Some American foods, such as burger and fries, spicy gumbo and mustard-smeared hot dogs, are much loved and have been adopted by other cultures around the world. But what about some of the lesser known U.S. foods? We take a look at some of the dishes that Americans love, but the rest of the world has chosen to ignore, and ask why.
Grits come from the southern American states, which include Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina and are made by boiling ground corn until it reaches a smooth, porridge-like consistency. Grits are commonly eaten for breakfast with eggs, bacon, sprinkled with cheese or butter or just left plain. Foreign visitors to the U.S. that have tried grits during their stay often describe them as bland or gloopy but fans of the creamy treat insist that they must have had a bad experience. Although some specialist restaurants outside of America serve grits, it is rare. It’s interesting that many people describe grits as similar to polenta – which is also made with ground corn but has become a firm menu item on many high-end restaurants around the world. Maybe we should give grits a chance, too?
First brewed in Philadelphia by a pharmacist and introduced to the world in 1876, root beer is popular throughout the US, but outside of America people dismiss its flavour as strongly herbal-based or even similar to antiseptic. American-born 2011 Masterchef winner Tim Anderson told Yahoo!: “Root beer contains a ton of different extracts and oils from various roots, herbs, and spices. A few of them, like sarsaparilla and wintergreen, are traditionally used to flavour medicines in the UK, so some people perceive root beer as tasting overpoweringly medicinal. This is coupled with a typically strong flavour of anethole, the characteristic aroma of liquorice or aniseed, which many people dislike.” If you’re not used to these flavours, says Tim, the drink can be “very off-putting”. Despite this, however, it does trickle into UK supermarkets every now and then.
Thought to have been introduced by European settlers to Pennsylvania, scrapple is still a popular dish in some parts of America. It’s made from pieces of pork offal, which are mixed with cornmeal and baked into a loaf, resembling a coarse paté. Pieces of this loaf are then sliced off and fried until golden. But while scrapple nowadays hasn’t really ventured outside of American shores, it’s not that different in theory from paté or meatloaf – both successful outside of the U.S.
A tough one, this. Why cornbread doesn’t grace dining tables worldwide is a bit of a mystery: it’s sweet, yellow and eggy. Cornbread is especially popular in the southern states and many people see it as a childhood comfort food, eaten with a drink of milk as a snack. Because of its popularity, many variations of cornbread exist. Cooks add everything from green jalapeño chillies, cheese and even honey for a sweeter bread. It’s made by combining cornmeal with eggs and sugar, stirring in some flour and seasonings and then baking it in a hot oven for around half an hour. Perhaps it’s not taken off elsewhere because we didn’t grow up eating it and don’t have that comfort food factor. But while it’s not yet widely available to buy ready-made, more European cooks are buying bags of cornmeal and trying out cornbread recipes at home. Perhaps this is one to watch.
Fried Green Tomatoes
We’ve been conditioned to expect our tomatoes to be shiny, large and ruby red. But the southern states of America came up with a great idea for using up unripe, green tomatoes. Green tomatoes are sliced and dipped in egg followed by breadcrumbs or cornmeal, or a mixture of the two. The coated green tomato slices are then fried for a few minutes on each side, until crisp. You don’t see many fried green tomato dishes on menus on this side of the pond just yet, but British food writer Nigel Slater has devised a number of green tomato-based recipes including fried tomatoes and chutneys; so for the curious, the tide may turn yet.