If the current political climate is teaching us anything, it is that people get very prickly about where stuff comes from. It doesn’t take much for toxic patriotism to creep out of the woodwork and have us all declaring that anything that isn’t native isn’t worth the time of day. This attitude includes food.
However, unfortunately for foodie nationalists, most impassioned proclamations about cherished dishes are usually total rubbish. As it turns out, many nations most famous foods are themselves culinary refugees, adopted and integrated into modern society to such an extent that we’ve forgotten where they come from in the first place. Proving once again that immigration can be awesome, here are seven foods that aren’t from wherever you think they are.
It’s tough to imagine anything more French than a croissant. Anyone having a breakfast in France without this signature pastry is certainly missing a trick. However, though the modern croissant is indisputably a French national treasure, the croissant blueprint was actually originally created in Austria, based on an equally buttery crescent-shaped treat known as a kipfel.
2. Danish Pastries
Sticking with the pastry theme for our second entry, we have what is possibly the most misleading food on the list. Though it seems silly to suggest that these cinnamon-coated treats are from anywhere other than Denmark, Danish pastries are in fact another Austrian creation - going by the name “Vienna bread” until about 1840.
Anyone heading into a modern Mexican restaurant would probably be aghast to see a menu without fajitas. However, these sizzling skillets of fried meat, peppers and tortillas are actually about as traditionally Mexican as a member of the Trump family. Originating from Texas in the 1930s, fajitas are a prime example of early Tex Mex fusion cooking.
With one of the most German sounding names of any food on earth, it seems obvious where this sour cabbage dish comes from. Despite being a staple on germanic dinner tables, sauerkraut is in fact a Chinese invention, having been first produced over 2000 years ago by workers on The Great Wall.
5. Spaghetti and Meatballs
A hearty dish of spaghetti and meatballs is a source of intense pride for every Italian American, harking back to their homeland in the most delicious way possible. However, while it might seem like the most traditional thing in the world, there isn’t anything even resembling this dish in Italy. Spaghetti and Meatballs are always served separately, making the American version an entirely New World invention.
One of the fiercest curries on earth, a vindaloo usually takes centre stage at an Indian restaurant. Despite the fact that it is now an integral part of the Indian culinary canon, traditional vindaloo did not actually arrive in Asia until the 15th century. The blueprint for this dish was actually brought over by Portuguese explorers and perfected by enthusiastic Indian cooks.
7. French Fries
The debate over the origin of French fries is one of the fiercest in the food world. Though there is evidence to suggest that French fries really are French, many believe that the true inventors are the Belgians. The prevailing theory is that, when food was scarce in winter, intrepid Flemish chefs would prepare potato in the same way as fish, by deep frying it in oil.
It’s often tricky to trace a food’s true origins. However, whichever way you look at it, it’s clear that getting overly defensive about where a dish may come from, who “owns” it or how it should be cooked is utterly pointless. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we all enjoy it.