Is there such a thing as American Food? Yes, it’s the mingling of all the traditions contributed by every cook who entered this country and made it his or her own. People from all corners of the world came adding their special touch to the previously adopted dishes.
New York would become the original incubator of American dishes. Italians may have brought us Pizza but New York perfected it. German and Dutch immigrants introduced Hot Dogs and Hamburgers, now a national pastime. We think of Chinese food as part of our American kitchen forgetting its origins and frequent the strangest yet perfect of all combinations, its marriage to the Jewish Deli.
The newest group introducing us to their cuisine are the Vietnamese. In Dallas there’s a Pho shop in every shopping center.
Refugees from nations under conflict who find their way to the US usually get into the food business for survival. Not finding familiar dishes when they arrive, their entrepreneurial spirit leads them to what comes naturally. Those who are able to introduce us to their specialties and manage to ‘Americanize’ their dishes mostly survive.
Restaurant chains which not only have more buying power but are publicly traded, have steadily pushed Mom and Pop stores out of business by undercutting pricing and compromising on quality. Higher rents, over regulation and labor costs have also contributed to their demise.
While Mom and Pop stores are the incubators of ideas, the chains have become the great equalizers where uniformity and quality control are traded in for charm and uniqueness. While dependability has enabled chain restaurants to thrive, by diluting the differences among cuisines they are instrumental in establishing the ‘American Kitchen.’
My contribution has varied over the years. At first nostalgia fed my desire to Americanize Transylvanian cooking with ingredients only available at that time. Then when I met TJ I taught myself how to cook his favorites, mostly from family members and thus added a combination of Arabic and Persian food to my repertoire. As time passed and we started eating a healthier, I tweaked all my recipes and slowly eliminated animal products. My cooking is American Cooking even as it hardly resembles what is typically considerd as such
Chopped veggie salad
Chop the following and combine in a large bowl:
1 medium red onion; 1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow bell pepper; 1 tomato; 1 cup of arugula; and 1 cup of kale. Drizzle with 1 tsp. of Agave nectar, 1 Tbsp. of rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp. of Sesame Oil, salt and pepper to taste, and toss. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of sesame seeds.
Cut up a large head of cauliflower and brown it in 1 Tbsp. of oil. Cover and simmer till very tender. Season with salt and pepper and mash well with a fork.
For a fast and yummy dessert, remove the pits from several large dates. Swirl honey or agave nectar with 2-3 Tbsp. of Tahini and dip dates in the mixture.