The Foodies Journal: The Americanization of Food

(Image via O'Colly Media Group)

(Image via O'Colly Media Group)

Ella Largent, Writer

  We all love food, specifically food that tends to be from other cultures and ethnicities, like Chinese, Mexican, and Italian food.  However, a lot of these dishes we have from these amazing varieties aren’t exactly as authentic as we are led to believe. So let’s dive into how all these dishes are Americanized, for business or just false judgments made by Americans.

What is Americanization? Americanization is basically forming a thing, or person to have American nationality, and character.  To give you an idea of how Americans have really changed and formed these dishes into something of their own we have to get into the origins and why Americans didn’t even accept these cultures foods at first. 

To begin let’s look at the famous and very popular Italian food. According to Medium’s article “Americanization of Food,” Italian food wasn’t accepted by Americans for quite a while because at first these dishes were made by low-class Italian immigrants and in the 1920s there were laws to prohibit the use and production of alcohol, and Americans assumed that most Italian dishes were to be only enjoyed with alcohol rather than anything else.  However, in the 1980s and ’90s, Italian food finally started to find its way into the American’s diet. Now in America, there are 100,000 Italian restaurants. Many to almost all serve the southern Italian dish pizza and all the other favorites. One of those restaurants is Olive Garden, a now widely known and very popular Italian restaurant franchise. However, many of there pastas aren’t actually authentic; in fact, Marinara sauce isn’t even consumed by Italians and was created by the immigrants working with accessible ingredients they could in America.  That is only one of the many cultures that’s dishes that had to be adapted to Americans.

Mexican food has also been Americanized, whether it be to make more profit for the people running the restaurants like Taco Bell creating the hard shell taco, or people just working with what ingredients they can access in a country that may not have what they need. In the 1960s Mexican restaurants really started coming into the light with a lot of delicious dishes with names of another language.  For instance, the “Skirt Steak” or Arrachera known to fluent speakers, are called Vajatias in America because the other name was too hard to pronounce.  Along with that, Fajitas, a common Mexican dish that many enjoy actually has never been in Mexico and doesn’t exist there.  Along with this a lot of Mexicans when inputting meat usually just work with what’s around, and in America, that’s beef, lots and lots of beef.  Originally in Mexico, the ingredients they work with are usually corn, beans, and rice, since those are the most abundant ingredients possible. The largest influence for Mexican food would be Texas since they are one of the closest to the Mexican border which would make for their cultures and traditions to be more widely known and spread.  With Texas comes beef, so with the influence from Mexico mixing with Texas, we got the common misconception that beef has just always been in the Mexican food palette when in all actuality beef is almost non-existent in authentic Mexican food. Lastly but not least is the all so famous Margarita, which contains lime, Tequila, and some sweetener blended with fruits of any kind and put into a glass basically the size of a bowl.  However, in Mexico, this drink usually only contains the lime, tequila and sweetener and not all the other Jumbo-sized effects.

Chinese cuisine is by far one of the most popular for Americans maybe second to pizza. It’s not entirely sure why but if we were to look at how far the Chinese restaurants in our country adapted and changed themselves to be able to make a good profit in this country, it is insane.  One of the things we see a lot is vegetables and stir-fried rice which is very common and pretty good.  Although with the differences between climate and landscape in general between China and America, a lot of the veggies we eat aren’t seen in dishes in China.  For example, some substitutes would be broccoli for kailan, and carrots or pears to sub in for mustard greens and shiitakes.  The dishes we see in our Chinese take out boxes actually can’t be found in Chinese restaurants at all in China.  Traditional dishes would include bird nests, poultry feet, and whole animals.  Knowing this many Americans in the past didn’t accept Chinese cuisine because of rumors that the Chinese ate dogs and cats.  Along with that much of a difference in Chinese restaurants here and in China, the General Tso’s Chicken isn’t even Chinese and actually originated in America.  For the Chinese to get this far in our hearts as a delicious cuisine they had to completely change how they made food, and what they used, which is a prime example in Panda Express when nothing in their menu can actually be found in conventional Chinese restaurants including the famed fortune cookie. 

So in conclusion Americans diet is made up of so, so many cultures mixing together and creating diversity. Everything we eat may not be authentic but the fact we serve so many different ethnicities and cultures dishes is amazingly crazy and truly shows how diverse America can be, and yet also show how sad it is that these cultures had to adapt themselves just to be socially accepted by Americans.