Course: CUL 151 – American Cuisine
Textbook: The History of American Cuisine
Chapter 1: “Introduction – Important Concepts in the Development of American
Purpose: To understand the important regional influences which make up the
American cuisine. Knowledge of these major regional characteristics will help the
skilled chef better understand the history of the American Cuisine as well as
10 better understand the eating habits of Americans and their American diet.
The Cuisine of the United States is characterized by the broad diversity of
15 foods, driven by the tendency of the country as a whole to integrate widely
divergent ingredients and styles of cooking. Cuisines differ from region to region
in the ingredients they use and the method of cooking because each region is
influenced by innovation and centuries of immigration.
20 California Cuisine
California cuisine is a cuisine marked by an interest in fusion
integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients and which, influenced by the
state's health-conscious tradition, tends to be freshly prepared. The food is
typically prepared with particularly strong attention to presentation.
25 Alice Waters, of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, is
usually credited with originating California cuisine and retains the reputation of
offering the ultimate California cuisine experience. Her cuisine emphasizes the
freshest ingredients which are in season and are procured solely from local
farms. Wolfgang Puck, from the Spago restaurants, helped popularized California
Besides the cooking style, the cuisine is affected by the abundance of fruits
and vegetables as the state is one of the major agricultural centers of the United
States. Some locally grown produce that are less common in other parts of the
country include avocados, artichokes, fresh figs, fresh dates, and persimmons.
Southwestern cuisine is food styled after the rustic cooking of the West
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. It comprises a fusion
of recipes for things that might have been eaten by cowboys, Native Americans,
40 and Mexicans throughout the post-Columbian era.
Southwestern cuisine is heavily influenced by Mexican cuisine but
involves more large cuts of meat. This style of cuisine is known for its use of
spices, particularly chili pepper and Tabasco sauce. Southwestern cuisine is
also associated with the concept of the barbeque, which includes barbecue
45 sauces and barbequed ribs and other kinds of meats.
The Southern region of the United States, which consists of 16 states
including the Mid Atlantic states of Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North
50 Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia; the Southern states of
Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the West South Central
States of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, has a distinct cuisine that
draws heavily on influences from various groups that have inhabited the area.
The most notable influences come from African-American, Native American,
55 Irish, French, and Spanish cuisines.
Foods that are commonly associated with the South are iced tea; pit
barbecue; grits, or coarsely ground corn; biscuits, especially with gravy; catfish;
casseroles; cornbread; fried chicken; okra; and pickled green tomatoes,
watermelon rind, and peaches.
60 Frying is the most common method of cooking in the South. This is a direct
reflection of the influence of slave cooking on the region, since Africans of the
time were fond of deep fat frying. Southern fried chicken is among the region's
most well-known foods, though pork is as integral a part of the cuisine as
chicken, with Virginia ham being the most famous.
65 An example of a traditional Southern meal is deep fried chicken, field peas,
turnip greens, cornbread, sweet tea, and a dessert, which could be a traditional
southern sweet potato pie or a traditional peach cobbler.
Specific cuisines that are representative of Southern cooking include soul
food, Creole, Cajun, and Tex-Mex.
70 Soul food is food traditionally eaten by African Americans of the Southern
United States. Many of the various dishes and ingredients included in soul food
are also regional fare and comprise a part of white Southern U.S. cuisine, as
well. African-American slaves were generally given only the leftover and
undesirable cuts of meat after the slave owners had taken the choicest cuts, and
75 had only the vegetables they grew for themselves. After slavery, many, being
poor, could afford only off-cuts of meat, along with offal. Farming, fishing, and
hunting provided fresh vegetables, fish, and wild game such as possum, rabbit,
squirrel, and sometimes waterfowl.
Offals that are regularly used in soul food included chicken gizzards,
80 chicken livers, and chitterlings, or "chitlins" (the cleaned and prepared intestines
of hogs, slow-cooked and often eaten with vinegar and hot sauce; sometimes
parboiled, then battered and fried).
Vegetables commonly used in soul food include black-eyed peas, which
are cooked separately or with rice, as "hoppin' john." Sweet potatoes, which are
85 often parboiled, sliced, and then baked, using sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and
butter or margarine, are commonly called "candied yams." They are also boiled,
then pureed and baked into pies.
Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana that blends
French, Spanish, and American influences. It also bears hallmarks of Italian
90 cuisine, as well as Caribbean and African touches. The most popular Creole
dish is jambalaya, a rice-based dish with vegetables and meat, possibly brought
by the Spanish who controlled the territory before the Louisiana Purchase.
Cajun cuisine originates from the French-speaking Acadians, or "Cajun,"
who were deported from Nova Scotia when they refused to support the British
95 government after French Nova Scotia was ceded to England. It is what could be
called a rustic cuisine
locally available ingredients predominate and preparation is simple. An authentic
Cajun meal is usually a three-pot affair, with one pot dedicated to the main dish,
one dedicated to steamed rice, skillet cornbread, or some other grain dish, and
100 the third containing whatever vegetable is plentiful or available.
The aromatic vegetables bell-pepper, onion, and celery, called “the holy
trinity of Cajun cuisine” by some chefs, are ubiquitous. Characteristic seasonings
include parsley, garlic, bay leaf, and "onion tops" (scallions). Cayenne pepper or
locally made pepper sauces such as Tabasco is used to add some heat to the
105 food. The overall feel of the cuisine is more Mediterranean than North American.
Tex-Mex cuisine originates from the mixture of Texas and Mexican
cooking. Many of the ingredients used in Tex-Mex cuisine are common in
Mexican cuisine, although ingredients unknown in Mexico are often added. Tex-
Mex cuisine, which is part of Southern cuisine, is characterized by its heavy use
110 of meat (particularly beef), beans, and spices. Nachos, crispy tacos, crispy
chalupas, and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. Serving tortilla chips and a hot
sauce or salsa as an appetizer is also an original Tex-Mex combination, and one
that Texan diners insist on.
115 Midwestern Cuisine
Midwestern cuisine in the United States features simple dishes such as
pot roast, sausage, scrapple (a cornmeal pudding made with pork scraps and
trimmings, cooled and hardened into a loaf), pancakes, and other comfort foods.
Dairy is an important ingredient, especially cheese. Meals tend to be served
120 family style or smorgasbord, buffet style, rather than in courses. Seasoning is
light, not spicy.
As with most cuisines, it is heavily influenced by the immigrant groups
which settled in various areas of the Midwest. In the northern Midwest, which
consists of mainly Northern European groups, Cornish pasties, or meat pies, and
125 Polish paczki, or doughnuts, are common. Missouri and Illinois were destinations
for many ethnic German immigrants, so sausages and potatoes are more
prevalent. Italian cuisine is popular in Chicago and St. Louis.
New England Cuisine
130 New England cuisine is a type of American cuisine found in the
northeastern region of the United States, which includes the states of
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and
Vermont. New England cooking is characterized by extensive use of seafood and
dairy products, which results from its historical reliance on its seaports and
135 fishing industry, as well as extensive dairy farming in states like Vermont. Two
outstandingly characterful ingredients native to New England are maple syrup
and cranberries. The starch of the New England cuisine is the potato. The
favored cooking techniques are stewing and baking.
Maine is known for its lobster, once a poor man's supper; Vermont is known
140 for its cheddar cheese and maple syrup; coastal Massachusetts is known for its
clams, cod, haddock, and cranberries.
New England is also known for many of its fine, local lagers and ales, the
most famous of which is Samuel Adams of the Boston Beer Company in Boston,
Massachusetts. Even today, traditional cuisine remains a strong part of New
145 England's identity. Some of its plates are now enjoyed by the entire United
States, including clam chowder, baked beans, and homemade ice cream.
Vocabulary – American Cuisine
health steamed integrate
afford holy sugar integrating
agricultural hunting supper involves
attention ice tea major
baked iced tend method
baking inventions tendency overall
bay island tends predominate
beans leaf typically purchase
bell loaf region
boiled meal regional
butter meals reliance
centuries meat Academic retains
cheese meats Vocabulary solely
chicken mixture specific
cleaned original affected style
coarsely originates area styled
combination plates areas styles
comfort plentiful available techniques
conscious polish comprise tradition
cooked pot comprises traditional
cooking rabbit concept traditionally
cooled reflection consists ultimate
cream regularly credited
dish reputation distinct
dishes restaurant diversity
entire restaurants emphasizes
especially rice ethnic
fat roast features
fond sauce identity
fried sauces immigrant
fruits slave immigrants
frying slavery immigration
government slaves innovation
grain slow integral