America's culture is often described as a melting pot, and when it comes to food, I can't think of a better way to describe it. Or maybe, we don't even have a food culture at all. When I think of foods that Americans eat, it is hard to come up with a food that is uniquely American. Most of our favorite meals as a country are borrowed from somewhere else
In her book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
," Barbara Kingsolver writes "food cultures concentrate a population's collective wisdom about the plants and animals that grow in a place, and the complex ways of rendering them tasty."
If you think about it, the ingredients of Mexican food are those that thrive in Mexico's climate like tomatoes, peppers, avocados, cacti and so forth. The ancient orgin of maize, corn products are still a food staple in Mexico. The same goes for Mediterranean foods. The ingredients are found in Mediterranean climates, such as tomatoes, olives, grapes and so on. And sushi isn't just some fancy fad on which the Japanese was one step ahead of the United States. It is an island nation that survives on fishing.
The closest thing that America has to its own food culture is Thanksgiving. The traditional Thanksgiving foods (turkey, fall squash, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin, etc.) stemmed from that first meal shared between the pilgrims and the Native Americans, when they ate a feast of what was available to them at the time.
America is losing its food culture to the convenience of packaged and preserved foods that can be shipped from all over the world. In some regions, there are still local dishes that thrive, like shrimp and grits
or Frogmore stew
in coastal South Carolina.
Eating locally grown, raised and caught food is not just about cutting down on fossil fuels and the genetic modifications that are required to ship food long distances (although these are definite perks!). Eating locally is about getting in touch with what our land can provide us, and saving and celebrating the food culture that stemmed from that land.