This article is about 10 foods that only the USA would be nutty enough to invent. These are foods that may not always seem so American to a lot of people. Read on to get the inside scoop on 10 foods only America was crazy enough to invent (Part 3).
10. Key Lime Pie
If you adore this tart, pale-yellow pie, you’re not alone. Key lime pie is a unique and one hundred percent American invention that has plenty of fans, including Oprah Winfrey herself. Made from egg yolks, Key lime juice, and condensed, sweetened milk, it’s served in a pie crust that is typically made from tasty graham crackers. The most traditional version of Key Lime Pie is the Conch version. With the Conch Key Lime Pie, egg whites are utilized to create a sweet and airy meringue topping. As its name suggests, Key Lime Pie is named after the compact Key limes that grow all through the scenic Florida Keys. This USA dessert’s roots go way back to the early part of the 20th century. Of course, the pie was invented in the Key West region of Florida. While its precise origins remain a mystery, the pie did get a notable mention from an old-time ship salvager named William Curry. He was the first millionaire to live in the Key West area, and he had a personal chef, Sally, who enjoyed making Key Lime Pie for him. So, what’s so special about Key limes, anyway? As it happens, a lot. They are more fragrant than the usual limes, but they have thinner rinds, which means that they are delicate. They are more perishable than your everyday limes. Usually, limes from Persia are used in recipes, which is why Key Lime pie is so different. It is made from American limes that evoke the lush splendor of the Sunshine State. One other fun fact about Key limes is that they have thorns. Also, their juice is pale-yellow, rather than green, like other lime juice. This is why Key lime pie fillings are usually pale-yellow, rather than pale-green. Key Lime pies with light-green fillings may be made with Persian limes, rather than actual Key limes. In the beginning, these distinctive pies weren’t baked. They were made by mixing condensed milk, egg yolks and acidic lime juice, to create a chemical reaction that thickened the combined ingredients, with no baking required. Now, people are wary of eating raw eggs, so the pies are normally baked, if only for a little while. Baking creates a thicker texture than the no-bake method of making Key lime pies. It’s also a safer pie-making method. Now that you’ve learned the origin story of Key lime pies, you may be craving a slice of this delicious and totally Floridian pie. If so, indulge, by hitting a bakery which, hopefully, makes its Key lime pies with real Key limes. You might also want to make one of these pies at home.
Remember the Looney Tunes cartoon character, Sylvester the Cat? His catchphrase is “Sufferin’ Succotash”? While you may be aware of Sylvester’s catchphrase, you may not know what Succotash actually is…or where it came from. The word, Succotash, is a Narragansett word that means ‘broken corn kernels’. The dish itself is made from sweet corn and shell beans, such as lima beans. Some versions of Succotash come with turnips, potatoes, tomatoes, corned beef, various hues of sweet peppers, salt pork and okra. This recipe is all about mixing a legume and a grain. When you feast on Succotash, you’ll find that you’re able to get plenty of essential amino acids. Plus, it’s a cheap recipe, and most versions of the recipe have ingredients that are really easy to access at most grocery stores or farmer’s markets. Because Succotash is such an affordable dish, it became popular during some very hard times in America. As the Great Depression brought poverty and hunger, some cash-strapped USA families made Succotash, to get basic nutrition. This dish is now part of many New England Thanksgiving dinners. It’s also popular in other USA areas, including Pennsylvania and the South. The Southern version usually has lima beans, plus a butter or lard topping. You can thank the Native Americans of the 17th century for this dish. They brought this economical and tasty stew to colonial immigrants. These immigrants were having a hard time getting used to their new lives in America. Made from ingredients that weren’t known in Europe back then, Succotash eventually became an everyday meal in the kitchens of settlers. The name has been Anglicized, from a word, “msickquatash”. This word is a Narragansett Indian word. In the old days, and often today, this dish is made by adding other ingredients to a pot of corn which is simmering on the stove. If you’re not familiar with Succotash and you want to give it a try, basic and gourmet recipes are easy to find online. Typical Succotash is a simple and rustic dish that evokes America’s heritage and the culinary traditions of America’s indigenous peoples. Succotash used to be considered a main dish, but it’s generally a side dish nowadays.
8. French Dip
The name, “French Dip” may evoke images of chic Parisian bistros, where patrons lounge elegantly, with wine glasses in hand, but French dips are sandwiches with Los Angeles roots. The name is believed to refer to French bread, rather than Gallic origins. One L.A. restaurant, Cole’s, claims to be the place where the delicious and hearty French Dip was invented. This eatery opened for business in 1908. Another restaurant in the same sunny city, Philippe’s, also claims to be the first eatery to serve the sandwich. While it may not be possible to definitely prove which restaurant offered this meat sandwich first, a journalist who explored this topic felt that Phillippe’s had the edge. What it is possible to prove is that carnivores who adore roast beef love eating French Dips. These beef sandwiches are popular today, just as they’ve been popular for many decades, and, possibly, for more than a century. So, for the uninitiated, what exactly is a French Dip, anyway? Well, it’s a delicious mass of roast beef, served in a French roll. The sandwich comes with a plate or bowl of au jus, which is usually a combination of roast beef drippings and veggie broth. The sandwich gets dipped in the au jus and this softens the bread and adds moisture to the beef. It makes the process of eating the sandwich easier…and even more delicious.
7. Boxed Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a dish that’s been around as long as America has, and a lot of USA residents think of mac and cheese as true comfort food, whether they make it from scratch and bake it in their ovens, or open boxes that contain dried pasta and processed cheese. This dish is basically Americana on a plate or in a bowl. While Italy is renowned for pasta and cheese dishes, and such dishes have been prepared and enjoyed since the 14th century, the American version of mac and cheese is singular. In Italy, a medieval recipe for “dough and cheese”, as they then called pasta and cheese, showed that the dish was made in the same fashion as lasagna. Pieces of dough were layered with cheese and butter, just like lasagna noodles are layered with cheese and tomato sauce. The English had their own spin on pasta and cheese, which included the addition of a French sauce called Mornay sauce, which contained cheddar and Bechamel cheeses. In America, cheddar is the preferred cheese for this dish, and boxed macaroni and cheese were invented right in the USA. Thomas Jefferson usually gets the credit for bringing the recipe for pasta and cheese to the United States, after a trip to Europe. Clearly, as so many people do, he enjoyed eating his way through Europe and discovered macaroni pasta while in Paris. He wanted to enjoy it after returning to America. Despite his passion for the short, curved pasta, Jefferson didn’t invent Kraft Mac and Cheese, which is also known as KD. This boxed macaroni and cheese product was the brainchild of a salesman called Grant Leslie, who was born in Scotland and lived in Missouri. Leslie sold cardboard boxes of pasta, along with packets of processed cheese, from door to door. In the late 1930s, Kraft launched his invention on a wider scale and the rest is history. Boxed macaroni and cheese helped Americans to get nutrients and feel full during the dog days of the Great Depression. Today, it’s very popular in America and Canada.
6. Meatloaf With Ketchup
In the very beginning, American-style meatloaf was made with scrapple. Scrapple is a blend of cornmeal and ground pork. In Pennsylvania, Americans who emigrated from Germany enjoyed serving scrapple, and scrapple inspired the classic, American-style meatloaf that people in the USA enjoy today. Meatloaf has been around since the colonial days, but it didn’t start popping up in American cookbooks until much later on. Of course, people in other countries, including Germany, enjoyed preparing and eating dishes made with ground meats. Some of those might qualify as meatloaf, too, but the meatloaf we know and love today is so very American. It’s usually made with ground beef Chuck, ground pork, ketchup, eggs, onions, grated carrot, bread crumbs and a selection of savory spices, such as sweet paprika, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder. American-style meatloaf almost always includes ketchup as a meatloaf ingredient or a meatloaf topping. There’s something so American about ketchup, isn’t there? Even though ketchup was inspired by a Chinese fish sauce! Meatloaf is such a classic that you’ll find it in lots of American chain restaurants, including Boston Market, which offers meatloaf made with tomato puree and toasted breadcrumbs, to name just a couple of tasty ingredients. Meatloaf from Boston Market is served with a thick coating of hickory-flavored ketchup.
5. Cobb Salad
This delightful and nutrient-dense salad is really a full meal and it was invented in America, at a legendary restaurant in Los Angeles, known as The Brown Derby. The owner of the eatery was Robert Cobb. He had leftovers in the restaurant kitchen. These leftovers included chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, chopped bacon, salad greens, tomatoes, Roquefort, cheese and avocado. That’s a lot of delicious leftovers and he decided to combine them and create a new dish. The Cobb Salad was born. All its inventor has to add, beyond the leftovers, was a vinaigrette made with Worchestershire sauce, garlic, red vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice. He did add a little pepper and salt, too. This salad had the same vibe as a BLT sandwich, minus the slices of bread. Lots of Hollywood film and TV stars adored the Cobb Salad. Lucille Ball and Clark Gable both ate the innovative dish and loved it. The Cobb Salad became an important hallmark of the California culinary style. While The Brown Derby is no more, the Cobb Salad is still an American classic.
4. Doughnut Holes
Legend has it that the inventor of delicious doughnut holes hailed from Rockport, Maine. He was a sea captain and his name was Hanson Gregory. He’s passed away, but his passion for doughnut holes lives on. Some people visit his birthsite at 179 Old County Road in Rockport. You can, too. While at sea, Captain Gregory had a penchant for consuming globs of fried dough as he also took care of his captain duties. He liked these fried dough blobs because he could impale each blob, or doughnut hole, on the boat’s steering wheel handles. That made it easy to grab the doughnut holes when he got hungry, without needing to leave his post. A century after he invented doughnut holes, a plague was put up at his birth site, memorializing his achievement. Necessity is the mother of invention, especially when it came to doughnut holes. He needed a convenient snack, so he invented one, and most of us are grateful.
3. Ranch Dressing
Whether you’re dipping a slice of pizza into a little tub of ranch dressing or drizzling it onto a salad, you probably already know how good it tastes…did you know that it’s also one of those foods that only Americans were crazy enough to invent. Ranch dressing is the invention of Steve Henson. He was a plumber who developed the dressing while working in a remote area of Alaska. In the early 1950s, he and his spouse, Gayle, opened their own company. Can you guess what it was called? If you guessed, “Hidden Valley Ranch”, you’re right! The new company gave customers the ability to buy pre-made ranch dressing that they could take home with them, as well as ranch seasoning packets that could be combined with buttermilk and mayo. Demand for ranch dressing went through the roof, because it’s delicious, and Clorox eventually bought Hidden Valley Ranch for a whopping 8 million bucks. Since 1992, ranch dressing has outsold all other salad dressings in America.
2. Pecan Pie
Pecan pie is an exceptional sweet treat that is also an American creation. This pie is made from pecan nuts and has a filling made from butter, sugar, and eggs. Usually, corn syrup is used as the sugar in this recipe, but some people use white sugar, or honey, or molasses, or brown sugar. Recipes do vary. There are people who add onto the classic American Pecan Pie recipe, with a touch of bourbon whiskey or chocolate. After the pie is ready to serve, it may be eaten plain or accented with hard sauce, vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. This All-American treat is a crowd-pleasing favorite on special occasions, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. Pecans are native to Southern parts of the USA, and the indigenous people of the South used to enjoy pecans thousands of years ago. The word pecan is derived from an Algonquin word, ‘pakani’. ‘Pakani’ means, “several nuts”. While there are people who believe that the French are the true inventors of pecan pie, and created the dessert after emigrating to New Orleans, most people consider this type of pie to be the brainchild of Americans who lived in the South.
1. Candy Corn
Do you love candy corn or hate it? This candy is polarizing. Some people adore it, others stay away from it…few have neutral opinions. Candy corn looks like corn and tastes like sweet candy. It tricks the eye and it’s popular at Halloween, because it looks like harvest corn, but offers a real sugar kick. This candy used to be made by hand, right in the USA. The first candy corn was marketed under the brand name, Chicken Feed, back in the 1880s. It was made by Wunderlee Candy Company. After the 19th century ended, a firm called Goelitz Confectionery Company produced the product. This company is now called Jelly Belly. Candy corn was developed to appeal to rural customers. Sometimes, there are seasonal variants of traditional American candy corn, including Reindeer corn for the winter holidays. Reindeer corn has green ends and red centers. A Valentine’s Day version is made with pink and red colors.