America's Culinary Heritage
December 6, 2002 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Not by Bread Alone: America's Culinary Heritage This online companion to a recent Cornell University Library exhibition has a handful of interesting images from the annals of food and drink. Does OXO make a Good Grips raisin seeder yet?
posted by staggernation (14 comments total)
I'd love to see the complete text of The American Family Receipt Book, for instance, if only to find out "how to revive tainted meat..."
posted by staggernation at 7:36 AM on December 6, 2002

[Sorry, prematurely posted comment above. First sentence was supposed to be:]

Maybe someday they'll get around to putting more than just the covers of these original source materials online.
posted by staggernation at 7:37 AM on December 6, 2002

Very interesting, staggernation - thank you. It's ironic that a new nation such as the U.S., perhaps due to its quick gastronomic turnover, as fad follows fad, already has such a rich culinary heritage. It's also quite sad how difficult it is to get traditional American cooking overseas.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:55 AM on December 6, 2002

This will sound terribly ignorant, but what exactly comprises "traditional American cooking" (I'm assuming you mean USA by American)? I can't really think of anything that we didn't just adopt from the immigrants who came here. After all, what would a hot dog be without a Frankfurter? I really am wondering what you meant by that!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2002

Pollomacho, just about every cultural element everywhere was imported in some form from somewhere else; for example, a lot of what we think of as "French cuisine" originally came from Italy. All those imported foods, mingling with what the immigrants found here already, have created a true American cuisine. Try finding biscuits-n-gravy with grits, a Philly cheese steak, or a plain old bagel anywhere else (outside of a restaurant serving "American food," of course). Hell, even the pizza as developed in America has little to do with its Italian origin. It's like American English: it came from elsewhere, but now it's... American. Or Americans themselves, for that matter.
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on December 6, 2002

Thank goodness for modern food science that we no longer have to contend with seedful raisins!
posted by me3dia at 8:51 AM on December 6, 2002

You got that right media! After living in a tiny village in Mexico for several my American colleagues and I were headed into the City of Veracruz for a few days. They were so excited because we could eat at Sanborns and have pancakes (I'm not making this up) with real maple syrup in stead of honey. I thought, "big deal so its got honey on it in stead of syrup?" I'm not so sure that because we call them grits instead of polenta, or that we pour syrup over something or use cranberries in place of currants, that it automatically makes something completely different. Well, its lunch time here, all this talk of food has made me hungry, I think all go have an "All-American" Hamburger and French Fries.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2002

... and try to figure out what happened to my American English in the last paragraph, I hope y'all can read that!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2002

I've gotten a lot of use out of, and enjoy just reading, James Beard's American Cookery.

"This definitive American cookbook is also an epicurean journal that digs deep into national history to trace the origins and Americanization of our cooking. As Beard wrote in these pages, 'Today more and more people are forced to agree that we have developed one of the more interesting cuisines in the world. It stresses the products of the soil, native traditions, and the gradual integration of many ethnic forms into what is now American cooking.'"
posted by anitar at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2002

It's not completely different, Pollomacho, but it doesn't have to be to be 'traditional American'. The Belgians, for example, would claim that they invented (or at least perfected) the 'French' fry; as far as they're concerned, it's their traditional food. It becomes your own tradition when you make it your own. In the case of hamburgers, frankfurters and so on, Americans have been "making them their own" for decades.
posted by rory at 9:56 AM on December 6, 2002

Just what are grits anyway? I'm pretty sure it's some sort of cracked wheat dish, but having only imagined them (it?) being eaten by characters in novels I picture them as being mushy, grey in colour and heavily salted. Is this even close?
posted by jack_mo at 3:45 PM on December 6, 2002

jack_mo: sort of. Grits are polenta, more or less. It's corn meal - corn in the US sense of 'maize', not the UK sense of 'grain'. Mushy, yes, but more yellow than grey.
posted by rory at 8:33 AM on December 7, 2002

More white than yellow, in my experience, and I'm not sure I'd call them "mushy" (maybe just because it sounds awful) -- they have an oatmeal-like consistency. I eat 'em with salt and butter, or gravy if available. Oh, and cheese grits are great!
posted by languagehat at 10:55 AM on December 7, 2002

When I lived in Great Britain in the late 70's, I could not get a taco for love or money. So I actually had my mother mail me a package of shells and seasonings. I'm sure things have changed there, but as a Californian, I could not survive for very long without my margaritas, chips 'n salsa and (Americanized) tacos and nachos.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:41 AM on December 9, 2002

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