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American food and drink.
The popular view outside the U.S.A. that Americans survive on cheeseburgers, Cokes and French fries is as accurate as the American popular view that the British live on tea and fish’n’chips, the Germans only on beer, bratwurst, and sauerkraut, and the French on red wine and garlic.
This view comes from the fact that much of what is advertised abroad as “American food” is a very pretty flat, tasteless imitation. American beef, for example, comes from specially grain-fed cattle, not from cows that are raised mainly for milk production. As a result, American beef is tenderer and tasted better than what is usually offered as an “American steak” in Europe. When sold abroad, the simple baked potato that comes hot and whole in foil often lacks the most important element, the famous Idaho potato. This has different texture and skin that comes from the climate and soil in Idaho.
Even sometimes as basic as barbecue sauces shows difference from many of the types found on supermarket shelves overseas. A fine barbecue sauce from the Southside of Chicago has its own fire and soul. The Texas have a competition each year for the hottest barbecue sauce (the recipes are kept secret).
America has two strong advantages when it comes to food. The first is that as the leading agriculture nation, she has always been well supplied with fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables in great variety at relatively low prices. This is one reason why steak or beef roast is probably the most “typical” American food; it has always been more available. But good Southern-fried chicken also has champions, as do hickory-smoked or sugar-cured hams, turkey, fresh lobster, and other seafood such as crabs or clams.
In a country with widely different climates and many fruit and vegetable growing regions, such items as fresh grapefruit, oranges, lemons, melons, cherries, peaches, or broccoli, iceberg lettuce, avocados, and cranberries do not have to be imported. This is one reason why fruit dishes and salads are so common. Family vegetable gardens have been very popular, both as a hobby and as a way to save money, from the days when most Americans were farmers. They also help to keep fresh food on the table.
The second advantage America has enjoyed is that immigrants have brought with them, and continue to bring, the traditional foods of their countries and cultures. The variety of foods and styles is simply amazing. Whether Armenian, Basque, Catalonian, Creole, Danish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, traditional Jewish, Latvian, Mexican, Vietnamese or what have you, these traditions are now also at home in the U.S.A.
There seem to be four trends in America at present which are connected with foods and dining. First, there has been a notable increase in the number of reasonably priced restaurants which offer specialty foods. These include those that specialize in many varieties and types of pancakes, those that offer only fresh, baked breakfast foods, and the many that are buffets or salad bars. Secondly, growing numbers of Americans are more regularly going out to eat in restaurants. One reason is that they are not many American women do not feel that their lives are best spent in the kitchen. They would rather pay a professional chef and also enjoy a good meal. At the same time, there is an increase in fine cooking as a hobby for both men and women. For some two decades now, these have been popular television series on all types and styles of cooking, and the increasing popularity can easily be seen in the number of best-selling specialty cookbooks and the number of stores that specialize in often exotic cooking devices and spices.
A third is that as a result of nationwide health campaigns, Americans in general are eating a much light diet. Cereals and grain foods, fruit and vegetables, fish and salads are emphasized instead of heavy and sweet foods. Finally, there is the international trend to “fast food” chains which sell pizza, hamburgers, Mexican foods, chicken, salads and sandwiches, seafoods and various ice creams. While many Americans and many other people resent this trend and while, as many be expected, restaurants also dislike it, many young, middle-aged, and old people, both rich and poor, continue to buy and eat fast foods.