The United States, apart from its rich and diverse culture is also known as a land overwhelmed by culinary heritage.
Similar to the historical events and that made America as diverse as it is today, its cuisine reflects a portrait of diversity and assortment, mainly due to the differences in climate that affect the availability of ingredients in each state, city, and county. As such, the wide array of American culinary tradition presents difficulty in categorizing and distinguishing the American style of cooking.
There are at last two focal points that mainly contribute to the diversity of American food: regionalism and colonialism. Long before the British Empire’s territorial expansion to the once unchartered region now known as the United States, the early settlers: the Native Americans already have accustomed themselves to different forms of food preparation.
The cooking methods of the aforementioned settlers, even then, varied from one tribe to another; mainly because no similar sets of edible crops grew in one area or region (Whitman, 1996, 11-12). Similarly, the varying seasons and weather conditions prevented tribes across the land from mastering patterned cooking methods (Whitman, 1996, 11-12).
The arrival of European settlers from England amplified the regional variations of culinary methods as new ingredients and spices brought in by the travelers were introduced to the natives. Likewise, the Europeans introduced new recipes and preparation styles that were then unknown to the Native Americans.
As the European settlers expanded territory within the American soil, they also introduced planting of new crops that were locally found in Europe. The British colonizers gradually found a means to prepare and cook food similar, but not identical, to Britain’s local cuisine.
There, conversely, came some minor differences from the authentic British cuisine as the colonizers used alternative ingredients to relive their authentic preparation and cooking methods (Smith, 2004, 512). The colonizers considered the flora and fauna of the region they are in (Smith, 2004, 512).
As the American frontier pushed further, so did the diversity of American cuisine. The fusion and incorporation of American alternative ingredients into European cuisine paved the way for the amplification of the regional diversity of the American cooking methods, but, it was not enough. Before the end of the 19th century, the Americans got acquainted with a cuisine that is perhaps equal to theirs in diversity: Italian cooking.
The introduction of Italian herbs, spices, ingredients and methods of preparation as well as cooking were brought to America. Italian cuisine took America both by surprise and by storm as American dining tables started using Italian ingredients and recipes to cook dinner (Whitman, 2004, 76). And by the middle of the 20th century, Italian culinary ideas have become a staple of American cooking (Whitman, 2004, 76).
After the war, as America’s culture expanded and became more open to unconventional ideas, so did its palate. America was then introduced to fusion culinary techniques wherein recipes and ingredients from various places are prepared and made.
And by the 1980s, wine was incorporated as a part of the ultimate dining experience. Food magazines and restaurants started to introduce gourmet recipes that went good with a specific wine (MacNeil, 2001, 83).
A prime example of the bi-products of American culinary diversity is the Shrimp and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette. If pared with an American Sparkling wine, the shrimp and Avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette can give a very unforgettable dining experience as the sparkling wine exhibits apricot and citron flavors, a sweet palate and a clean crisp finish that goes really well with the creamy texture of avocados and clean taste of shrimp.
American cuisine has come hand in hand with the country’s history. Despite the lack of uniformity and distinction, American cuisine remains as a mirror of celebration of various heritages. Likewise, the diversity of recipes and ingredients also measures the extent of how democracy spreads its brand of freedom across a nation.
MacNeil, K. (2001) The Wine Bible. New York, NY: Workman Publishing.
Smith, A. F. (2004). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. .
Whitman, S. (1996). What's Cooking: The History of American Food . Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publishing Group