Internationally, American cuisine has long had a treacherous reputation among critics and foodies alike. Most people in the world think of American food as just hamburgers and hot dogs. American fast food is notoriously laden with limitless amounts of hydrogenated fat, refined flour, and sugar. Usually served in huge portions, the worst of American cuisine is available all over the world, and contributes to America’s dubious distinction as the fattest country on earth. Many around the world, including those living within the borders of the USA, are not aware of some of the hidden gems of American cuisine.
In the US, regional cuisine is truly fabulous and the variety is impressive. In large robust cities the immigrant communities drive the food culture, and bagels, pizza, Chinese food, and other American favorites have only been adopted within the last century. Although immigrants are the primary influence behind America’s urban food scene, the backbone of American cuisine can be traced to its rural communities, where families go back many generations and food traditions run strong.
In America’s South, Southwest, and Midwest regions an intermingling of European colonists, Native Indians, African slaves, and nearby influence of Mexico all lent a hand in building genuine American cuisine. What emerged was a meat-centric, barbecue happy cuisine, with plenty of seasonal vegetables and rich starches added into the mix.
There is a real paradox surrounding American cuisine at the international level. If you tour through the US with an open mind then you soon discover that great tasting food is all around you. In America one may find amazing and authentic international cuisine, but around the rest of the world it is quite difficult to find good genuine American food. High quality Turkish, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, and other exotic cuisine is abundant in the States but good(fast food-free) American food is almost impossible to get in those countries.
There are certain eateries around the world which are helping expose genuine and delicious American food which far transcends the fast food stereotype. Thunderbird Café in Wellington does Southwestern American food right. This cool spot located across from the Ibis hotel serves up very authentic Southwestern American influenced dishes with some great spice to them. Thunderbird’s spiced fish tacos are filled with a myriad of wonderful flavors, tinged with a spicy chipotle mayo and an amazing spice rub. For more adventurous diners, their anchiote shredded chicken quesadilla is reminiscent of the food you would find in New Mexico and Arizona, and the anchiote truly adds a whole new level of savory to the dish. I definitely recommend the Thunderbird Café in Wellington for a genuine taste of ‘real’ American food.
There is a fierce simplicity to American food which makes it a very approachable and comforting type of cuisine. The food is not subtle by any means and its rustic origins are evident in the ingredients, preparation, and presentation. The truth is, portions are big, but true American food is far more nutritious and tasty then the fast food it is known for.