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Literature Review

Food is an integral part of not only sustaining life, but also living it. It is enveloped in our

cultures and societies, and makes up a large part of how we define ourselves. It is something that

is done with family, friends, and by ourselves and influences social and personal behaviors and

values. It is ingrained in traditions and histories, all different for different parts of the world. The

articles below explore food culture, and more specifically the food culture of America.


Most American food is not actually American at all. The United States of America was
built from immigrants from all over the world, which has had a huge impact on American
cuisine. Early settlers had to learn how to recreate old recipes with the new ingredients of North
America. Snells article uses pie as an example of immigration on North American cuisine and
how Pumpkin pie possibly emerged from early American cooks making do with the ingredients
available to them (Snell 2014). Because of a new environment, settlers had to learn how find
and replace food items in their recipes that were no longer available to them, beginning with
European and Native American contact and the food that comprised the first Thanksgiving feast
(Manning 2015). As Tobias mentions in his article on the changing food culture in America,
After all, Native Americans were grinding corn into meal for baking and frying long before
anyone else arrived, and cornbread was the staff of life in America untilthe middle of the
nineteenth century for both natives and settlers alike. As time went on, the United States of
America benefited from the culinary melting pot that brought together numerous world cuisines
in North American kitchens. Waves of immigrants of the 19th century brought new culinary
influences to both Canada and America, while recipes reflected these increasingly multinational
influences (Snell 2014). Immigration had a huge impact on the creation of common dishes that
are now seen as American, but not just from voluntary immigration. America also has the
influence of enslaved Africans on American eating habits (Manning 2015). Choices made by
Americans led to changes and variations in their cuisine, many of which reflected the social and
political climate of the country at its origin point.
The current effect of immigration on cuisine can also be seen in Kulkarnis article on the

relationship between minorities, their food, and diabetes. Immigrants to the United States may

have trouble creating traditional dishes because of differences in ingredients. Indian immigrants

continued to consume rice, chappati (flat bread), yogurt, dhal (a spiced lentil dish), and curried

vegetables. This group reported an increase in intake of whole grain breads, fish, poultry, meat,

potato chips, cakes, cheese, fruit, and alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages (other than water)

after immigration to the United States (Kulkarni 2004). The food that they began to eat more

lends itself to higher risks and incidences of diabetes. Immigrants should be conscious in the

differences that arose from past settlers that changed foreign recipes, and continue to change

them to become Americanized. Many are not familiar with food history or only aware of

common pop culture items (Manning 2015), which may lead to alternate eating choices. The

largest growing minorities in the United States of America currently (African Americas, Latin

Americans, and Indians) may realize when immigrating to the country the history that created a

North American cuisine that was simultaneously unique and heavily indebted to European

influences (Snell 2014).

Immigration has had as large of an influence on current day recipes as the current day

recipes do on the immigrants and the acculturation to mainstream American dietary practices

(Kulkarni 2004). Gurels article focuses on the American history of yogurt, how it was brought

to America and the effect that it had, he comments that Yogurt, and similar foods, have long

been staples for the cultures of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Sahara, and

Central and South Asia. The food was a relative newcomer to Western Europe; the word entered

English in the early seventeenth century from Turkey. This is important to note because yogurt

has become a widely Americanized product for something so recently introduced to Western
civilization and the United States of America. It is an example of how American culture is

influenced by immigration because now yogurt is featured as a popular product for women and

for digestive health. It has even become a dessert in the form of frozen yogurt.

Zimmermann who writes on the American Culture and its traditions and customers,

comments that the United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.

Nearly every region of the world has influenced American culture, as it is a country of

immigrants, most notably the English who colonized the country beginning in the early 1600s.

U.S. culture has also been shaped by the cultures of Native Americans, Latin Americans,

Africans and Asians. While this is true, it also is true that Just as cultures from around the

world have influenced American culture, today American culture influences the world

(Zimmermann). The United States is one of the worlds most prominent countries and is

developing a culture of its own. Choi recognizes this and observes that Most cultures dont

think about their cuisine in such monolithic terms, he says. French, Mexican, Chinese, and

Italian cuisines each comprise dozens of distinct regional foods. And I think American cuisine

is moving in the same direction, becoming more localized, not globalized. As America

continues to develop as a nation, it subsequently develops its own food culture from the

influence that immigration has had, building on pre-existing recipes and traditions.

Social Event

Cuisine is engrained in culture as a social event. The act of eating also connotes with
social interaction. Cooking as family, going out to restaurants, or having a picnic are all ways of
connecting socially. Food brings people together and has become an essential component of
popular culture (Manning 2015). Social interaction is an integral part of culture, and the food
culture of North America is influenced by the social interactions within it. The influence is still
largely foreign as the cross-border sharing of cuisine and literature was also a natural extension
of the intermingling of cuisine and culture that existed between countries and continents for
centuries (Snell 2004) also lends itself to social interactions. As cuisine was changed by
immigrants and by the melting pot, social traditions and values were changed as well. These
can be seen in literature such as cookbooks and in common traditions and holidays. In the
national culture, as many scholars have argued, cookbooks play an essential role in
transforming regionalized cuisines and peoples into a unified whole (Snell 2004). The literature
itself provides a common basis of cultural and social differences that have come together in a
single country.

Current social interactions are also affected by food and its place as a cultural event, the

African-American diet is based in part on certain health beliefs that have been passed down

through generations and are still observed today. Socioeconomic status and education level are

important in the meal planning and nutrition education of African-American patients (Kulkarni

2004). Social status influences the meals that people eat, whether they can afford to go out or buy

expensive ingredients, or cook together as a family to both save money and carry on traditions.

Both lend themselves to social events. The social aspect of food is one of the influences of

current North American food culture and new technologies and social and cultural shifts have

influenced major changes in food, wine and eating in America (Manning 2015).

Food as a social event also relates to family, friendship, and tradition. Zimmermann

relates to the immigrants and explains that Different groups of immigrants integrate in different

ways," De Rossi told Live Science. For example, in the United States, Catholic Spanish-

speaking communities might keep their language and other cultural family traditions, but are

integrated in the urban community and have embraced the American way of life in many other

ways. These many other ways encompass food and its social significance. It is a way to bring

people together and connect, a situation that exists for the purpose of sharing, both the food and
ones self. Per Ikerd, who writes on the changing food culture of American to more organic and

earth friendly, Eating makes a social statement, we eat with our family and our friends. Choi

makes the observation that:

Eating is done family style, with shared dishes, and eating is the major social activity for friends
and families. Eating, exchanging food, taking photos of food, uploading photos of food, looking
at other peoples photos of food this is all a way that food brings people together in an urban
center. Even waiting in line is part of the event. People may scoff at the idea of waiting two hours
in line to eat in a trendy restaurant, says Mo, but waiting in line for a restaurant with your friends
is an extension of your experience eating with them.

The close ties that food has to relationships, especially families, currently have an impact on

American food culture. Tobias reminisces about grandmothers cooking, and observes the

differences in recipes and flavors, and the social aspect that surrounds them that all depends on

with what, and with whom, you grew up. As America grows older as a country, its food culture

becomes more individualized even though The celebratory nature of food is universal. Every

season, every harvest, and every holiday has its own food, and this is true in America as well. It

helps define us. (Choi 2016). The future of American food culture is influenced by its social



A result of the melting pot of immigration that contributed to American cuisine is the
pursuit of an identity within the food culture that can be defined as American. Americans strive
to have their own definitive cultural identity within their food, they sought to define themselves
as a distinctive people. Customs around food and dining were essential to this development.
Americans wanted American food. (Snell 2004). The development of an American food identity
is important to a national identity as Americans and not the melting pot. However, Things
have changed in the United States as the population has grown to include many different ethnic
and cultural groups, and this has resulted in diverse food preferences and eating habits
(Kulkarni 2004). The American identity is one that is made up of many different identities that
have come together in a geographical location. The people learned to embrace it and developed

The desire for an American dining experience would influence the production of cookbooks.
American Cookery was the first distinctly nationalistic cookbook published in North America.
Described as, adapted to this country, Simmons text prioritized American ingredients and, for
example, hinted at emerging American taste preferences with molasses rather than treacle as the
sweetener in gingerbread. (Snell 2004).

The social melting pot of America has created its food cultural identity. The cultural

influences are influential and each has its own culturally based foods and food habits. These

traditions have been influenced and adapted through contact with the mainstream culture

(Kulkarni 2004). America is beginning to develop its own food identity, even though

Zimmermann notices that American cuisine has been influenced by Europeans and Native

Americans in its early history, she follows with Today, there are a number of foods that are

commonly identified as American, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, macaroni and

cheese, and meat loaf. As American as apple pie has come to mean something that is

authentically American. Even though, as previously observed, apple pie is not truly American,

Americans are finding their own food identity and culture within others. Choi speaks to how

American food identity is finding its way into other cultures as well and If Americans have any

unifying food identity, I would say we are a (mostly white) meat culture, says Barber. The

protein-centric dinner plate, whether youre talking about a boneless chicken breast, or a 16-

ounce steak, as an everyday expectation is something that America really created, and now

exports to the rest of the world. Even though the American food identity was created by other

cultures, it is changing to create a culture as Gurel points out that A cartoon image tried to de-

exoticize this little-known food product by depicting a happy white suburban family cheering at

a giant spoon of yogurt. The text bolstered this symbolic connection to the American Dream by
underlining yogurts origins in milk, a food product that had become assimilated into main-

stream American diets about a century ago. A foreign product became a staple of an American

ideal, the American Dream, and not only that. Gurel also notices that Both continuing and

subverting earlier vernacular associations with the second-wave feminist health movement of the

1960s and 1970s, yogurt has gained a reputation as an acceptable way for hard-working

American women to spoil themselves: like a glass of wine, but for the daytime as a 2012

Washington Post commentary put it in relation to frozen yogurt. American values and

stereotypes are communicated through a foreign food object which demonstrates the

development of an American food identity with foreign influences.

Culture has a huge impact on personal identity as well, and a large part of culture is food.

Zimmermann references an anthropologist, Cristina de Rossi, who says that Culture

encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what

we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with

loved ones, and a million other things. All the inputs that culture encompasses is what also

makes up ones identity. Food is a way of connecting with your heritage, family, and friends,

which all make up a personal identity. Ikerd speaks to how food is important and notices that

Eating makes a moral statement what we eat affects how the earth is treated, and thus, reflects

our personal ethics. Whether we think about it or not, eating is a reflection of character. The

idea that eating reflects character ties back into identity, the eating choices you make are an

effect of your identity. Choi also observes the connection between food and identity, Your first

relationship as a human being is about food, says Richard Wilk, anthropology professor at the

University of Indiana and head of its food studies program. The first social experience we have

is being put to the breast or bottle. The social act of eating, is part of how we become human, as
much as speaking and taking care of ourselves. Learning to eat is learning to become human.

Learning to become human is learning ones identity, which is done through ones culture. Choi

also references a TED talk done by Jennifer Lee and pulls that what you want to cook and eat is

an accumulation, a function of your experiences the people youve dated, what youve

learned, where youve gone. There may be inbound elements from other cultures, but youll

always eat things that mean something to you. American identity and personal identity are

shaped through the connection between culture and food.

Works Cited

Choi, A. S. (2016, January 03). What Americans can learn from other food cultures. Retrieved from

Gurel, P. (2016). Live and Active Cultures: Gender, Ethnicity, and "Greek" Yogurt in America. Gastronomica:
The Journal of Critical Food Studies,16(4), 66-77. doi:10.1525/gfc.2016.16.4.66

Ikerd, J. (2000). The New American Food Culture. Retrieved from

Kulkarni, K. D. (2004). Food, Culture, and Diabetes in the United States. Clinical Diabetes,22(4), 190-192.

Manning, M. J. (2015). How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture by Jennifer Jensen
Wallach. Dilogo,18(1), 175-176. doi:10.1353/dlg.2015.0047

Snell, R. A. (2014). As North American as Pumpkin Pie: Cookbooks and the Development of National Cuisine
in North America, 1796-1854. Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures,5(2). doi:10.7202/1026771ar

Tobias, R. (2016, November 08). Two Sides of Soul Food: Matzo Balls and Hushpuppies. Retrieved from

Zimmermann, K. A. (2015, January 15). American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States.
Retrieved from