Stirring the stew The culinary benefits of immigration

If you're lucky enough to live in a place that attracts many immigrants, your dining experience is flavored by the favorite foods of other people (meaning the foods of other cultures). In the United States, for example, the melting pot is not an idle phrase. American cooking literally bubbles with contributions from every group that's ever stepped ashore in what President Lyndon Baines Johnson used to call the "good ole U. S. of A."

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Table 15-2 lists some of the foods and food combinations characteristic of specific ethnic/regional cuisines. Imagine how few you might sample living in a place where everybody shares exactly the same ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds. Just thinking about it is enough to make me want to stand up and shout, "Hooray for diversity at the dinner table!" (Check out Figure 15-2 for the visuals!)

Table 15-2 Geography and Food Preference

If Your Ancestors

You're Likely to Be Familiar with

Came From

This Flavor Combination

Central and Eastern Europe

Sour cream and dill or paprika

China

Soy sauce plus wine and ginger

Germany

Meat roasted in vinegar and sugar

Greece

Olive oil and lemon

India

Cumin and curry

Italy

Tomatoes, cheese, and olive oil

Japan

Soy sauce plus rice wine and sugar

Korea

Soy sauce plus brown sugar, sesame, and chile

Mexico

Tomatoes and chile peppers

Middle Europe

Milk and vegetables

Puerto Rico

Rice and fish

West Africa

Peanuts and chile peppers

  1. W. Logue, The Psychology of Eating and Drinking, 2nd edition (New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1991)
  2. W. Logue, The Psychology of Eating and Drinking, 2nd edition (New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1991)

Figure 15-2:

Ethnic and regional cuisines abound.

Figure 15-2:

Ethnic and regional cuisines abound.

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Of course, enjoying other peoples' foods doesn't mean you don't have your own special treats. Table 15-3 is a flag-waver: A list of made-in-America taste sensations, many created here by immigrant chefs whose talents flowered in American kitchens.

Table 15-3

Foods Born in the USA

This Food Item

Was Born Here

Baked beans

Boston (Pilgrim adaptation of Native

American dish)

Clam chowder

Boston (named for la chaudière, a large

copper soup pot, used by fishermen to make

a communal soup)

Hamburger

Everywhere (originally called a Hamburg

steak, except in Hamburg, Germany)

Jambalaya

Louisiana (combination of French Canadian

with native coastal cookery)

Potato chips

Saratoga Springs, New York (credited to a

chef at Moon's Lake House hotel)

Spoon bread

Southern United States (adapted from

Native American corn pudding)

Vichyssoise

New York (Ritz Carlton Hotel; created by a

chef born near Vichy, France)

James Trager, The Foodbook (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1970)

James Trager, The Foodbook (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1970)

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