When you think of the US, there are probably plenty of things that come to mind. "American food," in particular, is a term that is as broad as all the diverse people and cultures that make up the US. But still, there are a handful of dishes that many agree speak to the heart of American culture. So redditor u/FruityandtheBeast asked, "What do you consider to be a [definitive] cultural food of the United States?" Here's some of what people said.
1. "PB&J. I was grocery shopping recently when a very nice German man approached me for advice. He had friends coming to visit from his home country, and he wanted to introduce them to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He asked if I could advise him on the best ingredients. He already had some kind of artisanal bread from the bakery aisle in his cart, but I told him to put that back, go to the bread aisle and get the plain white Wonder Bread. Then there was some discussion about the merits of Welch’s grape jelly vs. strawberry jam, and how most big-brand peanut butter is optimal, as opposed to the oily natural kind. He walked away delighted, and I felt like a cultural ambassador."
2. "Fried chicken. Its origins are based on a Scottish-style cooking that calls for frying unseasoned food in lard, combined with West African seasonings."
3. "S'mores. I've traveled the world, and no one knows what s'mores are besides Americans."
4. "As someone who is not from the US, I would kill to try a peach cobbler or a pumpkin pie."
5. "Biscuits and gravy, but not just any gravy. Sausage gravy."
6. "Chocolate chip cookies. I live in the Netherlands now, and they have foods resembling chocolate chip cookies here, but they are mediocre at best. And they call them all 'American cookies' — which I think is hilarious. I once made chocolate chip cookies from scratch and gave some to our Italian neighbors. Watching their faces as they ate them for the first time was amazing. There's nothing like that crispy edge, soft middle, and buttery, chocolaty deliciousness."
8. "Betty Crocker recipes. Betty defined the classic middle American dinner for decades. Think: chicken breasts topped with provolone slices, covered in cream of chicken soup, then covered with stuffing mix and butter and baked at 350 degrees for 40 minutes."
9. "Americanized Chinese food. Even while living in Asia, I would crave General Tso's chicken and honey walnut shrimp because it's just not the same abroad."
10. "Mac 'n' cheese. My non-American wife first thought it was called 'mecan cheese,' which she assumed was short for American cheese. She had never seen the word in writing before, and I'd often talk about how I missed my mom's homemade mac."
11. "Fluffernutter sandwiches, which is peanut butter and fluff. Just make sure you get the real Marshmallow Fluff and not a knockoff."
12. "Tex-Mex. It’s not Mexican food but, rather, a Texan creation that blended the best of both cuisines."
13. "Fried Oreos from a state fair. In fact, pretty much anything deep-fried and served at a state fair is American culture at its finest."
14. "Grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch on a cold winter day."
16. "Midwestern-style casserole, specifically one made with at least a can of Campbell’s cream of chicken, vegetable, or mushroom soup as a main ingredient."
17. "Chicken fried steak. I know you might be thinking that this creation is similar to German schnitzel, but it is not the same. American chicken fried steak is the size of a dinner plate and served with white gravy."
18. "Barbecue. Pizza and burgers may be commonly eaten here in the States, but they're really adaptations of food from Europe. By contrast, barbecue like brisket, ribs, or pulled pork — slow cooked in a pit smoker and smothered in barbecue sauce — is more American in origin (and extraordinarily delicious). There are lots of regional variations too, which are mostly a result of what resources were available. Nowadays, different barbecue styles are a strong point of regional pride and the topic of endless debate over which is best."
19. "I was recently in Tokyo and came across a place called Bubby's American Cookery. Their special was meatloaf wrapped in bacon, so I guess that says it best."
20. "There are a lot of great American foods, but I don't think anything will ever be as quintessentially 'American' as a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, a side of french fries with ketchup, and a milkshake. This meal right here is the heart and soul of American cuisine."
21. "Clam chowder — specifically, white chowda, and none of this red sauce shenanigans. And lobstah, of course. I know it's a global food at this point, but the best lobster in the world is from New England (mostly Maine), and wow, is it good."
22. "Thanksgiving dinner. This secular holiday is celebrated by pretty much every American by way of a giant meal. While different families have their own traditions, the gist is the same: a feast of carb-laden, buttery sides (mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato with marshmallows, green bean casserole, etc.) with turkey as the centerpiece, followed by indulgent pies. Whether by sheer calories consumed or tryptophan, this glorious and extravagant meal is quite literally meant to make you fall asleep well before normal dinnertime even begins."
23. "Chili. It’s based on New World ingredients, every region of the US has its own variation, families have their own recipes, and internet wars have been fought over how to define 'real' chili. (Most of us can agree that Cincinnati is wrong.) We’ve mass-produced it, added it to fast food, and made it even worse for you by adding tons of cheese and pouring it over fries."
24. "Breakfast cereal, especially the sugary kind, seems quintessentially American to me."
25. "A big old diner-style breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes, and home fries...better even when it's eaten after midnight. When I think of 'American' food, I think of an old-fashioned diner with big, laminated menus and vintage booths that's been in the same spot for generations. This type of establishment just doesn't exist anywhere else in the world that I've visited. And no diner meal is as quintessential as breakfast served 24/7."
26. "Creole food like jambalaya and gumbo. This cuisine is arguably the most truly 'American.' Aside from a handful of cooking techniques taken from the French, the dishes are really unique."
27. "Buffalo wings, which were invented and perfected in Buffalo, New York. This creation has no roots in any other countries."
What's a food that you consider to be culturally American? Tell us in the comments.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.