American cooking is as diverse as America itself. Scores and scores of different nationalities, over recent centuries, have populated our country and enriched it with their cultures, languages, philosophies — and food.
Pizza, tacos, and lasagna are now, to invoke a patriotic culinary cliché, as American as apple pie.
Some foods that we might think have foreign origins, though, were actually invented in America, sometimes by people from the countries they appear to represent but frequently not. Many popular dishes that appear regularly on Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese menus have little or nothing to do with the food traditions of Mexico, Italy, China, or Japan. Sorry, travelers, but you won’t find California roll in Osaka or chicken Alfredo in Rome — it’s one of the many “Italian” dishes Italians don’t really eat.
That said, many dishes that we think of as “foreign” do have roots in other countries. Chile con carne isn’t Mexican, but Mexican cooks do stew meat with chiles; garlic bread as we know it isn’t Italian, but Italians do rub garlic on bread.
Other preparations whose names suggest that they come from elsewhere are purely Yankee creations. There’s no Swiss steak in Switzerland; there are no English muffins in England (well, actually there are, but only because their popularity has spread back across the Atlantic from their New York City birthplace).
The fact that some food names don’t accurately reflect their origins doesn’t really matter in the long run, though. Misleading monikers don’t make the dishes they apply to any less delicious.
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