“American Cuisine”?

The foods of a country do not, by themselves, compose a cuisine.” (Mintz)

In many regards, I agree that there is no firm definition of an “American Cuisine.” I tried to think of things I could think of that were quintessentially considered American classics, such as hamburgers and hotdogs, various styles of barbecue, mac n cheese, midwestern hotdish, apple pie, mayo-based “salads,” and more recently poke bowls. Or even American food styles— such as certain coffee roasts, varietals of wine, styles of dining (think of the 24-hour diner, especially Waffle House at 2 am on a Saturday) or other things I’ve experienced as comfort food in my lifetime. Every single one has a tinge of American culture, but geographically has immigrant roots going back to hundreds of locals all over the globe.

I also agree that there is no real national level of cuisine in any country, so much as there are homogenized roundups of various nations’ regional favorites cemented via media and expatriate emigration. I’ve heard from various sources before that the United States of America really is just a collection of 51 different nation-states playing a very disorganized game of tag together, and I agree. In the context of food studies, every state has its own economy, agriculture specialties, watershed construction, and topography, as well as highly varied population demographics, historically also clouded by waves of immigration and generational shifts.

I think “haute” cuisine is representative of what a society considers “cultured” in relation to high-status individuals’ desires and tastes. I also use the term “cultured” in contrast with the anthropology concept of nature vs culture, so that “natural” in this case would refer to the everyday cooking of the proletariat in a given region, something we do instinctively with what we have at hand, rather than sourced from far away or out of season as you often see in more “cultured” or “refined” cooking contexts.

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