American Food Diversity 

by Angel Avery-Wright

We often see tacos as Hispanic/Latino, spaghetti as Italian, and sushi as Asian. But do you know where bagels come from? Are French fries French? Who invented the sandwich? 

American food is often seen as hot dogs, hamburgers, and fried chicken. But where did American food come from? As one of the youngest countries, the United States was influenced by many cultures, especially European cultures. Below are the origins of some traditional “American” foods. 

French Fries: They may not actually be French. Some claim that fries originated in Belgium, where villagers along the River Meuse traditionally ate fried fish. In winter, when the river froze, the fish-deprived villagers fried potatoes instead. It is believed that this dish was discovered by American soldiers in Belgium during World War I and they dubbed the tasty potatoes “French” fries because the dominant language of southern Belgium was French. 

Bagels: A bagel is a bread product originating in the Jewish communities of Poland. It is traditionally shaped by hand into the form of a ring from yeasted wheat dough, roughly hand-sized, that is first boiled for a short time in water and then baked. 

Sandwich: The bread-enclosed convenience food known as the “sandwich” is attributed to John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). He was a British statesman and notorious gambler who is believed to be the inventor of the sandwich so that he would not have to leave his gaming table to take supper. 

Did you know Macaroni and Cheese is Italian? Since the Kraft Company put it in a box in 1937 most American kids grew up with macaroni and cheese. There can be no doubt that its ultimate origins are Italian, as one finds macaroni and cheese recipes from the late thirteenth century in southern Italy. It is believed that the classic American macaroni and cheese returned with Thomas Jefferson to Virginia after his sojourn in Italy. Jefferson brought back a pasta machine from Italy. His daughter Mary Randolph is credited with inventing the dish using macaroni and Parmesan cheese. Later, the Parmesan was replaced with cheddar cheese. 

German hamburgers? Definitely. While the inspiration for the hamburger did come from Hamburg, the sandwich concept was invented much later. In the 19th century, beef from German Hamburg cows was minced and combined with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, then formed into patties (without bread or a bun) to make Hamburg steaks. 

Italian pretzels? That’s the legend. Legend has it that the pretzel was invented by an Italian monk in the year 610 A.D. To reward young children for learning their prayers, he supposedly folded strips of bread dough to resemble the crossed arms of praying children. He called his creation pretiola, which meant “little rewards.” 

Kabobs: Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires. In Turkey, shish kebab does not normally contain vegetables, though they may be cooked on a separate skewer. 

Peanut Butter: The earliest reference to peanut butter can be traced back to the Ancient Incas and the Aztecs who ground roasted peanuts into a paste. However, modern peanut butter, its process of production, and the equipment used to make it, can be credited to at least three inventors: Marcellus Gilmore Edson, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Dr. Ambrose Straub. 

In case you did not know: Pizza is Italian, pot pie is Greek, King Louis the XV invented French Onion soup, and the first recipe for apple pie was written in 1381 in England by Geoffrey Chaucer. 

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