The Native Americans had at least 2,000 separate plant foods which contributed to their cooking. Numerous root vegetables were indigenous to America. Root vegetables were numerous in the diet including camas bulb, arrowhead, blue lapine, bitterroot, biscuit root, breadroot, prairie turnip, sedge tubers, and whitestar potatoes (Ipomoea lacunosa) along with the sweet potato and white potato. Greens included salmonberry shoots and stalks, coltsfoot, fiddlehead fern, milkweed, wild celery, wood sorrel, purslane, and wild nasturtium. Other vegetables include century plant crowns and flower shoots, yucca blossoms, tule rootstocks, amole stalks, bear grass stalks, cattail rootstocks, narrowleaf yucca stalks, and sotol crowns. Fruits included strawberries which Europeans named the Virginia strawberry due to being larger than the European dwarf mountain strawberry. Additional fruits included huckleberries, blueberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, plums, crab apples, raspberries, sumac berries, juniper berries, hackberries, elderberries, hawthorne fruit, pitaya, white evening primrose fruit, and yucca fruit (of various species, such as Spanish bayonet, banana yucca). Some fruits which were found only in North America at the time were the fruit of various species of cactus (e.g., cholla, saguaro, nipple cactus, prickly pear, etc.), agarita berries, chokecherries, American persimmons, and the wild beach plum.
Nuts proliferated in the diet as well, including pecans, hickory nuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, chinquapins, black walnuts, and butternuts. Acorns were also popularly used to produce oil for seasoning, and pounded into a flour to mix with cornmeal to thicken soups and fried into cakes and breads. Legumes included peanuts, screwbeans, honey locust beans, and mesquite beans. The grain used in most of Native American cooking was maize, while wild rice (not a true grain) was found in certain southern regions. The seeds from various plants were also commonly utilized: pine nuts (western white pine, western yellow pine, pinyon pine), anglepod, dropseed, pigweed, spurge, sunflower seeds, tumbleweed, unicorn plant.
Saltwater fish eaten by the Native Americans were cod, lemon sole, flounder, herring, halibut, sturgeon, smelt, drum on the East Coast, and olachen on the West Coast. Whale was hunted by Native Americans off the Northwest coast, especially by the Makah, and used for their meat and oil. Seal and walrus were also utilized. Eel from New York's Finger Lakes region were eaten. Catfish seemed to be favored by tribes, including the Modocs. Crustacean included shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and giant crabs in the Northwest and blue crabs in the East. Other shellfish include abalone and geoduck on the California coast, while on the East Coast the surf clam, quahog, and the soft-shell clam. Oysters were eaten on both shores, as were mussels and periwinkles.
The Native Americans are credited as the first in America to create fire-proof pottery to place in direct flame. In what is now the Southwestern United States, Native Americans also created ovens made of adobe called hornos in which to bake items such as breads made from cornmeal. Native Americans in other parts of America made ovens out of dug pits. These pits were also used to steam foods by adding heated rocks or embers and then seaweed or corn husks (or other coverings) placed on top to steam fish and shellfish as well as vegetables; potatoes would be added while still in-skin and corn while in-husk, this would later be referred to as a clambake by the colonists. The hole was also a location for producing what has become Boston baked beans made from beans, maple sugar and a piece of bear fat.
When the colonists came to America, their initial attempts at survival included planting crops familiar to them from back home in England. In the same way, they farmed animals for clothing and meat in a similar fashion. Through hardships and eventual establishment of trade with Britain, the West Indies and other regions, the colonists were able to establish themselves in the American colonies with a cuisine similar to their previous British cuisine. There were some exceptions to the diet, such as local vegetation and animals, but the colonists attempted to use these items in the same fashion as they had their equivalents or ignore them if they could. The manner of cooking for the American colonists followed along the line of British cookery up until the Revolution. The British sentiment followed in the cookbooks brought to the New World as well.
There was a general disdain for French cookery, even with the French Huguenots in South Carolina and French-Canadians. One of the cookbooks that proliferated in the colonies was The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy written by Hannah Glasse, wrote of disdain for the French style of cookery, stating “the blind folly of this age that would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook!” Of the French recipes, she does add to the text she speaks out flagrantly against the dishes as she “… think it an odd jumble of trash.” Reinforcing the anti-French sentiment was the French and Indian War from 1754-1764. This created a large anxiety against the French, which influenced the English to either deport many of the French, or as in the case of the Acadians, they migrated to Louisiana. The Acadian French did create a large French influence in the diet of those settled in Louisiana, but had little or no influence outside of Louisiana.
As many of the New Englanders were originally from England, game hunting was often a pastime from back home that paid off when they immigrated to the New World. Much of the northern colonists depended upon the ability either of themselves to hunt, or for others from which they could purchase game. This was the preferred method for protein consumption over animal husbandry, as it required much less work to defend the kept animals against Native Americans or the French.
Those living near the New England shore often dined on fish, crustaceans, and other animals that originated in the waters. Colonists ate large quantities of turtle, and it was an exportable delicacy for Europe. Cod, in both fresh and salted form was enjoyed, with the salted variation created for long storage. The highest quality cod was usually dried, however, and exported to the Mediterranean in exchange for fruits not available in the American colonies. Lobsters proliferated in the waters as well, and were extremely common in the New England diet.
The diet of the uplands often included cabbage, string beans, white potatoes, while most avoided yams and peanuts. Non-poor whites in the uplands avoided crops imported from Africa because of the inferred inferiority of crops of the African slaves. Those who could grow or afford wheat often had biscuits on their table for breakfast, along with healthy portions of pork. Salted pork was a staple of any meal, as it used in the preparations of vegetables for flavor, in addition to its direct consumption as a protein.
The lowlands, which included much of the Acadian French regions of Louisiana and the surrounding area, included a varied diet heavily influenced by Africans and Caribbeans, rather than just the French. As such, rice played a large part of the diet as it played a large part of the diets of the Africans and Caribbean. In addition, unlike the uplands, the lowlands subsistence of protein came mostly from coastal seafood and game meats. Much of the diet involved the use of peppers, as it still does today. Interestingly, although the English had an inherent disdain for French foodways, as well as many of the native foodstuff of the colonies, the French had no such disdain for the indigenous foodstuffs. In fact, they had a vast appreciation for the native ingredients and dishes.
Similarly, while some dishes considered typically American many have their origins in other countries, American cooks and chefs have substantially altered them over the years, to the degree that the dish as now enjoyed the world over are considered to be American. Hot dogs and hamburgers are both based on traditional German dishes, brought over to America by German immigrants to the United States, but in their modern popular form they can be reasonably considered American dishes, even "All-American", along with the Italian influence of pizza.
Many companies in the American food industry develop new products requiring minimal preparation, such as frozen entrees. Some corporate kitchens (e.g. General Mills, Campbell's, Kraft Foods) develop consumer recipes featuring their company's products. Many of these recipes have become very popular. For example, the General Mills Betty Crocker's Cookbook, first published in 1950 and currently in its 10th edition, is commonly found in American homes.
New England is the most northeastern region of the United States, including the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The region consists of a heritage linking it to Britain. The Native American cuisine became part of the cookery style that the early colonists brought with them. The style of New England cookery originated from its colonial roots, that is to say practical, frugal and willing to eat anything other than what they were used to from their British roots. Much of the cuisine started with one-pot cookery, which resulted in such dishes as succotash, chowder, baked beans, and others.
Lobster is an integral ingredient to the cuisine, indigenous to the shores of the region. Other shellfish of the coastal regions include little neck clams, sea scallops, blue mussels, oysters, soft shell clams and razor shell clams. Much of this shellfish contributes to New England tradition, the clambake. The clambake as known today is a colonial interpretation of a Native American tradition.
The fruits of the region include the Vitis labrusca grapes used in grape juice made by companies such as Welch's, along with jelly, Kosher wine by companies like Mogen David and Manischewitz along with other wineries that make higher quality wines. Apples from New England include the original varieties, Baldwin, Lady, Mother, Pomme Grise, Porter, Roxbury Russet, Wright, Sops of Wine, Peck's Pleasant, Titus Pippin, Westfield-Seek-No-Further, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Cranberries are another fruit indigenous to the region.
"Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record high of $476 billion in 2005, an increase of 4.9 percent over 2004... Driven by consumer demand, the ethnic food market reached record sales in 2002, and has emerged as the fastest growing category in the food and beverage product sector, according to USBX Advisory Services. Minorities in the U.S. spend a combined $142 billion on food and byy 2010, America's ethnic population is expected to grow by 40 percent.
A movement began during the 1980s among popular leading chefs to reclaim America's ethnic foods within its regional traditions, where these trends originated. One of the earliest was Paul Prudhomme, who in 1984 began the introduction of his influential cookbook, "Paul Prodhomme's Louisiana Kitchen" by describing the over 200 year history of Creole and Cajun cooking; wherein, he aims to "preserve and expand the Louisiana tradition. Prodhomme's success quickly inspired other chefs to seek popularity and preach their new philosophy. Norman Van Aken embraced a Floribean type cuisine fused with many ethnic and globalized elements, as was depicted in his "Feast of Sunlight" cookbook in 1988. Finally, the movement took on much notoriety around the world when California gained momentous recognition, then seemingly started to lead the trend itself. Chefs from the popular restaurant Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, both took that restaurant to exceptional acclaim, as well as graduated to expanded concepts on their own. Examples of the Chez Panisse phenomenon and chefs embracing a new globalized cuisine were celebrity chefs like Jeremiah Tower and Wolfgang Puck, both former colleagues at the restaurant. Puck went on to describe his belief in contemporary, new style American cuisine, as it was exemplified and celebrated in its ethnic traditions. Puck states the embodiment of the idea in his introduction to "The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook:
"Another major breakthrough, whose originators were once thought to be crazy, is the mixing of ethnic cuisines. It is not at all uncommon to find raw fish listed next to tortillas on the same menu. Ethnic crossovers also occur when distinct elements meet in a single recipe. This country is, after all, a huge melting pot. Why should its cooking not illustrate the American transformation of diversity into unity?
Puck's former colleague, Jeremiah Tower, in turn, became synomonous with California Cuisine, as well as his "New American Classics, and the overall American culinary revolution. Meanwhile, the restaurant that inspired both Puck and Tower became a distinguished establishment, popularizing its so called "mantra" in its book by Paul Bertolli and owner, Alice Waters, "Chez Panisse Cooking," in 1988. Published well after the restaurants' founding in 1971, this new cookbook from the restaurant seemed to perfect the idea and philosophy that had developed over the years. The book embraced America's natural bounty, namely that of California, while containing recipes that reflected Bertoli's and Waters' appreciation of both northern Italian and French style foods.
Some of the ethnic influences could be found in the nation from after the Civil War and into the History of United States continental expansion during most of the 19th century. Ethnic influences already in the nation at that time would include the following groups and their respective cuisines:
Today, of the most popular “ethnic” cuisines in the United States, you can see almost everywhere the prevalence of Chinese, Italian and Mexican cuisines in almost every aspect of the food industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, also known as the NRA by industry professionals, of the top three "ethnic cuisines" in the United States...
"Italian, Mexican and Chinese (Cantonese) cuisines have indeed joined the mainstream. These three cuisines have become so ingrained in the American culture that they are no longer foreign to the American palate. According to the study, more than nine out of 10 consumers are familiar with and have tried these foods, and about half report eating them frequently. The research also indicates that Italian, Mexican and Chinese (Cantonese) have become so adapted to such an extent that "authenticity" is no longer a concern to customers.
Contributions from these ethnic foods have become just as common as traditional “American’ fares like hotdogs, hamburgers, beef steaks, cherry pie, Coca-Cola, milkshakes, fried chicken and so on. Nowadays, Americans also have a ubiquitous consumption of foods like pizza and pasta, tacos and burritos to “General Tso's Chicken” and Fortune Cookies. Fascination with these and other ethnic foods may also vary with region.
The first generation of television chefs such as Robert Carrier and Julia Child tended to concentrate on cooking based primarily on European, especially French and Italian, cuisines. Only during the 1970s and 80s did television chefs such as James Beard and Jeff Smith shift the focus towards home-grown cooking styles, particularly those of the different ethnic groups within the nation. Notable American restaurant chefs include Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz, Alfred Portale, Paul Prudhomme, Paul Bertolli, Mario Batali, Alice Waters, Emeril Lagasse, Cat Cora, and Celebrity Chefs like Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, and Todd English.