
are also available in abundance. When fresh these fruits become mainstays of pies, cakes,
and desserts; fruit preserves, jellies, nectars and reductions of all kinds are distinctive in
the region. The fruits also find their way into savory foods: pork chops with apricot;
salmon sautéed with apples and apple cider; cherry-glazed chicken; swordfish with peach
salsa; salads, like the Waldorf, that feature sliced apples or other fruits.
The abundance of rain in the forests of Oregon and Washington State make them ideal
environments for the growth of wild mushrooms. Truffles, Morels, chanterelles,
matsutakes, boletus and hedgehog mushrooms are the basis for most commercial
harvesting; shitakes and other varieties are also commercial grown. Export demand from
Europe and Japan is strong for many varieties, but when local chefs can obtain fresh wild
mushrooms, they invariably incorporate them into their cooking. The Pacific Northwest
region has a reputation for rain, but in actuality have a number of climates and micro-
climates, many of which have proved ideal for wine production. Walla Walla, an inland
area in Washington State, is well known for its sweet onions, descendents of Italian onion
varieties brought to the region during the nineteenth century. The Pacific Northwest
region has a decided tendency to champion organic and sustainable production of all
types of foods, vegetables and herbs, and hence has an excellent infrastructure to process,
ship and market these foods to local restaurants. If one were to create a stereotypical
menu that used the full bounty of the region it would undoubtedly include fresh seafood
or organically raised meat, organic herbs and vegetables, local fruits or berries, and
choice wild mushrooms. The preparation method would stress simplicity and clear flavor
notes, with no one ingredient dominating the others, and with the possible use of select
Asian flavorings and cooking techniques.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN CUISINE
In a city like Denver, the largest in the Rocky Mountain region, a sophisticated gourmet
could enjoy French, Thai, even Ethiopian food; in ski resorts like Sun Valley, Idaho, Park
City, Utah, or Aspen, Colorado, the options for expensive, cosmopolitan dining are
numerous. All the same, throughout the Rocky Mountain West, a simple, direct, and
distinctly regional cuisine makes its mark. The hearty cooking associated with cattle
ranches, rodeos, and the American cowboy is alive and well in the Rockies: good steaks,
chili, fresh fish, barbecue, and often a good dose of spicy Tex-Mex food. Cuisine using
game, freshwater fish, grass-fed beef and bison, free range poultry, local fruits, berries,
mushrooms and vegetables. While game like elk, antelope, caribou, pheasant, duck or
quail may be available wild at a hunters’ camp, people in the region usually depend on
farm-raised game. Game meat tends to be very lean and hence is often made into pâtés or
sausages that incorporate both spicing and extra fat; if in steak or chop form it may be
wrapped in bacon or served with a flavorful sauce made from fruit, berries, or a potent
wine reduction. Game also does well in slow-cooked stews. If game serves as the
region’s signature novelty dish, fresh, local, grass-fed beef, bison (popularly called
buffalo) and lamb may well be the most satisfying meat choices. Idaho Russet Burbank
potatoes are known throughout the United States for their high starch and low moisture
content, features that make them ideal for baking; the baked potato, topped with melted
butter, sour cream and chives, is the ideal complement to a flavorful steak. The lakes and
streams of the Rocky Mountain States have some of the best freshwater fishing in the
world. Fishing enthusiasts look forward to consuming the many varieties of trout,
walleye, bass and other fish they may themselves catch. Wild Pacific salmon and other
fish and shellfish from the Pacific region are also widely served.
I hope you get an opportunity to visit the U.S. and experience all it has to offer I am sure
it’s fast states and endless food venues will not disappoint.
THE GREAT LAKES
During the 1800s and 1900s, waves of immigration to the Great Lakes area came from
Germany, Scandinavia, Holland, and Poland. Most were farmers who were attracted by
the cheap, fertile land. The Homestead Act of 1862 offered free acreage to anyone who
agreed to farm it for a certain number of years. The close-knit, family-based communities
that developed retained their ethnic character for generations, cooking their traditional
foods adapted to local ingredients. The population of the Great Lakes region continues to
be largely German, Scandinavian, Dutch, and Polish. A number of miners originally from
Cornwall, England, also migrated to the area. The Detroit-Dearborn metropolitan area in
Michigan now boasts the largest Arab American population in the United States—the city
of Detroit being the principal port of entry in the United States for Arab immigrants. The
Arab Americans in Michigan-have contributed some foods of the Middle East, such as
hummus, to the "menu" of the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes region was originally
populated by American Indians who taught later European settlers how to hunt the local
game, fish, and gather wild rice and maple syrup, as well as how to grow and eat corn
and native squashes and beans. The European immigrants, mostly from Germany,
Scandinavia, Holland, Poland, and Cornwall, England, each shared their traditional
dishes with the rest of America. The Germans contributed frankfurters (hot dogs),
hamburgers, sauerkraut, potato salad, noodles, bratwurst, liverwurst, and pretzels to the
American diet. Scandinavian foods include lefse (potato flatbread), limpa (rye bread),
lutefisk (dried cod soaked in lye), and Swedish meatballs, as well as the smorgasbord (a
table laid out with several courses of small foods). The Polish introduced kielbasa (a type
of sausage), pierogies (a type of stuffed pasta), Polish dill pickles, and babka (an egg
cake). Pancakes are a Dutch contribution, along with waffles, doughnuts, cookies, and
coleslaw. Miners from Cornwall brought their Cornish pasties, and small meat pies that
were easily carried for lunch. Later immigrants from Arab countries settled in Detroit,
Michigan, and introduced America to foods like hummus (puréed chickpeas), falafel
(deep-fried bean cakes), and tabbouleh (bulgur wheat salad).
Dairy is a major industry in the Great Lakes region, particularly Wisconsin, known as
"America's Dairy land." Dairy farmers in Wisconsin milk about 2 million cows every
day, and there is one cow for every two people in the state. Not surprisingly, milk, butter,
and cheese are staples in the Great Lakes diet. Pigs are also common on farms in the
Great Lakes region because they take up less space and are easier to raise than cattle.
Pork, therefore, is another common ingredient in Great Lakes cooking, especially in the
form of sausage.
Today’s regional food examples and history from presentation slides:
New England Region
Boston Cream Pie
It is really a cake, not a pie. Two layers of sponge cake are filled with thick vanilla
custard and topped with a chocolate glaze or a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar. It is cut
in wedges like a pie. 1856 - The Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House Hotel),
claims to have served Boston cream pies since their opening in 1856. French chef
Sanzian, who was hired for the opening of the hotel, is credited with creating Boston
cream pie. This cake was originally served at the hotel with the names Chocolate Cream
Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie.
New England Claim Chowder
Chowder which is a variety of soup featuring salted pork fat, thickened with a flour,
heavy roux, crumbled ship biscuit or saltine crackers and milk, first materialized with
Breton fisherman who migrated south to New England from Newfoundland. They would
take much of the offal of their daily catches and combine them with readily available
ingredients in large soup pots to feed themselves, each other and their families.
Over time, as it became a culinary staple in the Northeast, the recipe refined and began to
be served commercially. This was when large amounts of milk and cream began to be
added, giving it its characteristic look and texture we know today. Also, large slices of
potato became common in the soup, and in the chowders widely recognized as the best,
onions sautéed in the drippings from pork fat are also incorporated into the recipe. To this
day there are usually never vegetables besides a select few legumes added to chowders,
although some recipes call for thinly sliced strips of carrot to enhance the aesthetic value.
A chocolate bar cookie. The name comes from the deep-brown color of the cookie.
The origins of the chocolate brownies are uncertain but it is felt that it was probably
created by accident, the result of a forgetful cook neglecting to add baking powder to
chocolate cake batter. Sears, Roebuck catalog in 1897 published the first known recipe
for the brownies, and it quickly became very popular (so popular that a brownie mix was
even sold in the catalog).
No one knows with exact certainty, but it all starts with the fact that while the wealthier
women of the 1800's enjoyed lobster at their lavish luncheons, they did not like them torn
apart tableside. So, the cooks for these families started turning the sweet chunks of meat
into more "user-friendly" salads. Now this delicious lobster salad had to wait patiently,
for decades, to be united with its culinary soul mate, the toasted hot dog bun. This
happened sometime after 1912, which was when the first soft hamburger and hot dog
buns were commercially manufactured.
Chocolate Chip Cookie
The first chocolate chip cookies was invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield. One of
Ruth's favorite recipes was an old recipe for "Butter Drop Do" cookies that dated back to
colonial times. The recipe called for the use of baker's chocolate. One day Ruth found
herself without a needed ingredient. Having a bar of semisweet chocolate on hand, she
chopped it into pieces and stirred the chunks of chocolate into the cookie dough. She
assumed that the chocolate would melt and spread throughout each cookie. Instead the
chocolate bits held their shape and created a sensation. She called her new creation the
Toll House Crunch Cookies. The Toll House Crunch Cookies became very popular with
guests at the inn, and soon her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper, as well as
other papers in the New England area. Word of the cookie spread and it became popular.
Mid Atlantic Region
Buffalo Chicken Wings
Buffalo Chicken Wings were originally created at Frank & Teresa’s Anchor Bar in
Buffalo, New York, on October 30, 1964, by owner Teresso Bellissimo. They are deep-
fried chicken wings served with a hot sauce, celery stalks, and blue cheese dressing.
The Anchor Bar's Buffalo Chicken Wings were an instant success and their impact on
Buffalo was so great that former mayor, Stanley M. Makowski, proclaimed Friday, July
29, 1977, as "Chicken Wing Day." The city's proclamation noted that because of Mrs.
Bellissimo's kitchen, "thousands of pounds of chicken wings are consumed by
Buffalonians in restaurants and taverns throughout the city each week."
Hoagies are built-to-order sandwiches filled with meat and cheese, as well as lettuce,
tomatoes, and onions, topped off with a dash of oregano-vinegar dressing on an Italian
roll. A true Italian Hoagie is made with Italian ham, prosciutto, salami, and provolone
cheese, along with all the works. It was declared the “Official Sandwich of Philadelphia”
in 1992. The Hoagie was originally created in Philadelphia. There are a number of
different versions to how the Hoagie got its name, but no matter what version is right
experts all agree that it started in Philadelphia or the towns' suburbs. The most widely
accepted story centers on an area of Philadelphia known as Hog Island, which was home
to a shipyard during World War I (1914-1918). The Italian immigrants working there
would bring giant sandwiches made with cold cuts, spices, oil, lettuce, tomatoes, onions,
and peppers for their lunches. These workers were nicknamed “hoggies.” Over the years,
the name was attached to the sandwiches, but under a different spelling.
New York Cheesecake
New York cheesecake is the pure, unadulterated cheesecake with no fancy ingredients
added either to the cheesecake or placed on top of it. It is made with pure cream cheese,
cream, eggs, and sugar. Everybody has a certain image of New York Style Cheesecake.
According to New Yorkers, only the great cheesecake makers are located in New York,
and the great cheesecake connoisseurs are also in New York. In the 1900s, cheesecakes
were very popular in New York. Every restaurant had their version. I believe the name
"New York Cheesecake" came from the fact that New Yorkers referred to the
cheesecakes made in New York as "New York Cheesecake." New Yorkers say that
cheesecake wasn't really cheesecake until it was cheesecake in New York.
Philadelphia Cheese Steak
According to Philadelphians, you simply cannot make an authentic Philadelphia Cheese
Steak sandwich without an authentic Philadelphia roll. The rolls must be long and thin,
not fluffy or soft, but also not too hard. They also say that if you are more than one hour
from South Philly, you cannot make an authentic sandwich. Tired of hot dogs residents
and tourists would come for paper-wrapped Philly cheesesteaks and sodas. They would
study the wall of celebrity photos before taking seats at the no-frills picnic tables. For the
uninitiated, a sign explains the drill: with or without onions; specify provolone, American
or Cheez Whiz; have your money ready; go to the back of the line if you make a mistake.
Hot Brown Sandwich
Chef Fred K. Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, created The Hot
Brown sandwich in 1926. Bored with the traditional ham and eggs, Chef Schmidt,
delighted his guests by creating the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey sandwich with
turkey, bacon, pimientos, and a delicate Mornay sauce. The sandwich is place under the
broiler to melt the cheese.
In the South, ice tea is served year round with most meals. When people order tea in a
Southern restaurant, chances are they will get sweet ice tea. Outside of the southern
states, iced tea is served unsweetened or “black,” and most people have never even heard
of sweet tea.
The climate of Virginia was so perfect for raising pigs, that they multiplied and became
so plentiful that they became a nuisance to the settlers. The settlers rounded the pigs up
and transported them to an island in the James River. This island became known as "Hog
Island." These wild pigs were the principal food for new settlers, as well as the Indians,
because they were available all the year and more easily caught than wild game and fish.
Since the Native Indians had been curing venison by smoking long before the settlers
arrived in Jamestown, they taught them to cure meat with salt or "magic white sand."
Their methods of salting, smoking and aging venison were adapted by the white man to
preserving the meat of the plentiful razorback hog. Smithfield, Virginia's most famous
pig local came to notice in 1902. In 1926 the Virginia General Assembly passed a law
that said only peanut-fed hogs, cured and processed in the town of Smithfield, could be
called Smithfield hams. It was the practice to let pigs roam the peanut fields, foraging for
peanuts missed during harvesting. Later the peanut feed stipulation was dropped and the
hogs are fed a variety of grains. Today, there are only four companies that can legally
sell their products as Smithfield hams. All others are called country hams.
Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods, as the Native Americans ate
a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584, during their reconnaissance party of
what is now Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined
with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted
to food and drink. One of Raleigh's men, Arthur Barlowe, recorded notes on the foods of
the Indians. He mad a special not of corn, which he found "very white, faire, and well
tasted." He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy. When the colonists
came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this
boiled corn substance. The Indians called it "rockahomine," which was later shortened to
"hominy" by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from
dried yellow corn. Corn was a year-round staple and each tribe called it by a different
North Carolina Pig Pickin
Before the Civil War, pigs were a food staple in the South because they were a low-
maintenance and convenient food source. The pigs could be put out to root in the forest
and caught when the food supply became low. These semi-wild pigs were tougher and
stringier than modern-day pigs. Pig slaughtering became a time for celebration, ant other
families would be invited to share in the eating. Out of these gatherings grew the
traditional southern barbecue. Plantation owners regularly held large barbecues for their
slaves. According to historians, southerners ate, on average, five pounds of pork for every
one pound of beef. In the 19th century, barbecues were an important feature of church
functions and political rallies. Members of both political parties would come to the same
gathering, with the leaders of each party competing with one another to supply the largest
contribution of food and drink. Folks would gather from afar to reach the appointed place
in time for the speeches, band concert, and all-important barbecue. The only
accompaniments to the roast pig were thick slices of good bread, cucumbers (fresh and
pickled), and whiskey. The saying "going whole hog" came out of these political rallies.
During the 20th century, barbecue joints or pits flourished (a typical joint or pit was a
bare concrete floor covered by a corrugated tin roof and walls). Restaurants grew out of a
simple barbecue pit where the owner sold barbecue to take away. Many were open only
on weekends, since the "pit men" worked on farms during the week. As the century
progressed, barbecue joints grew and prospered.
This wonderful refreshing drink comes to us from Kentucky. It is always made with fresh
mint, bourbon, and plenty of crushed or shaved ice. Traditionally Mint Julep is served at
the Kentucky Derby and served in silver or pewter mugs.
Deep South Region
Boiled peanuts are green or raw nuts that are boiled in salty water for hours outdoors over
a fire. The shells turn soggy, and the peanuts take on a fresh, legume flavor. A green
peanut is not green in color, just freshly harvested. It takes ninety to a hundred days to
grow peanuts for boiling, and they are available only during May through November
throughout the southern states. One of the drawbacks of boiled peanuts is that they have a
very short shelf life unless refrigerated or frozen.
It is known that boiled peanuts have been a southern institution since at least the Civil
War (1861-1865), when Union General William T. Sherman (1820-1891) led his troops
on their march through Georgia. As a result of General Sherman's campaign in Georgia,
the Confederacy was split in two and deprived of much needed supplies. It was during the
slave-trading years of the 17th and 18th centuries that the peanut was first brought to the
southeastern United States, and for a long time it was assumed that the peanut had
originated in Africa. However, peanuts actually originated in Brazil and Peru. Boiled
peanuts are a traditional snack in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, northern
Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, pronounced "bald peanuts" by diehard Southerners.
Collard greens have been cooked and used for centuries. The Southern style of cooking
of greens came with the arrival of African slaves to the southern colonies and the need to
satisfy their hunger and provide food for their families. Though greens did not originate
in Africa, the habit of eating greens that have been cooked down and reduced into gravy,
and drinking the juices from the greens (known as "pot likker") is of African origin. The
slaves of the plantations were given the leftover food from the plantation kitchen. Some
of this food consisted of the tops of turnips and other greens. Ham hocks and pig's feet
were also given to the slaves. Forced to create meals from these leftovers, they created
the famous southern greens. The slave diet began to evolve and spread when slaves
entered the plantation houses as cooks. Their African dishes, using the foods available in
the region they lived in, began to evolve into present-day Southern cooking. Collard
greens are vegetables that are members of the cabbage family, but are also close relatives
to kale. Although they are available year-round they are at their best from January
Fried catfish is considered a quintessential southern dish along with southern fried
chicken, sweet tea, and hushpuppies. Once considered the "food of the Poor," chefs
around the country are now inventing new ways to cook and eat this fish. It is the most
widely eaten American fish. Catfish can be used in any recipe calling for a non-oily white
fish, but most southerners prefer it dredged in cornmeal and fried. In the South,
hushpuppies are considered an absolute must to serve with fried catfish, along with
coleslaw and ketchup. Catfish have skin that is similar to that of an eel, which is thick,
slippery, and strong. All catfish should be skinned before cooking. The easiest method to
skin a catfish is to nail the head of the dead fish to a board, hold on to its tail, and pull the
skin off with pliers. Channel catfish are farmed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Mississippi is the world's leading producer of pong-raised catfish. Of all the catfish
grown in the United States, 80 percent comes from Mississippi, where more than 102,000
acres are devoted to catfish farms.
An African cook in Atlanta is said to have given the name hushpuppy to this food. When
frying a batch of catfish and croquettes, a nearby puppy began to howl. To keep
the puppy quiet, she gave it a plateful of the croquettes and said, "Hush, puppy." Since
the name was cut, it stuck. Hushpuppies are finger-shaped dumplings of cornmeal that
are deep-fried and traditionally served with fried catfish. Also know as corn dodgers, they
are especially popular throughout the South.
No visit to Tampa or Miami would be complete without sampling the cities claim to fame
- the Cuban sandwich. The Cuban sandwich, also known as the cubano, is a popular meal
in south Florida where many Cubans have settled since the early 20th century. These
tasty, toasted Cuban sandwiches are definitely Tampa and Miami, Florida's favorite
snack. These treats can be found in most restaurants in these cities, but the best places to
buy them are from the street corner-snack bars, called loncherias. The most important
part of a Cuban sandwich is the bread. It is not ordinary bread, but Cuban bread.
Believers say that true Cuban bread cannot be found outside of Tampa or Miami. Cuban
bread is noted for its split or bloom down the middle of its crust. This long, crusty loaf
features a tender, but not chewy, interior.
South Central Region
Jambalaya is a rice dish that is highly seasoned and strongly flavored with combinations
of beef, pork, poultry, smoked sausage, ham, or seafood. It is a very adaptable dish often
made from leftovers and ingredients on hand, and thus traditionally a meal for the Cajun
rural folks rather than their wealthier town cousins, the Creoles.
It is thought that the word "jambalaya" comes from the French word "jambon" mean
"ham," the French words "a la," meaning "with" or "in the manner of," and the African
word "ya," meaning "rice." Put the words together and they mean "ham with rice." The
dish is a takeoff from the Spanish paella and is also amazingly similar to the West
African dish called jollof rice. Jambalaya is a one-pot dish - most cooks prefer to cook it
in cast-iron pots.
In the 1950's, New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central
and South America. In 1951, Owen Edward Brennan challenged his talented chef, Paul
Blangé, to include bananas in a new culinary creation. Little did anyone realize that
Bananas Foster would become an international favorite and is the most requested item on
the restaurant's menu. Thirty-five thousand pounds of bananas are flamed each year at
Brennan's in the preparation of its world-famous dessert.
The dish was given the name Rockefeller because the green was the color of greenbacks
and the whole dish was so rich that he wanted a name that would signify the "richest in
the world." The first name to come to his mind was John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937); a
name once connoted the absolute pinnacle of wealth and position. No other American
dish has received so much praise and attention as Oysters Rockefeller. The original recipe
is a closely-guarded Antoine's secret, though it has been imitated, adapted, and evolved in
a host of ways. According to legend, it is said that a customer exclaimed with delight
after eating this dish, "Why, this is as rich as Rockefeller!"
The French created the PECAN PIE after settling in New Orleans and being introduced to
the pecan by the Natives. Pecans have their origins in prehistory. The earliest recorded
writings on the pecan, by Cabeza de Vaca nearly 600 years ago chronicle that Native
Americans planned their movements and activities around the maturity of the pecan, from
the Indian name "pacane," meaning "nut to be cracked with a rock." The Native
Americans concentrated in the river valleys in the fall to harvest pecans and depended on
the pecan as their major food resource for about 4 months of the year. The first successful
grafts of the pecan tree were done in 1846 by a Louisiana plantation gardener. The nut-
bearing pecan tree of the walnut family is classified as a species of hickory native to
North America. Pecan is distinguished from other hickories by its thin-shelled nuts with
Crawfish are descendants of the Maine lobster. The Story: After the Acadians (now
called Cajuns) were exiled in the 1700s from Nova Scotia, the lobsters yearned for the
Cajuns so much that they set off cross the country to find them. This journey, over land
and sea, was so long and treacherous that the lobsters began to shrink in size. By the time
they found the Cajuns in Louisiana, they had shrunk so much that they hardly looked like
lobsters anymore. A great festival was held on their arrival, and this smaller lobster was
renamed crawfish. Crawfish boils are wonderful messy affairs, best suited for the
outdoors. Boiling crawfish is a festive event and eating it is thirsty work, so we made sure
to have lots of beer on hand. Crawfish boil seasoning consists of a spice blend of salt,
cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, and additional spices.
The November 2005 issue of National Geographic magazine traced the origins of the dish
in the United States to Maurice, Louisiana, and "Hebert's Specialty Meats" Herbert's has
been making turduckens since 1985. Herbert's now sells around 3,300 turduckens a year.
They share a friendly rivalry with famous Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme who claims to
have been the first to serve turducken. Turducken is a 15-16 pound de-boned turkey
(except for wing bones and drumsticks), a fully hand de-boned duck, and a fully hand de-
boned chicken, all rolled into one and stuffed with lots of delicious stuffing (Three kinds
of stuffing are layered between the three kinds of meat). This regional delight has become
one of the latest food fads. From the outside it looks like a turkey, but when you cut
through it, you see a series of rings making up the three birds and stuffing.
It is evident from miscellaneous reports by Spanish Conquistadores that, at the time of
the Spanish conquest, avocados were grown from northern Mexico south through Central
America into north-western South America and south in the Andean region as far as Peru
(where the avocado had been introduced shortly before the conquest), as well as into the
Andean region of Venezuela. The Aztecs (South American Indians) used the avocado as
a sex stimulant and the Aztec name for avocado was ahuacatl, meaning "testicle. The
Avocado’s strong presence has inspired chefs in the southwest to be very creative and
come up with many new dishes like the one above.
Breakfast tacos or burritos are available at many restaurants across Texas and the
Southwest. The breakfast taco is a fried tortilla that is rolled and stuffed with a mixture of
seasoned meat, eggs, or cheese, and other ingredients such as onions and salsa. Much like
sandwiches, these tacos can be as simple or complex as imagination allows. It is the plate
and spoon at Mexican-American meals, used to layer and wrap other ingredients or to
scoop up food. Corn tortillas were made long before European settlers introduced wheat
flour to the New World. They were a traditional food among southwestern Indian tribes,
created as a way to preserve their harvested corn kernels from one season to the next.
According to a Mayan legend, a peasant of ancient times invented tortillas for his hungry
In Texas, the reigning queen of comfort food or down-home cooking is chicken-fried
steak, or as Texans affectionately call, CFS. Every city, town, and village in Texas takes
pride in their CFS. You might be surprised to learn that there is no chicken in Chicken-
Fried Steak. It is tenderized round steak (a cheap and tough piece of beef) made like fried
chicken with a milk gravy made from the drippings left in the pan. The traditional way to
cook CFS is in a large cast-iron skillet with very little oil. Served with, "the works"
means accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy, greens, black-eye peas, and cornbread.
Although not official, the dish is considered the state dish of Texas. The origin of the
Chicken-Fried Steak probably comes from the German people who settled in Texas from
1844 to 1850. As Wiener Schnitzel is a popular German dish that is made from veal, and
because veal was never popular in Texas and beef was, the German immigrants probably
adapted their popular dish to use the tougher cuts of beef available to them.
Stacked Enchiladas w/Red Sauce
Enchiladas were a typical ranch house food early on, replicating the Mexican kitchen’s
custom of almost always having food on the stove. Even cooks today have something on
the stove at almost all hours, whether it is beans, chili, estofado (stew), or something else,
a good Hispanic cook can always feed the hungry. There may be as many ways to
prepare enchiladas as there are ideas about where they originated it is not really known.
Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives credit to Mexican
ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border)
in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the
least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers
learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak. In Spanish, fajita is
a form of the word faja which translates to "belt" or "girdle" in English.
The fajita is truly a Tex-Mex food (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero
foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American
counterpart is fajitas.
Tamale is a traditional Native South American food consisting of steam-cooked corn
dough (masa) with or without a filling. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese (post-
colonial), and sliced chillis or any preparation according to taste. The tamale is generally
wrapped in a corn husk or plantain leaves before cooking, depending on the region from
which they come. Their essence is the corn meal dough made from hominy (called masa),
or a masa mix such as Maseca, usually filled with a sweet or savory filling, wrapped in
plant leaves or corn husks, and cooked, usually by steaming, until firm. Tamales were
developed as a portable ration for use by war parties in the ancient Americas, and were as
ubiquitous and varied as the sandwich is today. Numerous adaptations have been made
on the basic tamale, including vegetarian tamales, chicken tamales, and even chocolate
tamales. The basic tamale recipe which uses pork or beef, pork is probably the more
traditional, but any recipe can use any sort of meat “stuffing” which has been marinated
and cooked in a red Chile sauce.
Far West Region
A favorite Hawaiian way to eat Spam is in the form of a musubi (pronounced moo-soo-
bee, with no accent). It is a fried slice of spam on rice pressed together to form a small
block, then wrapped with a strip of seaweed. A special kitchen gadget, known as the
Spam Musubi Maker, is responsible for the proliferation of this treat. It is a special mold
with the outline of a single Spam slice. The Spam musubi is eaten as a sandwich, and it is
perhaps the Island's favorite "to go" or snack food. Spam musubi is literally everywhere
in Hawaii, including local convenience stores, grocery stores, school cafeterias, and even
at the zoo.
Hawaiians have a love affair with Spam - they eat it as a delicacy, adding it to soups and
stews, treating it as a side dish for breakfast, and enjoying it as the main event for lunch
and dinner. The Hormel Company, in Austin, Minnesota, developed America's first
canned ham in 1926. After the hams were cut, the company was left with thousands of
pounds of nearly worthless pork shoulder. During World War II, sales of Spam soared. In
part because it requires no refrigeration, Spam was perfect for the military and became a
standard K-ration for U.S. soldiers. Military personnel introduced it in Hawaii (Pearl
Harbor) and elsewhere.
San Francisco Sour Dough French Bread
It all began in 1849 when members of the Boudin family arrived in the city that had been
recently known as Yerba Buena, with a pre-Gold Rush population of approximately
1,000 residents. The Boudins were for generations the master bakers in their hometown
of Champigny-sur-Yonne in the Bourgogne region of France. They knew how to take
simple ingredients -- just flour, water, and salt -- and create the classic loaf of French
bread: soft and light in the center with a golden, crunchy crust.
But in order to bake bread in their new home, they had to create a levain, or "mother
dough." Prior to the invention of packaged yeast, all bread was leavened with wild yeast,
which bakers had to "catch" from the air and cultivate. Each region has its own type of
wild yeast, and each type imparts different qualities to the finished loaf of bread. The
Boudin family remained dedicated to their old-world techniques, but because they were
baking with new-world yeast, San Francisco yeast, the results were very different. The
biggest surprise was the distinctive tangy flavor of the soft center. It was an entirely new
loaf of bread -- it was San Francisco sourdough French bread.
During the 1970s, a smart unknown California chef, realizing that many Americans did
not like the though of eating raw fish, created the now famous California Roll, made with
crab, avocado, and cucumbers. Since then, American sushi chefs have created many
variations with unique names such as Spider Roll, Philadelphia Roll, and Rainbow roll.
Most people in Japan have never heard of the California Roll, though, and I would advise
not trying to order one there.
Most historians believe that Caesar salad honors restaurateur Caesar Cardini (1896-
1956), who invented it in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924 on the Fourth of July weekend. It is
said that on this busy weekend, Cardini was running low on food and he put together a
salad for his guests from what was left over in the kitchen. His original recipe included
romaine, garlic, croutons, and Parmesan cheese, boiled eggs, olive oil and Worcestershire
sauce. The original salad was prepared at tableside. When the salad dressing was ready,
the romaine leaves were coated with the dressing and placed stem side out, in a circle and
served on a flat dinner plate, so that the salad could be eaten with the fingers.
In 1926, Alex Cardini joined his brother, Caesar, at the Tijuana restaurant. Alex, an ace
pilot in the Italian Air Force during World War I, added other ingredients, one of which
was anchovies, and named the salad Aviator's Salad" in honor of the pilots from
Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego. It is reported that Alex's version became very
popular, and later this salad was renamed "Caesar Salad." Caesar was said to be staunchly
against the inclusion of anchovies in this mixture, contending that the Worcestershire
sauce was what actually provided that faint fishy flavor.
The original recipe for Cobb salad included avocado, celery, tomato, chives, watercress,
hard-boiled eggs, chicken, bacon, and Roquefort cheese. It was the invention of
restaurant manager, Bob Cobb, at The Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles, found a
way to use up leftovers. Cobb had been improvising with the salad for years. The first
one was created at the end of a long day, when Cobb realized he had not had time to eat.
Wandering over to one of the restaurant iceboxes, a weary Cobb scrounged around to see
what he could fix. Cobb's salad might have remained his own little secret had he not
made an offhand comment about his new invention to one of Hollywood’s legendary
promoters, Sid Grauman, the man responsible for the elaborate, pagoda-like cinema on
Hollywood Boulevard that came to be known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The salad
got Grauman's interest and he asked for one to try. He fell in love with it.
Pacific Northwest Region
The mention of truffles brings up images of the expensive black and white truffles of
France. But the truffles from Oregon are just as aromatic and less than one-tenth the price
of their famous French counterparts. Oregon truffles are emerging as one of the world's
great delicacies, taking their richly-deserved place next to their legendary European
cousins. Only in the past 20 years or so have several species of Oregon truffles become
recognized for their culinary quality and potential value in the marketplace. In fact, with
truffle production declining in Europe since 1900, Oregon's relatively untapped supply is
gaining more and more notice. Truffles are fungi, like mushrooms, but which grow under
ground. Truffles also are the fruiting bodies of my corrhizal fungi that live in soil and
associate with tree roots. But, instead of fruiting above ground, the truffle fruits below
ground - and never sees the light of day (unless it is dug up). As a result, most people
have never seen a truffle! Yet, truffles are common in the Pacific Northwest - especially
in Douglas fir forests, as they grow in the needles and topsoil around the Douglas fir tree.
Most of the harvest takes place on tree farms.
Alaskan Sourdough Pancakes
During the Klondike gold rush of 1898 when food was scare, food provisions were more
valuable than gold. In extreme cold, miners would put the dough ball under their clothes,
next to their skin, or tuck it into their bedroll with them at night, anything to keep it
alive. Sourdough created by these Alaskans did not use eggs or milk. Resources like this
were far too hard to come across when traveling in such a rugged environment. The only
type of eggs that Pioneer Alaskans ever saw were "Chinese Eggs" or "Cold storage eggs,"
and their strong flavor instantly dismissed the thought of using eggs to create their
sourdough. Instead, a teaspoon of baking soda would be added to the batch of starter.
Sourdough was a popular dish for the Yukons because of the high protein content in the
fermented dough, so it became a valuable food source, worth more than gold or canned
food. Pancakes were a good use of this dough, and are eaten this way mainly in today’s
It was not until the Russet Burbank potato was developed by American horticulturist
Luther Burbank (1849-1926) in 1872 that the Idaho potato industry really took off.
Burbank, while trying to improve the Irish potato, developed a hybrid that was more
disease resistant. He introduced the Burbank potato to Ireland to help combat the blight
epidemic. Today, the potato is so common and plentiful in the Western diet that it is
taken for granted. We seem to forget that the potato has only been with us for a few
Agutak Eskimo Ice-cream
The Native American Indian tribes of Alaska have a distinct version of ice cream. It's not
creamy ice cream as we know it, but a concoction made from reindeer fat or tallow, seal
oil, freshly fallen snow or water, fresh berries, and sometimes ground fish. Air is whipped
in by hand so that it slowly cools into foam. They call this Arctic treat akutaq or Eskimo
ice cream. Akutaq is a Yupik word that means mix them together.
This is a delicacy that Alaska Natives have thrived on for thousands of years. When
hunters went out to hunt they brought along akutaq. Akutaq can also be made with moose
meat and fat, caribou meat and fat, fish, seal oil, berries and other Alaskan ingredients.
Traditionally it was made for funerals, celebrations of a boy's first hunt, or a couple’s
union celebration. Akutaq is also used as a special traveling food. It is eaten as a dessert,
a meal, a snack, or a spread.
The Pacific Northwest is noted for its great coffee. In fact, Oregonians love and crave
their coffee. An entire coffee culture has sprung up to answer this craving. Espresso
stands and carts have sprung up in every major northwest city. You can find espresso or
coffee places on street corners, in grocery stores, gas stations, hardware stores,
department stores, stadiums, and even in the fast food outlets. There are even drive-
through espresso stands for coffee drinkers who don’t have time to get out of their cars. It
is more than just a trend; it is a new institution of the busy lifestyle. Coffee is the second
largest commodity in the world. The boom of coffee houses is not new, as the roots of
coffee houses go back to the 15th century Arabia, 16th century Europe, and 17th century
North America. Coffee drinking began in the American colonies as early as 1689 in
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In fact, the Green Dragon Coffee House of Boston
was where the idea for the famous Boston Tea Party was conceived in 1773. Americans
revolted against England’s tea tax, and the Continental Congress declared coffee the
“Official National Beverage.” What better way to protest the unfair tea taxes imposed
than to enjoy an alternate coffee beverage?
Everyone throughout the United States knows salmon; but people living far inland or
even along the Atlantic Coast do not know salmon as the people of the Pacific states
know it. It is as if they are magical as they have accomplished and provided great things
with their bodies. They are a saltwater fish which spawns in fresh water. The Columbia
River and the Pugetsound country are especially noted for their fine salmon, and, of
course, Alaska. To cooks, gourmets, and fishermen alike, the salmon is the king of the
waters. The distinctive color of the flesh of a salmon is part of its attraction. It can vary
from a very delicate pale pink to a much deeper shade, verging on red. In the Northwest,
because of the various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, you can find salmon smoked hard
in the Indian tradition and salmon smoked light in the Scottish tradition. It can also be as
simple as a barbecued salmon dotted with butter and lemon. The Indian tribes of the
Northwest look upon salmon with great reverence and have special rituals and legends
for the yearly salmon run. The distances they travel and their astounding return to the
exact point on earth where they emerged from their egg sacs is amazing. They will leap
over any obstacle in their way, such as braving dams and waterfalls, hurling itself many
feet out of the water until it surmounts the obstacle or dies of exhaustion in the attempt;
there is no turning back. For some unknown reason, the female always dies after
Rocky Mountain Region
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Rocky Mountain oysters share this distinction with other questionable but edible animal
by-products such as chicken gizzards, beef tripe and pork intestines, or chitlins. Rocky
Mountain oysters are actually the testicles of bulls or sheep. They are usually sliced,
breaded, deep-fried and served as appetizers in certain restaurants. Rocky Mountain
oysters earned their name through association with the prevalent cattle industry in the
Rocky Mountain region, as well as a passing resemblance to raw sea-based oysters. A
number of cattle ranchers regularly removed the testicles of young bulls in order to
discourage aggressive behavior. Meat packing plants also saved the testicles of older
cattle for possible resale as a meat by-product. The first recorded preparation of Rocky
Mountain oysters is clouded by history, but it seems likely that ranch cooks experimented
with different meats to find inexpensive sources of food. When properly seasoned and
breaded, Rocky Mountain oysters are said to have a neutral or slightly liver-like flavor,
with a chewy texture similar to chicken gizzards
Buffalo meat has a similar taste to good beef, though it is a slightly sweeter and a richer
flavor. The good news is that bison offers us both less and more. It contains less
cholesterol, less calories and less fat than either beef, pork or skinless chicken. In every
category, bison contains more iron and more vitamin B-12 than either of those three. Less
AND more - both are reasons to try the meat, whether it is called buffalo or bison.
Additionally, bison require less food and far less water than cattle. Being less prone to
disease than beef, they are not subject to the amount of antibiotics and hormones that
cattle are given. They are sold in cuts similar to beef and can often be used
interchangeably in a recipe.
Elk Summer Sausage
The elk, or wapiti, is the second largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest
mammals in North America. Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on
grasses, plants, leaves and bark. Although native to North America and eastern Asia, they
have adapted well to countries where they have been introduced, including New Zealand
and Argentina. Elk are hunted as a game species; the meat cut from the North American
elk is lean and full of flavor. So, when choice cuts of elk are perfectly seasoned and
cooked and smoked over fiery mesquite embers, the result is a lean, flavorful, nutritious
summer sausage. These sausages come in a variety of different flavors.
The word "jerky" itself comes from the Quechua term Charqui, which means "dried
meat", in Native American tongue. Drying has always been a common way to preserve
meat. By drying thinly sliced meat in the sun and wind next to a smoky fire, the meat is
protected from insects which would otherwise lay eggs in the raw meat. Ancient peoples
—for example, the Inca—prepared jerky from the animals they hunted or raised.
Jerky is very popular even today in the Rocky Mountain region, sold almost everywhere.
Kansas City BBQ Ribs
Kansas City barbecue refers to the specific inner city style of barbecue that evolved from
the pit of Henry Perry in the early 1900s in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City
Metropolitan Area is renowned for barbecue. Kansas City, Missouri has more than 100
barbecue restaurants and proclaims itself to be the "world's barbecue capital." True to
tradition, barbecue here is dry rub-spiced, slow roasted hour after hour over a pit of
hickory, and slathered up all around with some of the smoothest, richest, sweetly tangiest
sauces in all the world. Traditional Carolina barbecue sauce consists of a mix of peppers
in a bottle of vinegar. Traditional Texas sauce takes a tomato base, thins it with
Worcestershire and vinegar, and adds a lot more hot peppers.
But Kansas City "took the best of both worlds," according to Rich Davis, by putting in
Midwest tomatoes and coming up with "a sauce that doesn't fall off the meat into the
fire.” Like Chicago Kansas City was huge in the meat packing industry, which gave
restaurateurs like, Henry Perry the product to use their amazing BBQ recipes on.
Gooey Butter Cake
This cake consists of a dry, flat base covered with a "goo" mixture. It is sticky and chewy
and very delicious. This ultra-sweet treat is a St. Louis tradition and available in local
bakeries all around the city of St. Louis. The Gooey Butter Cake originated in the 1930s.
According to legend, a German baker added the wrong proportions of ingredients in the
coffee cake batter he was making. It turned into a gooey, pudding-like filling. Johnny
Hoffman of St. Louis Pastries Bakery was working on a Saturday and made what
eventually turned out to be the greatest sweet mistake every to hit St. Louis.
They are yeast dough (a bread pocket) with a filling of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut,
onions, and seasonings. They are baked in various shapes like half-moon, rectangle,
round, square, triangle, etc. The Official Nebraska Runza is always baked in a rectangular
shape, and the Kansas, Bierocks are baked in the shape of a bun. If you travel in
Nebraska, you will find eateries called "runza" - sometimes a place name, often the
specialty of the house. Both the Bierock and the Runza sandwich have German-Russian
roots going back to the 18th century. This unique recipe was passed down from one
generation to the next; eventually finding it’s way to the Midwest of America and
particularly to the states of Kansas and Nebraska (but with different names). Originally
the Bierocks were served to the field workers for lunch. Today Bierocks are enjoyed any
time and can be found at just about every church fund-raiser in the Kansas area.
Pemican, a true Native American dish, was a food preparation used in the wilds of the
northern parts of North America, and made by cutting the meat of the reindeer into thin
slices, drying the latter in the sun or over the smoke of a slow fire, pounding them fine
between stones, and incorporating the material with one-third part of melted fat. To this
mixture, dried fruit, such as choke or June berries, is sometimes added. The whole is then
compressed into skin bags, in which, if kept dry, it may be preserved for four or five
years. Sweet pemmican is a superior kind of pemmican in which the fat used is obtained
from marrow by boiling broken bones in water.
Many claims have been made as to the original creation of toasted ravioli in the United
States, but the true origin of this dish remains unknown. Meanwhile, many chefs of the
Italian neighborhood stake their claims. In 1947, a chef at Angelo's accidentally dropped
some freshly made ravioli in bread crumbs and decided to deep-fry it. Inspiration for the
dish may have originated in Sicily, where fried ravioli containing a sweet filling is a
traditional Christmas food. Toasted ravioli (also called fried ravioli) is an appetizer
created and popularized in St. Louis, Missouri. Toasted ravioli can be found on the
menus of many St. Louis restaurants including those of the "The Hill," a predominantly
Great Lakes Region
Chicago Style Pizza
Italians started coming to Chicago from Italy during the 1850s, by the 1940's there was a
significant Italian population of Italian immigrants and their descendants. Many had been
successful in the restaurant and bar businesses. There are some stories about U.S. soldiers
of Italian descent returning from Europe after World War II and experimenting with
different pizza recipes, and eventually creating deep dish pizza. The only problem with
these stories is that deep dish pizza was being sold in Chicago in the early 1940's, before
the end of the war. The one story that is probably true is about a man named Sewell
(maybe originally from Texas) who created the deep dish pizza in 1943 at his bar and
grill, Pizzeria Uno. It was so popular that he soon opened another place called Pizzeria
Due. Soon other restaurants were serving deep dish pizza, including several opened by
former employees of Sewell. (A former employee of Pizzeria Uno, Rudy Malnati claims
to have created the original deep dish pizza too) Deep dish pizza became popular with
more and more people, and soon Chicago became known for creating it. Everyone, not
just Italians adopted it as a 'Chicago' food.
Walleye's delicate meat is white and flaky and no matter how it is prepared, it is
delicious. One of the locals' favorite ways to eat walleye is in a sandwich. A day of
fishing would not be complete without a traditional shore lunch featuring freshly caught
walleye from the icy waters. Thin fillets are breaded and either deep-fried, grilled, or pan-
fried, and served in a fresh French loaf or on a hamburger bun with lettuce, tomato, and
tartar sauce. The walleye sandwich is also a favorite at the many fishing lodges, pubs, and
restaurants in the Great Lakes region. The walleye, a member of the perch family, is the
most sought-after eating fish in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The walleye takes
its name from its unusual marble-like eye, which appears transparent in certain light.
Because of the eye structure, walleyes are extremely light sensitive. Their large eyes help
them easily find their prey.
Anglers enjoy walleye year-round. During the day, these fish often rest on the bottom of
the lake or hover in the shade of submerged objects or in the shadows of deep water.
Outside of the state of Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio, is the most chili-crazed city in the United
States. Cincinnati prides itself on being a true chili capital, with more than 180 chili
parlors. Cincinnati-style chili is quite different from its more familiar Texas cousin, and it
has developed a cult-like popularity. What makes it different is the way the meat is
cooked. The chili has a thinner consistency and is prepared with an unusual blend of
spices that includes cinnamon, chocolate or cocoa, allspice, and Worcestershire.
The people of Cincinnati enjoy their chili spooned over freshly made pasta and topped
with a combination of chopped onions, shredded Cheddar cheese, refried beans or kidney
beans, and crushed oyster crackers. Macedonian immigrant Tom Kiradjieff created
Cincinnati chili in 1922. With his brother, John, Kiradjieff opened a small Greek
restaurant called the Empress. The restaurant did poorly however, until Kiradjieff started
offering a chili made with Middle Eastern spices, which could be served in a variety of
ways. He called it his "spaghetti chili." Kiradjieff's "five way" was a concoction of a
mound of spaghetti toped with chili, chopped onion, kidney beans, and shredded yellow
cheese, served with oyster crackers and a side order of hot dogs topped with more
Lutefisk (pronounced LEWD-uh-fisk) is dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution
for several days to rehydrate it. It is then boiled or baked and served with butter, salt, and
pepper. The finished lutefisk usually is the consistency of Jell-O. It is also called lye fish,
and in the United States, Norwegian-Americans traditionally serve it for Thanksgiving
and Christmas. In many Norwegian homes, lutefisk takes the place of the Christmas
turkey. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, you can find lutefisk in local food stores and even at
some restaurants. The history of lutefisk dates back to the Vikings. Norwegian-
Americans believe that lutefisk was brought by their ancestors on the ships when they
came to America, and that it was all they had to eat. Today the fish is celebrated in ethnic
and religious celebrations and is linked with hardship and courage.