Sunday, July 17, 2016

From Foreign To Common

To say the least, America has a complex relationship with foreign food:

"When immigrant food is brought into the American fold, another big question, aside from whether it will be thought of as high- or low-end, is how long it will be considered exotic; food can be a useful entry point to thinking about how immigrant cultures are absorbed into the American mainstream, and what 'mainstream' might look like in just a few decades. Only 80 or so years ago, The New York Times published an article that, to make a point about how radically Americans’ eating habits were changing, imagined a 'hodge-podge' of “strange dishes” that a family at the time could plausibly plop on the dinner table next to each other, no matter how objectionable such a spread may have seemed. Those strange dishes? Spaghetti, meatballs, corn on the cob, sauerkraut, fruit salad, and apple pie. Yesterday’s strange hodgepodge is today’s boring dinner.

For quite a while, in fact, 'foreign' food was simply shorthand for German food. That’s what writers in the Times meant virtually anytime they referred to foreign food between the 1850s, when the paper was founded, and around the 1920s. In the mid- to late 1800s, when relatively poor German immigrants were first arriving in the U.S. en masse, their sauerkraut and sausages were denied incorporation into the American culinary canon. Decades later, only after generations of Germans built wealth and social capital, the hot dog’s American-ness does not require elaboration."

It's an interesting article, but it seems like a lot of foodie trends these days are towards "authentic" (scare quotes!) street food rather than towards the upper end of the dining scale.

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