by Charlie Reese

American food is more than just burgers and hot dogs!

When you think of American food, what’s the first food that comes to mind? Probably the good old American hamburger, closely followed by hot dogs, fries, steak and potatoes, right? Although these are the foods we seem to long for when traveling to other areas of the world, if these dishes were all there was to the American food lineup, it could get old fast.

However, America is a land of immigrants, with many from different nations settling in certain regions of America. For example, many people from Israel emigrated to New York, while Mexican immigrants gravitated towards the Southwestern states, such as Arizona and New Mexico, as well as California. In the last century, foods from the old country traditions have melded into American tradition, resulting in a variety of ethnic cuisines being absorbed into the American food scene. So when you think of American food, can you imagine life without pizza, enchiladas, bagels and cream cheese or fried rice?

Let’s take a look at some of these common American foods of foreign origin. Here we list just a few, but each cuisine has hundreds of less common dishes to test on your palate for some delightful culinary experiences.

Now, traditional American breads didn’t include bagels, until Israeli immigrants produced the genuine article. The New York style bagel is famous among bagel lovers, with its mysteriously different and highly delicious taste. Bagels with cream cheese and lox is a curious fusion of traditional Jewish and Scandinavian cuisine, a proud addition to American breakfast lists.

Chinese cuisine is so integrated into our daily fare, that Chinese take-out and restaurants are available in the smallest towns of America. Fried rice, egg-foo-yung, broccoli beef, lemon chicken and of course, chow mein aren’t even thought of as foreign any more.

The Japanese people have contributed many mainstays of the typical American food menu. Tempura, sushi and tofu are popular foods with both mainstream and health-conscious diners.

Southwestern and Tex-Mex foods are perhaps the most popular of ethnic foods nationwide. Enchiladas, chile rellenos, Spanish rice and refried beans are typical platters at every Mexican restaurant. Some Mexican dishes are now evolving into a new subset of a new fusion cuisine, where certain elements of the traditional dishes are combined with sauces and seasonings from other cuisines to produce an entirely different dish.

Cajun and creole cookery is a spicy cuisine which developed in America as a fusion cuisine. This is truly American food, a combination of southern, African and French influences. Well-known Cajun dishes include jambalaya, dirty rice, gumbo and shrimp remoulade.

Other ethnic, but thoroughly absorbed into American food culture includes Italian and other Mediterranean food, German, Scandinavian and Indian and African dishes with exotic and healthful seasonings and Southern regional cooking.

So next time you think of American food, remember that we are fortunate to have such a diversity of cuisines, easily found within our country. Bon Appetit!

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