Classic “American” Food?

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Mac ‘N’ Cheese? Hot Dogs? Apple Pie? These are some of the classic “American” foods we are familiar with. Yet, what is American? How are we to claim these foods as American when we can’t even truly come up with a definition of what it means to be American? Our Founding Fathers did not even eat hot dogs, they probably were not even aware of what it was. It wasn’t even an American who invented them. Did you know that hot dogs are actually of German descent and immigrants were the ones that brought them over to America? Pies are the go-to dessert for any American holiday yet they were brought over by immigrants from Greece. The Mac ‘N’ Cheese we’ve eaten so much of as a child is actually of Italian descent. Why do we advertise these desserts as “All-American” when in reality, they belong to a culture that is not American? We’ve embedded these thoughts in our minds and labeled such foods as American without even thinking about their origin. Just as these desserts are not from America, many individuals that are labeled as white are not American but rather immigrants from other countries.

This demonstrates our attitudes towards most other cultures and people. We tend to group things together and not appreciate their individual value.  It is important to acknowledge everyone’s diverse cultural backgrounds instead of categorizing people into a single group. Yet as Americans, we tend to have a nativist view in that we want immigrants to shed their culture in order to assimilate into  ours.  But why do we keep wanting to fit everything under the “American” category when it actually doesn’t exist?

7 responses to “Classic “American” Food?

  1. Food is such a large part of my family’s gatherings. I could never imagine classic Persian or Mexican foods being called American. It is insulting. Like it was stated above, it disregards and invalidates the contributions immigrants have made to America. I wonder if other countries do this as well or if it is an American phenomenon.

  2. I liked the points you raised in this post. I think that this issue truly captures how many aspects of society are socially constructed and I think that this is one of them. I never really thought about the implications of food in terms of immigration.

  3. This is a really insightful way to approach the issue of “American” identification. The truth that there is no such thing as “American food” is the same as the truth that there is not such thing as an “American”. If we are all so different, there is no way for any one person to fully represent this country. However, the dominant race and culture takes over in both of these situations and gets to determine what is and isn’t “American”, even though their assertions are unfounded.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post, especially since I rarely thought about “American” food and immigration. It would have been interesting for you to unpack the history of how one food/dessert became known as “American.” I really liked how you listed where each food came from, but I was even more curious of the reasons WHY these foods became known as American staples.

  5. I often think about this. One thing that always crosses my mind is fast food restaurants like Chipotle. Although it is as closer to real Mexican food than any other well-known fast food restaurant, i always think about what Americans expect from the Mexican culture. There is more to it then burritos and tacos. Sometimes i wish that Americans would be more willing to visit restaurants in ethnic enclaves, where the food is truly authentic.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this unique take on another aspect of what it truly means to be an American. When you were mentioning that these foods belong to a culture that is not American, it made me reconsider how we define ‘”American”. Rather than looking at this definition as one of exclusion, I think it is more constructive and beneficial for our society if we look at it as one of inclusion. In other words, maybe the fact that pie is Grecian and hot dogs are German is what makes them “all-American,” because we’ve chosen to include these people as part of American society, and so their foods and their culture should be part of American culture as well. At the same time, although integration of immigrant practices into America culture should be inclusive, that shouldn’t mean that we forget where this food originally came from. Thanks for sharing this “behind-the-scenes” look!

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