The quintessential American food?

applepie In an IM conversation with tigtog, I started contemplating what to serve up for dinner tomorrow. We usually have a hot dog dinner on the Fourth of July, so what to serve on Election Day?

My first impulse was hot wings and apple pie, because hot wings are a fond memory of my last trip to the States. Tacos are up there in the consideration stakes as well, though Tex-Mex might go better as a Bush farewell at inauguration. And we just scarfed all the garden-fresh broad beans in a tomato-based sauce over polenta, so we’re out of stocks for succotash. (I never did quite get the difference between lima beans and broad beans, so I’m not convinced it exists.)

What’s the quintessential American dinner menu, for you?

[image from the USDA]



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36 replies

  1. Peanut butter and jelly. It’s what I eat practically every night at work. (It’s also vegan, though the fact that I care about that arguably puts the reality of my Americanness in question.) One of the big cultural differences that struck me when I was down under was Aussies’ unfamiliarity (and yet fascination) with combining peanut butter with sweet things, like PB&J and chocolate-peanut butter candy.

  2. Something Hawaiian? Which in Australia just means put some tinned pineapple chunks on whatever else you have.

    I think I have to go with Cajun for my favouritest American cuisine.

  3. I think a luau is out of the question, but something pineappley we can certainly do. The Lad loves pineapple. A plate lunch won’t work – my partner has an irrational aversion to pasta salad of any kind. Mm, maybe a crockpot dish involving sweet potato and coconut, among other things?
    PB&J might be a good lunch tomorrow, but I don’t think I’ll serve it for dinner. And as much as I love both chocolate and peanut butter, Reese’s Pieces disgust me.
    Drinks! We don’t have the ingredients for Mai Tais, or any of that hideous blue stuff, but we do have rum and pineapple juice…

  4. p.s. the first person to mention m**seburgers gets DISEMVOWELLED FOR ETERNITY. Don’t push me on this.

  5. TexMex is my favorite ‘American’ cuisine. But my all-American menu is my (Western European) family’s Thanksgiving: roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce from a can so it has to be sliced…
    Not exactly snack food, though.

  6. First, hot dogs and apple pie, while both typically American, don’t belong in the same meal.
    As to what the quintessential meal would be, I’d go for hamburgers with ketchup, pickles, and sliced onions (in other words, leave off the beet root!), with sides of either french fries or potato salad, and cole slaw. To drink, you’d have iced tea. For true authenticity, it would be sweetened, but you can pass on that!

  7. Hot wings and apple pie sounds good to me! Assuming you eat mammals, pork chops (or ribs) with BBQ sauce and a side of applesauce would be tasty too. Fajitas are another of my faves.

    As for drinks, if you want something fancier than beer, maybe a mojito (rum, sugar, lime, mint, carbonated water)?

  8. A really big steak.

  9. Hamburgers with the lot, including pickles, sweet mustard and a choice of Jack cheese or American cheese. And French fries on the side with ketchup.

  10. Well now I’m thinking that Wednesday night (Melbourne time, just after the polls have closed U.S. time) we might have to have takeawy burgers (they’re good ones, with proper meat) for dinner. With beer.
    To be honest, Wednesday is frequently a burger night because we do our shopping on Thursdays, so it’s not really a special occasion. But it is a reason not to do takeaway curry instead.

  11. Surely mouseburgers were Roman, not American? (wheee!! -I like living dangerously)

    I have only had pumpkin pie once, in high school, but I loved it. Not hawaiian though. As it happens we had tacos tonight (two sick children at the mo so we had dinner early) with chocolate brownies for dessert. Scrum! I have just discovered I much prefer my brownies made with cocoa rather than chocolate.

  12. Mmm, brownies. And I have some dulce de leche in the freezer, too.

  13. Hot dogs are definitely in order for celebrating a Chicagoan. (Just make sure they’re dressed properly.) Deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and Polish sausage would also be acceptable.
    And it ALL goes with apple pie. Please.

  14. Anything featuring five different types of barbeque sauce, though I’m blaming that idea mainly on a Battle Kobe Beef episode of Iron Chef America from aaaaaaages ago. Oh, Bobby Flay, never stop searing huge chunks of meat.

  15. And it ALL goes with apple pie. Please.

    Yes, I was thinking the same thing and I’ve never even set foot in the US. Some things you just know.

  16. Vicia faba is the broad bean – also known as the fava bean. Whereas your lima bean is the Phaseolus lunatus. Rather similar, and can be substituted for each other.
    Vegetarian myself, but maybe something in the soul food line might be appropriate.

  17. What my middle class American family would probably consider your most basic American meal? Baked chicken, potatoes (mashed, baked, scalloped, wev), and green beans. Maybe with a roll. (Um, shit, I don’t know which one that is to you Aussies–scones? Crap. You put butter on them, but not jam?)
    Maybe meatloaf, but I always hated meatloaf.
    Watermelon is an awfully American fruit.
    But yeah, when it comes right down to it, if you want to emulate America, you go for the barbecue. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, don’t matter. Corn on the cob. Chips, dip, beer. Nicer appetizers? Crackers with salmon dip, maybe…Heh, build a fire and roast yourself some smores.

  18. If you do go for the apple pie, remember: if it doesn’t have a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, it doesn’t count.
    Root beer floats are just as American, though, if you like them instead. And frankly more common, because pies take more work.

  19. @ Quixotess, we call ‘em bread rolls too. What we call scones are closer to your … biscuits. And our biscuits are your cookies. And your arugula is our rocket. 😉
    In food terms, the weirdest diff between us I always found was how seppos call the main meal the “entree”. It means “enter”, people!

  20. Root beer is an abomination unto my sight. (Or something).
    I went to the neighbourhood shop with all this plus my current rather unpleasant crash in mind (so no baking pumpkin pies and whatnot all day), and grabbed what was available and looked nice. So now I have some rather scrumptious-looking wings in BBQ sauce (we have hot sauce here that can be added by those what like it), shoestring fries, and a frozen Sara Lee apple pie. We have corn cobs, ice cream, and canned squirty-cream in stock, and will grab whatever’s green from the garden (likely snow peas, green beans, and spinach).
    Mm.

  21. Quintessentially American: Barbeque. Preferably pulled pork (beef is preferred in Texas, but only in Texas). Please note that barbeque is properly used to refer to slow-cooked meat with some sort of sauce, and NOT as a generic term for cooking outdoors.
    Other options are fried chicken, hamburgers, and terrible beer. Pizza isn’t American in origin, but what is? And pizza is America’s favorite food for feeding large numbers of busy people, so it’s probably being served at dozens of state and local campaign offices today.

  22. Turkey, stuffing, & cranberry sauce, sez moi.
    Gilgamesh, my canine compadre, had butternut squash and bacon slivers with a little asiago baked on top leftovers in his breakfast this morning, so he votes for that. Or baked sweet potatoes, his other favorite.

  23. Reporting from the Southern US (North Carolina to be exact), I’d suggest the following:
    Pulled pork bbq with a vinegar sauce
    cornbread
    sweet potatoes in some form
    greens (collard, mustard, ect), cooked with pork if you want to really go at it
    pinto beans
    potato salad
    sweet tea (which I hate, but it is super popular)
    an American lager
    some sort of cobbler for dessert

  24. I’m a vegetarian, but quintessential American food involves meat.
    So: Fried chicken & potato salad, and maybe a green bean casserole.
    That’s probably the quintessential Southern meal, come to think of it. It’s got all the Southern food groups: meat, starch, mayonnaise, and Campbell’s Cream of mushroom soup.
    And, of course, it goes with apple pie. Or one of those fake apple pies made with Ritz crackers.

  25. I’d go with fried chicken with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. To some extent that’s a summertime menu, classic picnic or Fourth of July fare, but I think it’s pretty All-American. (Fried chicken was, if I recall, one of Nero Wolfe’s top nominees for American contributions to cuisine.)
    I don’t know if I’ve ever had broad beans (aka fava beans), but I think they’re smaller than lima beans; and Wikipedia says they’re different genuses, and that lima beans actually originated in the Americas.

  26. Actually, I think the most quintessentially American dinner would center on hotdish. (The name changes regionally, but it’s some kind of casserole’d thing.) At the very least, there needs to be a hotdish sidedish.
    Oh, and the brownies. It really startled me to realize those aren’t global. I love making them to hand out at work, since my work plonks me in environments with people from all over the globe who tend to be quite happy to sample my experiments in brownie variations.

  27. @ Sean Willard:

    To some extent that’s a summertime menu

    It’s very nearly summer here!

  28. Okay, I’ve been meaning to find this out for years – what are “collard” greens?

  29. They’re a leafy green, similar to kale, MsLaurie.

  30. In food terms, the weirdest diff between us I always found was how seppos call the main meal the “entree”. It means “enter”, people!
    When I first moved to the US I found the use of “entree” to describe the main meal maddening… but
    Cecil set me straight.
    (let the tags be right, let the tags be right…)

  31. I just noticed the juxtaposition of my screen name and Bene’s description of collard greens, hee!

  32. In consultation with my local bottleshop I’ve bought myself some Samuel Adams beer. It came with the glorious review “it’s the only drinkable American beer.” Then he suggested we drink bourbon instead.
    I’ve got corn chips and dip (Greek style, but what the hey, there are Greeks in the US). So we’re ready, except for the last minute purchase of burgers.

  33. Kate, I hate to break it to you, but Sam Adams isn’t that great. Lot of good American smaller brews, though.

  34. Ah hah! Thanks heaps.
    One really weird American dish (to my Australian eyes) are the salads which somehow involve jelly (sorry, ‘Jello’) and mashmellows.
    How are they salads?!

  35. Bene, the general view at my bottleshop is that American beer is crap, so they only stock two kinds. The other is Bud. We weren’t expecting ‘great’, just drinkable. Then tomorrow we’ll go back to drinking Australian beers and paying attention to our own politicians.

  36. kate, if that was the option, you made the right choice. Blech, Bud.

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