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The Foods of America (and their history)

25 April 2019

America - iconic and larger-than-life, its cultural footprint is enormous and has influenced parts of the world far, far way from the United States. And there are few parts more important to a culture than its cuisine and gastronomy.

McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Five Guys, the list goes on and on. America's foodstuff has proved so tempting throughout the years that almost all of us will have tried something that was created, crafted and perfected across the Atlantic. The following list deals with some of our favourite American foods here - that means foods which have been made famous by American influence too; Many of these dishes originated in other countries but have become synonymous with the American identity. With that behind us, lets tuck in handkerchiefs, whip out the menu and dig right in!

The Hamburger

Does this really need any introduction? The hamburger is an absolute staple of the American dinner. Its simplicity is elegant, its deliciousness is unparalleled and its imprint on the American psyche is undeniable. With fast food spreading across the USA during the 20th century, from Florida to Washington State, the hamburger was its erstwhile champion, a defender of simple, tasty food that you could whisk away to a drive-in cinema or order in a diner.

Just where are these tasty numbers from anyway? There's some debate about this, mainly centred around when exactly a hamburger becomes a hamburger. Patties for hamburgers were, as the name suggests, from Hamburg in Germany originally, with records showing they were consumed as far back as the 1800s. It was only really when German immigrants came over to the American shores that diners started putting two bread buns on each side of the patty to create what we now regard as the platonic ideal of hamburger.

The Apple Pie

Ever heard the phrase 'As American as apple pie?'

The humble apple pie has been part of the American lexicon since the early twentieth century, and since then it has been a mainstay of the American dessert trolley. Its recognisable design, a criss-crossing dough lattice sits over a basin of apple, and when combined with cream, ice cream or just a dusting of icing sugar, my goodness is this a pudding to remember.

Apple pies have been around for absolutely yonks, with their history stretching right back through the centuries to the middle ages. The first ever recipe comes from 14th century England in the age of Chaucer and at a time when access to the written word was beginning to take off across Western Europe. Interestingly, it refers to the casing of pastry as a 'cofyn', spelled these days as coffin.

The Hot Dog

Grab your foam hand, pop on your jersey, don your catcher's glover - we're heading to the ball game! And what better way to enjoy this erstwhile, All-American sport than by taking a sausage, popping it in a hot bun and lathering it in ketchup and mustard. Sitting comfortably, with your hot dog set, get ready for home-runs and spit-balls.

The humble hot dog is one of the best examples of an American food with influences from across its immigrant history. Its centre, the actual sausage itself, can be either a wiener or a frankfurter, whose names and origins can be traced back to two Germanic, European nations in the shape of Germany and Austria. Their names refer to Vienna (wiener) and Frankfurt (frankfurter) and their origins go back as far as the 13th century. Meanwhile the condiments can trace their ancestors back to two other immigrant parties from American history, with modern mustard coming from France, and tomato ketchup hailing all the way from China. As such, this excellent addition to the American menu reminds us in these troubled times that everywhere in the world has something to add to the melting pot of American culture.

The Bagel

Finally, with the last entry on our list, lets head to New York itself, one of American's most iconic cities. The Big Apple's multicultural makeup and its staggering number of restaurants and cafés make it an excellent destination for all manner of foodstuff. But no other dish has ever claimed the hearts of as many New Yorkers as the New York bagel.

An indication of the large Jewish population in New York State, the bagel's popularity here is enormous and quite rightly so. The bagel was first created in by Jewish bakers in Poland as far back as the 16th century, where it was mentioned in a municipal document from the city of Krakow. Bagels are regularly made with wheat dough by boiling and baking - this rather unique process creates a thin, crispy outer shell around a softer centre, and its shape frequently features a hole in the middle similar to another American treat, the donut. The bagel is then often filled like a sandwich, with salads, cheese and often ham.

The early 20th century, around the 1900s, saw the bagel make its way across the Atlantic with Polish-Jewish immigrants and since then, it has spread across the USA, delighting diners and gracing dinner tables of all shapes and sizes.

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