The American Cuisine of the United States reflects its history. The European colonization of the Americas yielded the introduction of a number of ingredients and cooking styles to the latter. In American Cuisine, the various styles continued expanding well into the 19th and 20th centuries, proportional to the influx of immigrants from many foreign nations; such influx developed a rich diversity in food preparation throughout the country.
Early Native Americans utilized a number of cooking methods in early American Cuisine that have been blended with early European cooking methods to form the basis of American Cuisine.
When the colonists came to Virginia, Massachusetts, or any of the other English colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America, they farmed animals for clothing and meat in a similar fashion to what they had done in Europe. They had a new American Cuisine similar to their previous British cuisine.
The American colonial diet varied depending on the settled region in which someone lived. For American Cuisine, commonly hunted game included deer, bear, buffalo and wild turkey. A number of fats and oils made from animals served to cook much of the colonial foods. Prior to the Revolution, New Englanders consumed large quantities of rum and beer, as maritime trade provided them relatively easy access to the goods needed to produce these items:
Rum was the distilled spirit of choice, as the main ingredient, molasses, was readily available from trade with the West Indies. In comparison to the northern colonies, the southern colonies were quite diverse in their agricultural diet and did not have a central region of culture.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, American Cuisine developed many new foods. During the Progressive Era (1890s–1920s) food production and presentation became more industrialized.
One characteristic of American Cuisine is the fusion of multiple ethnic or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. A wave of celebrity chefs began with Julia Child and Graham Kerr in the 1970s, with many more following after the rise of cable channels such as Food Network.
Modern American Cuisine
A restaurant dish consisting of smaller versions of three different hamburgers available in the restaurant, each with different toppings, accompanied with French fries, coleslaw, jalapeños, ketchup and sweet chili sauce.
In American Cuisine, during the Progressive Era (1890s–1920s) food production and presentation became more industrialized. Major railroads featured upscale cuisine in their dining cars. Restaurant chains emerged with standardized decor and menus, most famously the Fred Harvey restaurants along the route of the Sante Fe Railroad in the Southwest.
At the universities, nutritionists and home economists taught a new scientific approach to food and to the American Cuisine. During World War I the Progressives’ moral advice about food conservation was emphasized in large-scale state and federal programs designed to educate housewives. Large-scale foreign aid during and after the war brought American standards to Europe.
Newspapers and magazines ran recipe columns, aided by research by corporate kitchens (for example, General Mills, Campbell’s, Kraft Foods). One characteristic of American Cuisine is the fusion of multiple ethnic or regional approaches into completely new cooking styles. For example, spaghetti is Italian, while hot dogs are German; a popular meal, especially among young children, is spaghetti containing slices of hot dogs. The fact that most Americans don’t really even see this as a fusion recipe shows just how common this trend is.
Since the 1960s Asian cooking has played a particularly large role in American Cuisine.
Similarly, some dishes that are typically considered American have their origins in other countries. Most cooks and chefs of American Cuisine have substantially altered these dishes over the years, to the degree that the dishes now enjoyed around the world are considered to be American.
Hot dogs and hamburgers are both based on traditional German dishes, but in their modern popular form they can be reasonably considered American Cuisine.
Pizza is based on the traditional Italian dish, brought by Italian immigrants to the United States, but varies highly in style based on the region of development since its arrival (a “Chicago” style has focus on a thicker, more bread-like crust, whereas a “New York Slice” is known to have a much thinner crust, for example) and these types can be advertised throughout the country and are generally recognizable/well-known (with some restaurants going so far as to import New York City tap water from a thousand or more miles away to recreate the signature style in other regions).
Many companies in the American food industry develop new products for American Cuisine that requiring minimal preparation, such as frozen entrees. 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, is commonly found in American homes.
A wave of celebrity chefs began with Julia Child and Graham Kerr in the 1970s, with many more following after the rise of cable channels like Food Network. Trendy food items in the 2000s and 2010s (albeit with long traditions) include doughnuts, cupcakes, macaroons, and meatballs.
New American Cuisine
During the 1980s, upscale restaurants introduced a mixing of cuisines that contain Americanized styles of cooking with foreign elements commonly referred as New American cuisine.