A Blended Taste: Food Origins


The United States is filled with people from many different nations. Americans who were born in the states likely have ancestors from foreign countries. Our large diversity of people has created a blending of different cultures: influencing food, style and overall culture. Cuisine is an excellent way to trace a nation’s lineage. French fries, fortune cookies, and chimichangas are three unique foods with seemingly different cultures all influenced by the United States, becoming American food staples.
Many American restaurants claim to serve dishes from other countries but are served entirely different from how they are traditionally made. This is especially common in Mexican cuisine, like chimachangas. It is thought chimachangas were created in Arizona at the El Charro Cafe. This family restaurant opened in 1922, Monica Flin used to cuss when a burrito tumbled into the deep fryer. In hopes of protecting younger family members ears, she swapped her swear words to “chimichange”, or in Spanish “thingamagig”.
French fries are an incredibly popular side dish and snack across the globe. Many people logically think French fries originate from France but it appears Belgium has a much more influential role. While both the French and Belgians take credit for this salty succulent snack, Belgium claims street vendors first sold fries in the late 1600’s on Pont Neuf, the city’s oldest bridge. The French claim fries as their creation because of the foods name, French fries, but Belgium argues French gastronomic hegemony is to blame for this mistaken identity. Historians believe when American soldiers came to Belgium during World War I, they labeled the snack “French” because it was the official language of the Belgian Army. Fortune cookies are another treat whose origins are often confused.

Fortune cookies have incredibly complex and various theories of where and how they originated. Most food historians agree that the fortune cookie was created in California during the early 1900’s. Some people believe David Jung created the fortune cookie while living in Los Angeles. Disturbed by the poverty that surrounded his shop, the Hong Kong Noodle Company, he gave away free fortune cookies. Each cookie held a bible scripture written by a Presbyterian minister. While other people think the fortune cookie came out of San Francisco’s Chinatown as a tourist attraction. Since World War II fortune cookies have become iconic in Chinese restaurants, even though they are not directly linked to Chinese culture. Today these infamous cookies are expected from American customers when eating at a Chinese restaurant.
The United States has been titled the world’s “melting pot” for their blended traditions. It’s interesting that a country filled with many different nationalities has created a culture that incorporates all of them. Many people become frustrated by Americanized food, claiming it is unoriginal, and a poor imitation of authentic dishes. But if cuisine can define a nation then Americanized food tells the story of merging of beliefs, ideas, tastes and traditions that has become one.
Credits: Fancy Fortune Cookies®. “Fortune Cookie History.” Fortune Cookies. Fancy Fortune Cookies®, 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
Hiskey, Daven. “The History of French Fries.” Today I Found Out RSS. Vacca Foeda Media, 23 Sept. 2010. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
Myers, Gregory. “10 Common Misconceptions About Food Origins.” Listverse. N.p., 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
Stradley, Linda. “Chimichanga Chimichanga History – Chimichanga Recipe.”  Chimichanga History, Chimichange Recipe, How To Make Chimichanga, El Charro Cafe.

photo credit: ratterrell via photopin cc
photo credit: ~Jetta Girl~ via photopin cc

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