Since I’ve been doing some far away places like Italy or Jamaica, I thought I’d do something way closer to home: America.
I know that most of my readers and myself included are Canadians, but a fair amount of my fans are American, and the country shares a lot of generic similarities with Canada compared to some other countries (and excluding little differences people on both sides of the border go on and on about).
While I don’t consider myself to be exceptionally romantic about it, I can’t help but think how the U.S.A. came from a few colonies and is now one of the most influential countries in the world, and how the very city of Toronto was once an alien forest. The history, as it did with Italy, goes back to when the mammoths roamed the Earth, to the ancient Asian peoples who came to North America 40,00 to 12,000 years ago, and later became the Native Americans. They stayed mostly peaceful (I’m not sure about tribal wars or famines or other stuff like that) until the British came and brought the diseases of their land, including the infamous small pox.
The exploration of the quote-un-quote ‘New World’ started when Christopher Columbus, who under orders from the Spanish government, made contact with several islands in the Caribbean in 1492. The first documented account of arriving on the actual North American mainland is from 1513 when Spanish Conquistador Juan Ponce De Leon discovered what he called La Florida. Fast forward to when the Mayflower was delivering colonists to North America in 1620, you’d see the first successful colonies of the Virginia Colony in Jamestown and Pilgrim’s Plymouth Colony.
50,000 convicts were sent to these colonies (I guess Britain didn’t think highly of the colonies then) and later the colonies multiplied into the Thirteen Colonies in the Eighteenth Century which grew due to high birth rates and low death rates. As tension grew between the Colonies and Britain, it led to the American Revolution.
I could go on into the pioneers’ struggles after that, the Wild West, The War of 1812, not to mention more recent events like the World Wars and the Cold War, but if I did, I might as well stop pretending that this is a food blog.
Many of the more popular American foods are based off older ancestor ones, like how hot dogs are to sausages or American pizza is to Italian pizza. America has lots of regions, some that people hardly think about when it comes to America. These are usually away from MAINLAND states; how Alaska is far north or how Hawaii is it own island chain in the Pacific. Speaking of Hawaii, I obviously have to include it as it’s politically part of America and its only fair to include.
Its influences include American, Polynesian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese and Korean cuisines. Before contact was made with Hawaii, the islands had few edible plants and those were mainly ferns or fruits at higher elevations, so they hunted seafood and birds, driving many species into extinction. It has a large amount of tropical meat and plant dishes ( a lot of the ingredients were introduced from other parts of the world) and is definitely something I would like to try as it adds a lot of value and diversity to American Cuisine, in my book.
Another, perhaps more classic regional culture is probably Southern, which is known for its “Comfort Food” (no mockery intended). The South has a motto for full breakfasts which is to say a breakfast more elaborate than simple cereal and toast; kind of more like egg and bacon breakfasts.
There is a lot to say about the flavour of Southern Cuisine, but precious little about the health and that makes America’s scale from 0 to 100 as a contender (in Who’s Cuisine Reigns Supreme?), bounce back and forth. Since I would be eating all manner of American Cuisine on some deserted island or region-neutral area of the states, it would probably work in its favour as Southern Cuisine is so tasty. I don’t recall ever having southern cuisine, aside from fried chicken at various non-southern places, but a lot of the foods sound really good. I would love to try deserts such as a cobbler or Southern-style pie.
The Midwest is, I think, somewhat confused with the South, but it isn’t, although their food does have similarities. It is home to the famous [or infamous] Deep Dish Pizza, which is another thing ‘I haven’t tried but would like to’. It is also home to the less famous Reuben Sandwich, which is a hot sandwich made with pastrami or corned beef, sauerkraut and swiss cheese, which interests me since I’m somewhat a fan of sandwiches.
The Midwest is also the headquarters of McDonald’s, which is a place I quite frankly couldn’t care less about. That was some of the negative, so now on to the positive, this region houses some true gems like sugar cream pie [exclusive to Illinois] or the Pork Tendorloin Sandwich. That would be to say a lean pork tenderloin flattened, breaded and deep fried [saying it’s lean now is just an excuse] and then put onto a hamburger bun with assorted condiments. And it doesn’t stop there. I saw a picture of it and the meat dwarfed the bun, so it sounds good but is really gross in another light.
Other ‘gross’ or ‘unusual’ dishes include frog’s legs and fried brain sandwich [zombies ARE real] using the finest calf’s brains. I will now predict something totally true about you, you lost your appetite.
Trying not to make this exhaustive, I will just go to Cajun. Like Hawaii, they have a unique history with influences from the Native Americans, Africans, Filipino, Caribbean, Spanish, South Asian Indians, Italians, and the Portuguese, but their biggest influence is the French, where their Acadian roots come from. It is in several ways similar to Jamaican, which as you know, I love, so it’s obviously a high point.
One important aspect is their usage of rice which grows in abundance in the humid climate and even grows wild. Some of the more unusual ingredients [uh-oh] are alligator, bull frog [which is used for the whole animal not just the legs], squirrel, turtle, snake, and Virginia Opossum, but it also has more traditional livestock and crops. Cajun also has many ways to preserve meat, but sadly many of them are fading in favour of processed foods, which is part of a vast global change for fast food.
Speaking of fast food, I originally was going to include it in this post and the ‘ranking’ for where American cuisine is in the world, but fast food is international, which plain means it don’t count. You may say ‘yeah but it started in the U.S.’ but you could say that about a lot of things. The dinosaur-time ancestors of humans were rodents, yet we don’t belong in the rodent family, no more than the insect category. I will talk a bit about fast food in another post to appease those who are not amused, I don’t have much more room in this one.
There are other regional cuisines I’d like to try like Tex-Mex, but all I got was some nightmare dimension called ‘Tortilla Flats’ so I’m still looking. Now for the overall vote, is this country high up there? You’d be a bit surprise that it’s not that high, even though it’s the closest to home, we’re only judging food, not overall geography, so I’m judging it as a foreign country. Taste? Very good in some areas, but broadly it has lots of processed and fast food, which I don’t like a heck of a lot. Health? Do I need to say it? I don’t want to get nasty or insensitive to America, but I don’t think health is something to be thankfully skipped or not deeply concerned about. It’s a double whopper against America.
Diversity? Not the best diversity I’ve seen, but enough to keep you from going the way of a castaway on too many coconuts.
Will this be the winner? It’s somewhere in the middle, but we’re still waiting for WHOSE CUISINE WILL REIGN SUPREME!