American Cuisine: Unmistakably recognizable

By Žikica Milošević

Is there anybody who doesn’t know anything about American cuisine? Remember Tom the cat (as in Tom & Jerry) who steals a fresh apple pie from the window? Remember hamburgers, milkshakes, Thanksgiving turkey and fat pancakes that you cannot roll up?

Bill Bryson says that, back in the day, when English colonists stepped onto the new continent, they were sad by not being able to grow the typical English plants, noting that many other plants, which they did not know what to do with, grew everywhere and that there were lobsters wherever they turned. Historical records say the following:” When the colonists came to the colonies, they farmed animals for clothing and meat in a similar fashion to what they had done in Europe. They had cuisine similar to their previous Dutch, Swedish, French and British cuisines. The American colonial diet varied depending on the region settled. The commonly hunted game included deer, bear, bison, and wild turkey.“

Subsequently, the colonists got used to the „weird“ plants and their ethnic cuisines produced all sorts of eclectic food combinations.


Take hamburger, for example. It is named after the city of Hamburg in Germany where it was customary to put baked pork in a bun. Another theory says that pieces of meat, similar to today’s hamburgers, were served in round buns. But in its abbreviated form, the burger is the quintessential Americal symbol that contains no references to the town from which colonists, who perfected the recipe, came. 


Apple pie was brought to the colonies by the English, the Dutch, and the Swedes during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, this is a prominent symbol of Americana, if not a cultural symbol. Remember that apple pie in a ribbed dish that Tom the cat steals from the window? Apple pie is the unofficial symbol of the United States of America. Period.


It’s hard to imagine Texans, or Serbs and Argentines for that matter, without a barbecue. This is a top social event for Texans, and it is difficult, even unheard of, to be a vegetarian in the cowboy state unless you’re a hipster from Austin. There is another devilishly tasty delicacy called chicken wings, which is the most popular among Southerners and often associated with African-Americans. It is no wonder that the world’s largest chain of fried chicken comes from Kentucky, which is one of the poorest states in the US. But they sure know how to eat just like wealthier Texans. Ribs also definitely belong to this group. Probably half of the American films ever made mentioned one of these three delicacies. 


Chicago has committed many sins against the Italian cuisine, say Italians from Italy. For example, their renderings of Italian dishes are sacrilege for most Italian gourmands. Fat pizza, that is, thick-crusted pizza the Chicago way, is everything that the Italians try to avoid when making pizza. The indigenous Italian pizza has the thinnest possible crust. But we are talking about the Italians from Chicago. Oh, let’s not forget one more sin that goes by the name of spaghetti with meatballs.


Last but not least, we should mention the hot dog and the Thanksgiving turkey. Turkey is prepared on Thanksgiving, which marks the event from the 17th century when the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims to survive the winter by sharing with them their food. As turkey is the main dish on Thanksgiving, this day is also jokingly called „The Turkey Day“ with millions of poor turkeys being sacrificed each year for dinner. Ducks are used as alternatives in some households. 

American cuisine, as abundant as America itself, is a mix of dishes brought to the country by immigrants, even the newest ones, which make up the country’s “ethnic” cuisine. Everything in the typical American cuisine is delicious, but you have to be careful not to overeat. American cuisine is a part of our collective unconscious, but also of our everyday life as it gained international popularity a long time ago. 

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