When we think of all-American cooking, there are some foods that immediately spring to mind. Whether it’s barbecue, beer or burgers, some meals are now as much a part of American identity as the constitution or the star spangled banner.
However, though these foods are seen as a source of national pride by many, the reality is often a little more nuanced. Many things that we now take for granted as part of the foodscape in fact have surprisingly little to do with America at all. Here’s our list of famous foods that don’t come from America.
There’s little argument that America has led the world in hamburger innovation over the last century. However, though they may now be world leaders, they are not the inventors of this universal fast food favourite. According to historians, the habit of serving chopped meat in a patty actually originates from the German city of Hamburg in the 12th century.
Though you’d be hard pressed to find any self respecting American eatery that doesn’t offer fries on the menu, these thin crunchy potato strips are in fact another European invention. Originating either from Belgium or France, fries did not become popular across the pond until the 20th century.
As the nation’s condiment of choice it seems hard to imagine an American foodieverse where everything isn’t slathered in ketchup. However, while it’s tempting to think of the USA as the font of all things sticky and saucey, ketchup was actually created in China and owes its name to the Hokkein Chinese word “kê-tsiap”, which referred to a sauce made from fermented fish.
The memory of meatloaf night can be both fond and grisly, depending on the relative skills of the chef involved. Though the dish became incredibly popular during the 50s and 60s in suburban America, meatloaf in fact has a far more storied history. There are centuries-old recipes traced back to Renaissance Europe, proving that the dish has had a following for hundreds of years.
5. Mac and Cheese
Surely, only America would think it acceptable to serve up giant bowls of gooey, cheese-laden carb and claim that it’s a side dish? It might be easy to imagine that America is the only country that could come up with a dish so deliriously indulgent, yet mac and cheese is, just like every other pasta, an Italian invention.
6. Peanut Butter
No childhood is complete without at some point sampling the cloying salty sweetness of a peanut butter jelly sandwich. However, the ultimate mid-afternoon snack would never have come to be were it not for a foreign invention. While Americans manage to get through about 700 million lbs of the stuff every year, peanut butter in fact originates from Canada.
With one specialist famously claiming that the nation runs on their product, doughnuts are now embedded in American culinary culture. However, though they’ve certainly blossomed in the States, they were in fact invented in the Netherlands, where olykoeks (or, “oily cakes”) remain a popular snack to this day.
8. Fried Chicken
For many, nothing could be more American than a plateful of fried chicken. Though the history of this dish is complicated and, at times, controversial, one thing that isn’t in any doubt is that it was not invented in America. Fried chicken as we know it today actually owes its origins to both Scottish and West African cooking traditions.
While it’s easy to look at the wealth of foodie resources we have available to and take it for granted that it’s always been like this, it’s worth reminding ourselves where our most famous dishes actually come from. Food is constantly changing. People play with recipes and tinker with traditions. As these American classics prove, all that messing can, in the right hands, eventually lead to some incredible dishes.