Wednesday, November 27, 2013

American food: a post-China perspective [non-China]

It's easy to make fun of American food. I mean, does America even have a cuisine - other than McDonalds and Burger King? Back in college my friend from China Mr. Ji would complain about the cafeteria food. There wasn't much I could say to his assertion that food in America just wasn't as good as Chinese food.

But in the time since I've come up with a couple of things that American cuisine can boast of having to itself. Consider the first thing I ate today after having gotten back to America, this bowl of broccoli and hummus:

Because the broccoli was already done, this took literally 1 minute to make (microwave and put the hummus on top). Even if it the broccoli hadn't been cooked already, steaming broccoli doesn't take much time or effort. So, in comparison with just about any Asian dish, this is still a ridiculously easy dish to make. Moreover, it tastes good, and is off-the-charts healthy.

Honestly, I'd put forward hummus as the essential American food item. It goes well with almost everything, is both healthy and convenient, and nowadays is easy to obtain in most places (at least in the Northeast). My two college roommates and I would go through hummus at an incredible rate, and it's amazing how many food groups it goes well with: vegetables, bread, dairy (cheese)... Obviously hummus is not what people think when they think of American cuisine, but I hope some day it will be.

This was an abnormally full fridge, but that
amount of hummus would be gone in 3 days

That said, indulgence has its proper place, and Americans are better than any other culture I know of when it comes to my favorite food group: dessert. Unlike China, we think of dessert as its own meal, and have a variety of desserts to match: pies, cakes, cookies, ice cream, brownies, danishes, chocolates, etc. China's ice cream stands on every corner are great, but they're not quite the same as having a big bowl of ice cream - or a milkshake - in front of you. I will give the Taiwanese credit for trying with their shaved ices (below), which are pretty awesome. Still, I just don't think anywhere else has the same reverence for good dessert as we do.

Mango ice (photo: Ben Pence)
And although hummus and ice cream are at polar ends of the healthiness spectrum, I think together they're a good reflection of American values: we do what we want when we want, whether that means eating quickly and healthily or gorging on chocolate brownie ice cream.

Cakes that my college roommate Ben made
For a contrasting look on Taiwanese food from the perspective of two friends who visited me in Taiwan, check out Ben and Michael's blog here.

1 comment:

  1. Dan, I'm enjoying your blog, which I just discovered. I think your "reverence for dessert" comes from your father. To him, dessert is a real art!