Picking up where my esteemed colleague Andrew Porter left off regarding English food, this post aims to defend the oft-criticized cuisine of the United States. The land of burgers and fries, in the eye of the international public, seems to offer only that.
Depending on the restaurant dispensing said fare, the all-American combination of a burger and some fries can be delicious. Unfortunately, the world has only received, as export, fast food joints like McDonald’s and Burger King. The country has much more to offer than that, and that’s what we’re going to look at now.
Depending on where exactly you unsheathe your knife, fork and spoon, you can find any variety of food waiting to do a jig on your taste buds. We’ll start on the West Coast, home of yours truly, where Mexican food reigns supreme. To be specific, northern Mexican food is king here, and variations that people have named ‘Tex-Mex,’ originating in Texas, mainly from Mexican families that had settled there. This means dishes like burritos, fajitas and chili con carne. This cuisine could most appropriately be dubbed Mexican-American.
Staying in the South, an array of options sits before us. Starting in Louisiana, the heart of Cajun country, get ready for spice and seafood combined in tantalizing ways. Dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée (traditionally served with crawfish) have the potential to set your mouth on fire, put can of course be toned down. Blackened catfish is a personal favorite. The rest of the South offers what can best be described as ‘comfort food;’ not the healthiest food out there, but it can’t be faulted for its flavor! Think of things like cornbread, fried chicken, grits (a porridge-like, corn-based breakfast food), black-eyed peas, and biscuits and gravy; the thought alone makes this writer feel full.
Heading to the East Coast, the amount of fried food drops off quite a bit, but we don’t lose the seafood! Typical dishes from this part of the country include crab cakes, lobster rolls (lobster meat, soaked in butter and served in a hot dog-style bun), and clam chowder. Although there are many variants of the stew, the two types that command the most fame are New England (cream-based), and Manhattan (tomato-based). And for that festive occasion, don’t forget to grab a bunch of clams, mussels, lobster and crabs, and steam them all together for a New England Clam Bake.
For the last (and my personal favorite) part of the meal, dessert, there are simply too many options to choose from. Chocolate chip cookies, Devil’s food cake, banana splits, brownies, fudge, milkshakes and any type of pie imaginable are all on the menu when putting the finishing touches on a meal. If you’re like me, you’ll want to save room for seconds!