filling the empty nest with food

Real American Food

I’ll be hosting several international college students and one former South American ambassador in a few nights–with instructions to provide them an American dinner experience.  International students don’t often get invited into an American home when they study in our country–and how sad is that?  So, it feels like a big responsibility.

But what exactly is a typical American dinner?  Macaroni and cheese?  And would that be homemade or Kraft from the box?  I once made my oldest son, when he was a toddler still in his high chair, a gourmet version of mac and cheese:  I lovingly prepared good quality penne pasta with a sauce of organic whole milk and the best Wisconsin aged cheddar.  It was a labor of love as I prepared to wow him with sophisticated flavors and put him on the road to appreciating fine cuisine.  You can see where this is going.  He refused to touch it after the first bite.  In later years none of my children ever turned down a $.25 box of generic macaroni and cheese.  Go figure.

So, back to real American food.  Is it the drive-thru at McDonald’s? We invented the fast food chain, after all.  Or is it Americanized Chinese take-out?  Or a vegetarian or vegan meal, or a buffet where everyone gets to choose what he or she eats?

You might say it’s whatever you want it to be, since we are a nation of immigrants and fusion inventions.  Except that when you eat a meal that’s definitely NOT American, you know it.

What would you serve?


4 comments on “Real American Food

  1. Laura S.
    May 2, 2013

    I am a believer that America’s true contribution to the world’s food scene is breakfast. I think America does breakfast better than anywhere else! If they can come by in the morning — give ’em hash browns, eggs, juice(s), pancakes or waffles – the whole spread. But I do have a harder time identifying an “American meal” – maybe burgers? You could go the Minnesota route too I suppose – tater tot hot dish and a side of wild rice?

  2. Mom
    May 2, 2013

    Katie, I think of the meals that my mother made: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gr beans, apple and celery salad, cookies and sliced peaches. But then something more Sunday dinner-ish: roasted pork loin with roasted onions, celery, carrots, potatoes–even prunes or figs with the roast. A green salad. A cobbler or fruit pie. Or are you thinking of a summer meal?

  3. Sarah
    May 2, 2013

    Of course fried chicken and potato salad comes to mind. Or burgers and hot dogs–or chicken– on the grill. I had the most success with an international group serving a pasta. Brownies for dessert.

  4. Jim
    May 3, 2013

    I think a good possibility would be macaroni and cheese with cut up wieners baked in. You can make a very good mac and cheese casserole with a combo of Velveeta and a good quality cheddar that isn’t too sharp. Gotta add a little milk in there, too, else it will get gloopy, not smooth. Basic recipe:

    • 1 bag medium shells, cooked and drained (al dente)
    • 12 1/2″-thick slices of Velveeta
    • about 3 cups shredded good-quality cheddar (not sharp or extra sharp)
    • 2 large-size Hebrew National Franks, prepared in boiling water until they are hot, and then chopped into 1/4″ thick disks
    • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of milk

    Layer slightly more than one third of pasta in the bottom of a well-greased two-quart casserole. sprinkle 1/3 of the cheddar cheese on top of the noodles. Layer six of the Velveeta slices above the cheese, layer 1/2 of the wiener disks on top; add another layer of pasta and repeat above process. Finish by covering with a thin layer of pasta and a layer of cheese. Pour milk over the top of the entire mixture. Cover with a tight lid or tin foil. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and stir entire casserole (by folding) until everything is homogenous and creamy. Let stand for 7 minutes before serving.

    This dish is plenty salty because of the wieners and Velveeta, so it begs to be served with either fresh or canned green beans, or steamed broccoli.

    The meal should be completed with a slice of home-made apple or blueberry pie.

    Now that’s American!

    If you don’t like that, a large, good-quality char-broiled or grilled hamburger (please no Tube Meat or factory farmed meat) with two good slices of cheese, garnished with lettuce, tomato and onion and served on a top-notch bun with French Fries or a good white potato salad (no mustard-based variety) makes a great impression as an “American” meal as well.

    And you can still serve the pie, too.

    Happy eatin’, y’all!

    (Actually, the most accurate and true depiction of an American Meal these days would be going out to Applebee’s or some other industrialized Clagg Haus, or you could just serve cold cereal.)

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This entry was posted on May 1, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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