We’ve all heard the complaints about American food: it’s bland, overly processed, and full of sugar. Fruits are often devoid of flavor, and bread is laden with food coloring. Meat, too, often shrinks in the pan.
One of the biggest debates in the food industry today is about the ‘authenticity’ of American food. Many people argue that there is no authentic Chinese food or barbecue, but there are hundreds of varieties of these dishes. The ‘authentic’ part is irrelevant since a restaurant can serve the same word in several ways.
While the concept of American food may seem to be inherently unremarkable, it does have some appeal to the culinary world. For example, immigrant communities often offer cheaper versions of exotic world cuisines. These are often better than the mainstream American food culture, which tends to repress more authentic flavors to satisfy American taste buds.
It should also be noted that food cultures change over time. New immigrants, agricultural techniques, and fashion trends influence our eating. One example is chicken tikka masala. While it is based on a Hunanese dish, it has been Americanized in its cooking.
The ‘authentic’ aspect of food is preparing it without removing the interesting stuff or making it taste bland. This means that it may be entirely off the original “recipe” or wildly different from the one created by millions of other grandmothers. For these reasons, it is essential to remember that authenticity is subjective and, in the end, is often irrelevant.
American food’s authenticity depends on the historical context in which it is created. Many Americans have been remaking nostalgic dishes for decades to achieve historical authenticity. However, there are several ways to determine the authenticity of the food. In many cases, it is essential to consider the contextualization of a recipe. This way, you can decide whether or not it is historically accurate and how authentic it is.
In the 1970s, food in the U.S. was not the food of the affluent. Instead, it was the food of the working and poor. Although some foods were vilified in the 1950s, today’s foods are not as bad as they were at that time. Many foods were developed by colonists, settlers, and immigrants from other countries. These ingredients often played a significant role in American foodways, but native Americans also used them.
Across the world, the taste of American food is terrible for non-Americans. This perception comes from the common conception that American cuisine consists of McDonald’s, Burger King, or KFC. Some may even believe that Americans eat hamburgers every day. But American food is not limited to fast-food chains; it also includes authentic Chinese fare like General Tso’s chicken or Lo Mein. It is not cheap, greasy, or served with a sweet sauce.
There are several reasons why Americans think that the taste of American food is terrible. Many complain that fruits lack flavor, bread is often laced with sugar, meat is dry and shrinks in the pan, and processed foods are everywhere. The quality of American food was not such a problem during the 19th century when Europeans first visited the United States.
Expiration dates on American food are often misunderstood, even though they are necessary for food safety. A study by Hall-Phillips and Shah found that ten percent of respondents believed consuming food after its minimum durability was unhealthy. Despite the widespread misinformation, many people still throw out food close to the expiration date.
Several government agencies are considering changes to food labeling to combat the widespread misunderstanding of expiration dates. The National Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic have recommended a difference in using these dates. The groups propose replacing them with “best before” and “use by” dates. These new phrases are often based on scientific testing and surveys of consumers.
The expiration date is important to consumers for a variety of reasons. Among them is the safety of the food and the risk of bacterial contamination. For example, the expiration date of deli meat can help consumers avoid food contaminated with listeria and other dangerous pathogens.
Studies show that about 90% of Americans prematurely discard food that has passed its use-by date, even though it may still have a usable shelf-life. Most of this food is dairy products. During a single year, an average American family throws away nearly a pound of food due to spoilage. That’s enough to pay for a year’s tuition at a private college.
However, the truth is that expiration dates are necessary to keep the product fresh and safe. Fresh meat, poultry, and fish have high perishability, so it’s best to buy them before they expire. Often, grocery stores will display them until their sell-by date. In addition to the expiration date, many products will have a freeze-by or use-by date. For foods that don’t have a use-by date, it’s essential to follow the cooking instructions on the label.
Racism in American food is a persistent and pervasive issue that stems from the history of the United States. It began with taking land from Indigenous people, accompanied by enslavement. It expanded to the exploitation of immigrant labor from Latin America and Asia. The resulting racial hierarchies remain pervasive today, manifesting in every aspect of our food system.
In the United States, the problem of systemic racism in American food is deeply rooted in the theft of land from indigenous communities and the enslavement of people of color to farm the land. This system continues today, with Black, indigenous, and other people of color struggling to access equal access to land, markets, and capital.
In a recent example, the editor-in-chief of the prestigious food magazine Bon Appetit resigned after a writer tweeted a photo of him dressed in brownface. The tweet has caused outrage among black and brown chefs. But this racial divide in American food culture has been a longstanding problem for decades. Today, people of color are spearheading the fight to improve the representation of people of color in the food media industry.
Racism in the food system traces its roots to the racial caste system in the Americas. This system pushed Black people into subordinate roles in the food system and made it possible for whites to build robust agriculture systems in America. This, of course, allowed for further mistreatment of people of color.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem, with black and Hispanic communities suffering more from the effects of the health crisis. They also experience higher mortality and infection rates than other people of color, and their communities are prone to hunger and eviction.