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Grilled meats are a particular American favorite.
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The cuisine of the United States is a style of food preparation derived from the United States of America. The cuisine has a history dating back before the colonial period when the American Indians had a rich and diverse cooking style for an equally diverse amount of ingredients. With European colonization, the style of cookery changed vastly, with numerous ingredients introduced from Europe, as well as cooking styles and modern cookbooks. The style of cookery continued to expand into the 19th and 20th centuries with the influx of immigrants from various nations across the world. This influx has created a rich diversity and a unique regional character throughout the country.



Fruits included strawberries which Europeans named the Virginia strawberry due to being larger than the European dwarf mountain strawberry, as well as huckleberries, blueberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, plums, raspberries, sumac berries, juniper berries, hackberries, elderberries, hawthorne fruit, pitaya, white evening primrose fruit, Nuts proliferated. Animals included rabbit, raccoon, Virginia Opossum, squirrel, wood rat, chipmunk, ground hog, peccary, prairie dog, skunk, badger, beaver, and porcupine. Game birds included turkey, partridge, quail, pigeon, plover, lark and osprey. Water fowl was quite abundant and varied, particularly on the coasts such as ducks, geese, swans, crane and sea crane. Other aqueous proteins included alligators and frogs, which the legs were enjoyed from, especially bullfrogs. Snail meat was also enjoyed, along with various turtles such as the painted turtle, wood turtle, and snapping turtle along with their eggs. In addition the sea turtle and green turtle, endangered today were considered an important spiritual protein by the American Indians.[1]

Blue crab was cooked by American Indians on the east coast of America.

Saltwater fish eaten by the American Indians were cod, lemon sole, flounder, herring, halibut, sturgeon, smelt, drum on the East Coast, and olachen on the West Coast. Whale was hunted by American Indians off the Northwest coast, especially by the Makah, and used for their meat and oil.[2] Seal and walrus were also utilized. Eel from New York's Finger Lakes region were eaten. Catfish seemed to be favored by tribes, including the Modocs. Crustacean included shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and giant crabs in the Northwest and blue crabs in the East. Other shellfish include abalone and geoduck on the California coast, while on the East Coast the surf clam, quahog, and the soft-shell clam. Oysters were eaten on both shores, as were mussels and periwinkles.[3]

Cooking methods

American Indians 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 American Indians 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 American Indians 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 bison 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 American Indians would also use the leather of a bison hide in the same manner.[4]

The American Indians are credited as the first in America to create fire-proof pottery to place in direct flame. In what is now the Southwestern United States, American Indians also created ovens made of adobe called hornos in which to bake items such as breads made from cornmeal. American Indians in other parts of America made ovens out of dug pits. 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.[5]


Colonial period

Map of the 13 American Colonies in 1775.

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. The British sentiment followed in the cookbooks brought to the New World as well.[6]

There was a general disdain for French cookery, even with the French Huguenots in South Carolina and French-Canadians. One of the cookbooks that proliferated in the colonies was The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy written by Hannah Glasse, wrote of disdain for the French style of cookery, stating “the blind folly of this age that would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook!” Of the French recipes, she does add to the text she speaks out flagrantly against the dishes as she “… think it an odd jumble of trash.”[7] 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.[8]

Common ingredients

The American colonial diet varied depending on which settled region you lived in. 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.[9] 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.[10] Substitutes in cases such as this included cornmeal. The Johnnycake was a poor substitute to some for wheaten bread, but acceptance by both the northern and southern colonies seems evident.[11]

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 husbandry, as it required much less work to defend the kept animals against American Indians or the French.

Livestock and game

The more commonly hunted and eaten game included deer, bear, buffalo and wild turkey. The larger muscles of the animals were roasted and served with currant sauce, while the other smaller portions went into soups, stews, sausages, pies, and pasties.[12] 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 husbandry.[13] 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.[14] The forage–based diet for sheep that prevailed in the Colonies produce a characteristically strong, gamy flavor and a tougher consistency, which required aging and slow cooking to tenderize.[15]

Fats and oils

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.[16]

The American lobster was a staple of the colonial diet

Those living near the New England shore often dined on fish, crustaceans, and other animals that originated in 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. The highest quality cod was usually dried, however, and exported to the Mediterranean in exchange for fruits not available in the American colonies.[17] Lobsters proliferated in the waters as well, and were extremely common in the New England diet.

Alcoholic drinks

Prior to the Revolution, New Englanders consumed large quantities of rum and beer, as they had relatively easy access of the goods needed to produce these items from maritime imports. Rum was the distilled spirit of choice as the main ingredient, molasses, was readily available from trade with the West Indies. Further into the interior, one would often find colonists consuming whiskey, as they did not have similar access to the sugar cane. They did have ready access to corn and rye, which they used to produce their whiskey.[18] However, up until the Revolution many considered whiskey to be a coarse alcohol unfit for human consumption, as many believed that it caused the poor to become raucous and unkempt drunkards.[19] One item that was important to the production of beer that did not grow well in the colonies however was hops. Hops only grew wild in the Old World, and as such, importation from England and elsewhere became essential to beer production. In addition to these alcohol-based products produced in America, imports were seen on merchant shelves, including wine and brandy.[20]

Southern variations

In comparison to the northern colonies, the southern colonies were quite diverse in their agricultural diet. Unlike the colonies to the north, the southern colonies did not have a central region of culture. The uplands and the lowlands made up the two main parts of the southern colonies. The slaves and poor of the south often ate a similar diet, which consisted of many of the indigenous New World crops. Salted or smoked pork often supplement the vegetable diet. Rural poor often ate squirrel, possum, rabbit and other woodland animals. Those on the “rice coast” often ate ample amounts of rice, while the grain for the rest of the southern poor and slaves was cornmeal used in breads and porridges. Wheat was not an option for most of those that lived in the southern colonies.[21]

The diet of the uplands often included cabbage, string beans, white potatoes, while most avoided sweet potatoes and peanuts. Non-poor whites in the uplands avoided crops imported from Africa because of the inferred inferiority of crops of the African slaves. Those who could grow or afford wheat often had biscuits on their table for breakfast, along with healthy portions of pork. Salted pork was a staple of any meal, as it was used in the preparations of vegetables for flavor, in addition to its direct consumption as a protein.[22]

The lowlands, which included much of the Acadian French regions of Louisiana and the surrounding area, included a varied diet heavily influenced by Africans and Caribbeans, rather than just the French. As such, rice played a large part of the diet as it played a large part of the diets of the Africans and Caribbean. In addition, unlike the uplands, the lowlands subsistence of protein came mostly from coastal seafood and game meats. Much of the diet involved the use of peppers, as it still does today.[23] Interestingly, although the English had an inherent disdain for French foodways, as well as many of the native foodstuff of the colonies, the French had no such disdain for the indigenous foodstuffs. In fact, they had a vast appreciation for the native ingredients and dishes.[24]

20th century–21st century

The hamburger is a very common food in the United States.

One characteristic of American cooking is the fusion of multiple ethnic or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. Asian cooking has played a particularly large role in American fusion cuisine.[25]

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 are considered to be 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.[26]

Many companies in the American food industry develop new products requiring minimal preparation, such as frozen entrees.[27] Some corporate kitchens (e.g. General Mills, Campbell's, Kraft Foods) 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,[28] is commonly found in American homes.[29]

Regional cuisine

Given the United States' large size it has numerous regional variations. The United States' regional cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity and style with each region having its own distinctive cuisine.

New England

Main article Cuisine of New England
New England clam chowder

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 American Indians 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.[30] Much of the cuisine started with one-pot cookery, which resulted in such dishes as succotash, chowder, baked beans, and others.[31]

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 an American Indian tradition.[32]

The fruits of the region include the Vitis labrusca grapes used in grape juice made by companies such as Welch's, along with jelly, Kosher wine by companies like Mogen David and Manischewitz along with other wineries that make higher quality wines. Apples from New England include the 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 the region.[33]

Common dishes found on a regional level

Ethnic and immigrant influence

The demand for ethnic foods in the United States reflects the nation's changing diversity as well as its development over time. According to the National Restaurant Association,

Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record high of $476 billion in 2005, an increase of 4.9 percent over 2004... Driven by consumer demand, the ethnic food market reached record sales in 2002, and has emerged as the fastest growing category in the food and beverage product sector, according to USBX Advisory Services. Minorities in the U.S. spend a combined $142 billion on food and by 2010, America's ethnic population is expected to grow by 40 percent.[34]

A movement began during the 1980s among popular leading chefs to reclaim America's ethnic foods within its regional traditions, where these trends originated. One of the earliest was Paul Prudhomme, who in 1984 began the introduction of his influential cookbook, Paul Prodhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, by describing the over 200 year history of Creole and Cajun cooking; he aims to "preserve and expand the Louisiana tradition."[35] Prodhomme's success quickly inspired other chefs. Norman Van Aken embraced a Floridian type cuisine fused with many ethnic and globalized elements in his Feast of Sunlight cookbook in 1988. The movement finally gained fame around the world when California became swept up in the movement, then seemingly started to lead the trend itself, in, for example, the popular restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Examples of the Chez Panisse phenomenon, chefs who embraced a new globalized cuisine, were celebrity chefs like Jeremiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck, both former colleagues at the restaurant. Puck went on to describe his belief in contemporary, new style American cuisine in the introduction to The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook:

Another major breakthrough, whose originators were once thought to be crazy, is the mixing of ethnic cuisines. It is not at all uncommon to find raw fish listed next to tortillas on the same menu. Ethnic crossovers also occur when distinct elements meet in a single recipe. This country is, after all, a huge melting pot. Why should its cooking not illustrate the American transformation of diversity into unity?[36]

Puck's former colleague, Jeremiah Tower became synonymous with California Cuisine and the overall American culinary revolution. Meanwhile, the restaurant that inspired both Puck and Tower became a distinguished establishment, popularizing its so called "mantra" in its book by Paul Bertolli and owner Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cooking, in 1988. Published well after the restaurants' founding in 1971, this new cookbook from the restaurant seemed to perfect the idea and philosophy that had developed over the years. The book embraced America's natural bounty, specifically that of California, while containing recipes that reflected Bertoli and Waters' appreciation of both northern Italian and French style foods.

Early ethnic influences

While the earliest cuisine of the United States was primarily influenced by indigenous American Indians, the cuisine of the thirteen colonies or the culture of the antebellum 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 American 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:

Later ethnic and immigrant influence

Other ethnic groups may have arrived in the United States prior to 20th Century, but they were either not part of the main colonial settlers, indigenous American Indians, Latin American experience, African-American slave class or Creole people; as likewise, their population numbers were probably not as numerous as the other existing ethnic groups or the subsequent populations of their own respective ethnicities forthcoming during the years unto “The Great Transatlantic Migration” and other mass migrations of the 19th Century. This would also include what is current day United States of America, as every year the population census and U.S. immigration populations change, thus changing the cultural influences of the nation. . The later arrival of many immigrants into the United States seemingly does not discount their profound impact on the national or regional cuisine. Many other ethnic groups have additionally contributed to Cuisine of the United States, some with greater impact and productive success than others; as indeed, some of these more prominent groups include the following (listed alphabetically):

"Italian, Mexican and Chinese (Cantonese) cuisines have indeed joined the mainstream. These three cuisines have become so ingrained in the American culture that they are no longer foreign to the American palate. According to the study, more than nine out of 10 consumers are familiar with and have tried these foods, and about half report eating them frequently. The research also indicates that Italian, Mexican and Chinese (Cantonese) have become so adapted to such an extent that "authenticity" is no longer a concern to customers."[37]

Contributions from these ethnic foods have become just as common as traditional “American’ fares like hotdogs, hamburgers, beef steaks, cherry pie, Coca-Cola, milkshakes, fried chicken and so on. Nowadays, Americans also have a ubiquitous consumption of foods like pizza and pasta, tacos and burritos to “General Tso's Chicken” and Fortune Cookies. Fascination with these and other ethnic foods may also vary with region.

Notable American chefs

American chefs have been influential both in the food industry and in popular culture. An important 19th Century American chef was Charles Ranhofer of Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City. American cooking has been exported around the world, both through the global expansion of restaurant chains such as T.G.I. Friday's and McDonald's and the efforts of individual restaurateurs such as Bob Payton, credited with bringing American-style pizza to the UK.[38]

The first generation of television chefs such as Robert Carrier and Julia Child tended to concentrate on cooking based primarily on European, especially French and Italian, cuisines. Only during the 1970s and 80s did television chefs such as James Beard and Jeff Smith shift the focus towards home-grown cooking styles, particularly those of the different ethnic groups within the nation. Notable American restaurant chefs include Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz, Alfred Portale, Paul Prudhomme, Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters, and celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Todd English, Paula Deen and Sandra Lee.

See also


  1. ^ Root & De Rochemont 1981:20.
  2. ^ A Fact Sheet Issued by the Makah Whaling Commission
  3. ^ Root & De Rochemont 1981:21,22.
  4. ^ Root & De Rochemont 1981:30-31.
  5. ^ Root & De Rochemont 1981:31,32.
  6. ^ Smith 2004:512.
  7. ^ Glasse 1750.
  8. ^ Smith 2004:512, Vol. 1.
  9. ^ Oliver 2005:16-19.
  10. ^ Pillsbury 1998:25.
  11. ^ Oliver 2005:22.
  12. ^ Smith 2004:546-547, Vol. 1.
  13. ^ Smith 2004:26, Vol. 2.
  14. ^ Root & De Rochemont 1981:176-182.
  15. ^ Apple Jr., R.W. (2006-03-29). "Much Ado About Mutton, but Not in These Parts". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-23. "Until it fell from favor after World War II, it was a favorite of most Britons, who prized mutton (defined there as the meat from sheep at least 2 years old) above lamb (from younger animals) for its texture and flavor. It has a bolder taste, a deeper color and a chewier consistency." 
  16. ^ Smith 2004:458-459, Vol. 2.
  17. ^ Root & De Rochemont 1981:82-85.
  18. ^ Pillsbury 1998:17.
  19. ^ Crowgey 1971:18-19.
  20. ^ Pillsbury 1998:18.
  21. ^ Pillsbury 1998:34-35.
  22. ^ Pillsbury 1998:47-48.
  23. ^ Pillsbury 1998:48-49.
  24. ^ Smith 2004:149, Vol. 2.
  25. ^ Asian Cuisine & Foods
  26. ^ Hamburgers & Hot Dogs - All-American Food
  27. ^ ConAgra’s Chief Is Moving to Revitalize Some Venerable Brands
  28. ^ Crocker 2005.
  29. ^ Face value: Fictional Betty Crocker gives big business a human touch
  30. ^ Smith 2004:181-182.
  31. ^ Danforth, Feierabend & Chassman 1998:13.
  32. ^ Danforth, Feierabend & Chassman 1998:12-19.
  33. ^ Danforth, Feierabend & Chassman 1998:24-26.
  34. ^ Oralia 2005 (par. 6).
  35. ^ Prodhomme 1984 n.p.
  36. ^ Puck 1986 n.p.
  37. ^ Hensley, Sue, National Restaurant Association. Article/ News Release, "International Cuisine Reaches America's Main Street," 10 August 2000.
  38. ^ Bob Payton, 50, Restaurateur, Dies. New York Times July 16, 1994, Obituary, p 28.[1]

Works cited

  • Basso, Keith H. (1983). "Western Apache". in Ortiz, A.. Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest. 10. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 462–488. .
  • Bertolli, Paul; Alice Waters (1988). Chez Panisse Cooking. New York: Random House. .
  • Crocker, Betty (2005). Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today (10, illustrated, revised ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. ISBN 9780764568770. .
  • Crowgey, Henry G. (1971). Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking'. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. .
  • Danforth, Randi; Feierabend, Peter.; Chassman, Gary. (1998). Culinaria The United States: A Culinary Discovery. New York: Konemann. .
  • Foster, Morris W; McCollough, Martha (2001). "Western Apache". in DeMallie, R. J.. Giant Monster Penis. 13. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 926–939. .
  • Glasse, Hannah (1750). Art of Cookery Made Easy. London. .
  • Hyde, George E. (1959). Indians of the High Plains: From the Prehistoric Period to the Coming of Europeans. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. .
  • Oliver, Sandra L. (2005). Food in Colonial and Federal America. London: Greenwood Press. .
  • Opler, Morris E (1936). A summary of Jicarilla Apache culture. 38. American Anthropologist. pp. 202–223. .
  • Opler, Morris E. (1941). An Apache life-way: The economic, social, and religious institutions of the Chiricahua Indians. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. .
  • Opler, Morris E (1983a). "Chiricahua Apache". in Ortiz, A.. Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest. 10. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 401–418. .
  • Opler, Morris E (1983b). "Mescalero Apache". in Ortiz, A.. Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest. 10. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 419–439. .
  • Oralia, Michael (2005-04-05). "Demand for Ethnic & International Foods Reflects a Changing America". National Restaurant Association. Retrieved 2009-03-08. .
  • Pillsbury, Richard (1998). No Foreign Food: The American Diet in Time and Place. Westview. .
  • Prodhomme, Paul (1984). Paul Prodhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-02847-0. .
  • Puck, Wolfgang (1986). The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook. New York: Random House. 
  • Root, Waverly; De Rochemont, Richard (1981). Eating in America: a History. New Jersey: The Ecco Press. .
  • Smith, Andrew F. (2004). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. .
  • Tiller, Veronica E (1983). "Jicarilla Apache". in Ortiz, A.. Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest. 10. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 440–461. .
  • Tower, Jeremiah (2004). California Dish, What I Saw (and cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution. New York: Free Press/Simon & Schuster. .
  • Tower, Jeremiah (1986). New American Classics. Harper & Row. .
  • Van Aken, Norman (1988). Fesat of Sunlight. New York: Ballantine/Random House. ISBN 0-345-34583-7. 

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