From the wonderfully fresh produce of sunny California to the plentiful seafood of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay – this is a country rich in resources and know-how. Food from the United States is much more than hotdogs, burgers and fries…there is a fantastic range of classic dishes from delicate crab cakes to the more hearty fare of the Deep South. Native cooking traditions, and those brought by early settlers and waves of immigration have developed a sophisticated cuisine that is distinctly ‘American’.
The Mississippi Delta is rich in fish, crab and shrimp. It’s also ‘soul food’ central: The huge population of African Americans in this region resulted in culinary delights like jambalaya, gumbo, fried chicken, collard greens and grits. The African black-eyed pea is also an important ingredient in southern ‘soul food’. African slaves were resourceful when it came to cooking; chickens were easy to keep, catching a fish was free, and collard greens grew like weeds. The South is also famed for its delicious meringue-based Key Lime Pie (small key limes are found throughout the Florida Keys).
Further north, the New England region is renowned for its pure maple syrup, baked beans, brown bread, clam chowder and clambakes. In Buffalo – Buffalo wings (fried chicken wings) are always served with blue cheese and celery. Almost every kind of cooking can be found in New York City while in the other parts of the mid-Atlantic, Dutch influences are prominent – particularly among the Amish community of Pennsylvania who are famed for their ‘Shoofly Pie’ (a molasses pie that can be either "wet bottom" — consisting of a layer of sweet, gooey molasses beneath a crumb topping or "dry bottom" which is more thoroughly mixed into a cake-like consistency). Local produce of course plays a role when it comes to regional favourites - from Alaska where moose-burgers are popular to Hawaii where Polynesian pit bakes and pineapples reign supreme.
A key national holiday commemorated with food is Thanksgiving, which is a reminder of the first harvest feast which the new settlers celebrated with the local Indians. Native produce like cranberries, pecan nuts and turkey are all on the menu, the turkeys stuffed with a cereal-based stuffing and roasted. Sage is the traditional herb added to the stuffing, along with chopped celery, carrots, and onions. Other more inventive Thanksgiving dishes include the ‘Turducken’: Originating in Louisiana, it’s a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. The not-so-wholesome but ‘oh so delicious’ deep-fried turkey is also becoming a popular alternative to the traditional thanksgiving turkey roast.
Like Thanksgiving, the all-American ‘Cook Out’ is a proud tradition for the summer months. For centuries, North Americans have perfected the art of barbecuing, using many different types of wood to achieve a wonderful smokey flavour and combining dry spices to make rubs for meats as well as marinating.
When it comes to desserts, North Americans love their pies, which are found in large generous slabs in every diner across the nation, each region using local produce to make wonders like Key Lime Pie, Shoofly Pie and Pecan Pie.