The United States of America is a sprawling country with a lot of ethnicities. This geographic and ethnic diversity translates into culinary diversity with all manner of tasty foods found in America’s 50 states. Eskimo ice cream, Kentucky Bourban and Mississippi mud pie are just a few examples of what food lovers can sample across the fruited plain. Apparently Iowa can lay claim to sliced bread – its funny to think someone actually had to invent sliced bread. No matter your tastes or level of food snobbery, here is a list of must try American treats to chew on.
10. Melt In Your Mouth
M&M’s are the most popular candy manufactured by Mars, Incorporated, Newark, New Jersey, but were patterned after a British candy popular in the 1930’s called Smarties. The “Ms” stand for Forrest Mars and William Murrie, the founder and a major investor of Mars, Inc. respectively. These colorful bits of chocolate goodness have been melting in our mouths and not in our hands since 1941. The candy coating was inspired by a process used during World War Two to allow soldiers to have chocolate that was less likely to melt into a brown glob in their ruck sacks. The original M&M colors were red, yellow, green, brown and violet. Today’s M&M’s (plain) come in red, yellow, orange, green, brown and blue. Peanut M&M’s were launched in 1954 and since then a number of varieties have been introduced including almond, mint chocolate, pumpkin spice, pretzel and caramel. Even with all the new flavors the plain and peanut varieties continue to be the most popular. M&M’s are known around the world, but they have earned a well deserved and tasty place in American popular culture.
9. The Greatest Thing Since…
Bread has probably been around for 30,000 years, but for most of that time people had to tear or cut off each individual piece of bread. Actually loaves of sliced bread didn’t come about until 1928. A jeweler living in Missouri named Otto Rohwedder worked for years to build a practical machine that could mechanically cut loaves of bread. Bakers were skeptical of his new fangled machine because they believed it would damage the loaves and decrease their shelf life. nevertheless, on 6 July 1928 Rohwedder’s machine started slicing loaves of bread at Missouri’s Chillicothe Baking Company. An article in a local newspaper described the innovation as “startling,” but the future of bread had arrived and there was no going back to traditional loaves. Apparently Rohwedder had spent a lot of time researching the most appropriate width for a slice of bread. The public’s reaction to sliced bread was generally positive, but some critics were convinced this fresh take on a classic staple was destined to be a passing fad. It’s a little strange to consider that someone like Otto Rohwedder had to invent sliced bread, but aren’t we glad he did?
8. White Lightening
People can be very serious about their barbecue and no one was more serious about it than Alabama’s own Big Bob Gibson. Back in the 1920’s Bob experimented at his home using a barbecue pit he dug himself. Besides experimenting with different smoked meats and cooking methods he also came up with his own unique barbecue sauce. Unlike traditional sauces, Bob’s is mayonnaise based. It also includes apple cider vinegar, corn syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, horse radish and some salt and pepper. This white barbecue sauce is especially popular in Northern Alabama and locals aren’t shy about dipping chips in it or slathering it on bread. Bob’s grandson is involved in the family barbecue business and explained in a video on the companies’ website that “Every chicken we cook we baptize it in white sauce.” The Gibson’s prefer this method of dipping the entire chicken to give it an intense barbecue flavor. However, this isn’t the only acceptable way to use Alabama White Sauce. There are a lot of barbecue recipes that call for you to simply brush the white sauce onto the chicken during the last few minutes of grilling. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy this spicy condiment, Alabama White Sauce is a tasty American treat worth trying.
7. Frozen Alaska
This frozen American treat is known as Akutaq, an Eskimo word that means “something mixed.” It is also known as Alaskan ice cream, indian ice cream and native ice cream. Regardless of what you call it this traditional frozen dessert is essentially the northern regions’ version of ice cream. However, there is avery important difference: Eskimo Ice Cream but doesn’t contain any cream. Cows and their delicious cream don’t do well in sub-zero climates so for thousands of years residents of the Northern regions have had to make do with other kinds of fat in their cooking. Depending on what the Eskimo’s had available to them this dessert might be made with things like reindeer fat, whale blubber or seal oil. These alternative ingredients are edible, but are not necessarily appealing to our modern palates. Updated recipes deal with this issue by substituting Crisco vegetable shortening in place of the animal fats. This ice cream includes a number of other ingredients including snow, sugar and berries such as cranberries, salmonberries and blueberries. Some recipes call for the addition of bits of fish to be stirred into the ice cream. This is supposed to add flavor, but fish-flavored ice cream sounds like it might be an acquired taste. This cool concoction is whipped by hand to fluff it up with air and then is served as a dessert, dip or spread.
6. Spirit Of Kentucky
Is Kentucky bourbon really a tasty American treat? I suppose it is a must try for people who love whiskey. Whiskey is a spirit made primarily from corn and then aged in barrels for extended periods of time. Charred oak barrels are what give Kentucky bourbon its brownish-red color and unique sweet and smokey flavor. While whiskey is a common adult beverage, the consensus is that Bourbon whiskey in particular is a product of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Bourbon County was established in 1785 just a few years after the end of the Revolutionary War. However, some people believe the whiskey took its name from the popular Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. What is certain is that “Bourbon” refers to a French royal dynasty. The House of Bourbon began ruling parts of France in the 16th century. By the 18th century this powerful family claimed kingdoms across Europe including in Spain and Sicily. The consensus among historians that the distilling of spirits was probably introduced to Kentucky in the late 18th century by Scots – Irish settlers. The exact origins of Bourbon whiskey are not clear, but several people have been identified as possible inventors, but actual proof to support these candidates is hard to come by. In 1964 the U.S. congress passed a resolution declaring Bourbon whiskey to be a “distinctive product of the United States” and directed federal agencies to stop importation of similar foreign products.
5. Movable Treat
The organizers of the The World Columbian Exposition of 1893 decided they needed a portable treat to offer people attending the exposition. The task fell to Bertha Palmer, the wife of a Chicago, Illinois hotel owner. Mrs. Palmer’s decadent dessert recipe calls for a pound each of chocolate and butter. Known as the Palmer House Brownie, her recipe for a chocolate baked dessert includes chopped walnuts as well as a sweet apricot glaze. The glaze is no longer a common feature of brownies, but otherwise the basic chocolate brownie has largely remained the same for more than a hundred years. This tasty American treat is dense and rich and some bakers say it is best served cold or even frozen. The term “brownie” first appeared in print in an 1896 Fannie Farmer cookbook. In this case the name refer to chocolate brownies, but to small molasses cakes. These cakes were probably ok, but they certainly did not become a household name. The first appearance of a chocolate brownie recipe in a cookbook was in 1904’s The Home Cookery. Brownies with chocolate frosting are often called Texas brownies and they are a popular variation of this enduring American treat. A newer variation of this dessert is the brookie, a brownie with a layer of chocolate chip cookie. Brownies are like pizza, even if its less than terrific it’s usually still worth eating. It seems that such a delicious dessert deserves a more appealing name, but in their defense – brownies certainly are brown.
4. Yes Virginia – There Is A Ham
As its name suggests the Virginia Ham originated in the commonwealth of Virginia. Ham, which is defined as the meat from the upper hinds legs of pigs, has been a popular food in America since settlers in the 17th century brought domesticated pigs with them from Europe. A Virginia Ham, also known as a country ham, is created through a curing process that covers the meat with salt to draw as much moisture out of it as possible to slow down the process of decay. The curing process was a traditional means of preserving meats before the invention of refrigeration. Cured hams are often smoked over hickory and applewood and then aged for several months or even as long as a year to enhance the flavor. Ham that is aged for a long time may need to have some mold removed from it, but otherwise the meat is perfectly edible. Virginia Hams are a favorite American treat around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but these delectable meats have also been the star attractions at many Sunday dinners. As an added bonus these dishes provide families with plenty of left over meat for sandwiches and soup. Throughout the year this special kind of ham is sometimes sold as sliced sandwich meat, but more often it is reserved for a thicker cut called a ham steak. Ham steak is a popular breakfast meat that is a fine complement to foods like eggs, hash browns and pancakes.
3. Get Down In The Mud
There are many variations of this sweet southern treat, but the core ingredients of Mississippi Mud Pie are the trinity of baked goods: chocolate, butter and sugar. The peculiar name of this delicious dessert is taken from the dense, dark mud that is found along the banks of the Mississippi River. The crust is usually made with some kind of crunchy cookie such as Graham crackers or chocolate wafers. The cookies are crushed and mixed with butter to create a sweet, crumbly crust that perfectly complements the chocolate filling. The cake portion of Mississippi Mud Pie has a fairly dense consistency and is similar to a traditional brownie such as the Palmer House Brownie. This tasty treat is usually topped with a rich chocolate sauce and as if that isn’t enough delicious goodness, ice cream is often served with it as well. Some variations of Mississippi Mud Pie use chocolate mousse instead of the chocolate cake. Although this creamy variation of the pie sounds wonderful in its own right, it remains a less popular version of the traditional decadent dessert. Still another mud pie variation calls for ice cream to be substituted in place of the cake. This substitution results in a sort of Mississippi Mud ‘Ice Cream’ Pie. Traditional or not this version sounds delicious. No doubt chocolate lovers will enjoy one or all of these versions of a must try American treat.
2. Louis’n Your Lunch
In 1900 a new American treat was born in the city of New Haven, Connecticut and helped launch what would someday become a billion dollar fast food industry. This culinary story began when an impatient customer at Louis’ Lunch was in a hurry and requested a meal that he could take with him. Louis’ owner made the man a sandwich that consisted of scraps of beef. The impromptu concoction became known as a hamburger sandwich. He unwittingly created one of America’s most enduring and tasty treats. Louis’ Lunch is a family owned restaurant and has been operating for more than a hundred years, but you can still get a hamburger the way it was originally made. The classic burgers are formed from a special blend of five meats ground fresh every day. They still cook the burgers in the same type of 19th century cast-iron grills that were commonly used when Louis’ Lunch opened. These tasty American treats are topped with cheese, tomato and onion. Louis’ doesn’t offer any other condiments to its customers because the proprietors insist their hamburger needs no further embellishment and from the look of it they are probably correct, but this restrictive policy could rub some customers the wrong way. This classic American eatery has long stuck to a basic menu that offers only the classic burger, sides of potato salad, potato chips, fresh baked pies and a small selection soft drinks. So if you’re in the New Haven area and you’re in the mood to try the original hamburger you need to eat Louis’ lunch.
1. We’re Talking About Sandwiches, Right?
Seinfeld’s Kramer got into trouble when he confused Dominicans for Cubans, but there’s no confusion when it comes to the Cuban sandwich: its a tasty must try American treat. Restaurants in Key West and Tampa, Florida created a much more flavorful version of the familiar ham and cheese lunch staple that would appeal to Cuban nationals who were traveling between their island homeland and the United States. Some food historians believe the “Cubano” sandwich may have actually originated back in Cuba, but the disagreement seems destined to continue. The Cuban sandwich is a slightly exotic take on the tasty, but basic ham and cheese sandwich. The Cuban features Cuban bread, roast pork, glazed ham and Swiss cheese topped with sliced dill pickles and yellow mustard. The sandwich is then usually toasted using a special kind of sandwich press called a plancha. This is similar to a panini press, but it doesn’t have the grooved surface that leaves the distinctive char marks on panini sandwiches. The Tampa Bay area is home to a sizable Italian-American community and this group tends to favor a variation of the sandwich that includes Genoa salami. This has introduced some food for thought into the great sandwich debate because some purists argue that a “true” Cuban sandwich does not or should not include salami or any other additional ingredients. Whether you want yours with or without the Salami, the Cuban sandwich a tasty American treat.