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What is American Ethnic Food?
I used to believe there was no such thing as American ethnic food.
The States, after all, are nothing more than a big melting pot, right? I had thought we lacked our own social cuisine because all of our food is derived different cultures. This conception was succinctly extinguished two weeks ago, when I encountered an American ethnic food shelf in a grocery store In Berlin, Germany.
The USA Shelf
As you can see in the video, most of the foods are processed; relatively unhealthy. Here is a full inventory:
- V-8 juice
- Pancake syrup (not to be mistaken for maple syrup)
- Hershey's syrup and chocolate toppings
- Betty Crocker baking mixes (including basic cake mixes and the groundbreaking & versatile Bisquick)
- Cans of Betty Crocker cake icing
- Hot sauce
- Jim Bean, Hunt's, and other steak sauces
- Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce
- Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
- Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blends
- Newman's Own salad dressings
- Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Dijonnaise
- Blue cheese salad dressing
- Marshmallow fluff (strawberry and plain)
- Macaroni and cheese
- "Cheese Zip"
- Processed cheese from squeeze bottles (in nacho, cheddar, and jalapeno flavors)
- Squeeze bottles of mustard
- Heinz Sweet Relish
- Campbell's Soup cans
When I first upload this video online, it became relatively popular and generated a steady flow of comments. Many of the comments were out of pride that certain foods were featured on this shelf; some viewers were outraged that certain foods have been left out.
The Missing Pieces
The most apparently grievous (and mentioned) omissions from the German store's shelf are as follows:
- Apple pie
- Pop Tarts
- Slim Jims
- Hot dogs
- Peanut butter
rom the shelf, and from the YouTube comments it generated, I learned that American ethnic food does indeed exist.
When combined, these two lists above might be considered an informal, but nonetheless carefully curated and crowdsourced, outline of American ethnic food. Should you consider someday throwing a traditional 'American' dinner party, feel free to consult this list and break out the Bisquick and Cheese Zip!!
It is interesting to consider what out country has contributed to the culinary world- mostly a wave of fast and convenient foods and processed foods (most of which are bolstered with corn byproducts, which is a huge feature of our food economy).
Many people (a bench of whom commented on this video) find the American food legacy to be a real travesty while others are quite defensive of it. I cannot say my heart sways in one direction or another- just that I find American food to be fascinating!