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Regional American Foods

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Almost every single person in the U.S. has a family history of immigration to the country and the number of people from all over the world still coming to America today is ever increasing. Due to this history of diversity, the American cuisine covers a huge range of foods, from our Mexican neighbors to the south to a vast number of variations with roots in European cuisine and so much more. Over the years these influences have had varying impacts on the cuisines of each region in the United States. Such dishes with foreign roots have been varied region to region to utilize the food resources of the area and have caused each region to develop their own traditional cuisine over time. Often this regional traditional food is overshadowed by the abundance and notoriety of American fast food such as the McDonald's hamburger or the Pizza Hut pizza. To better depict the variety of traditional American foods here is a list of some of the most well-known traditional dishes from different regions of the United States.

The Northeast

Boiled lobster is one of the quintessential Northeast and New England cuisines. The state of Maine alone accounts for 90% of the entire country's lobster supply. Traditionally boiled whole and alive it is eaten with butter or lemon. A tourist favorite is a lobster roll which mixes the lobster meat in mayo and is stuffed into a toasted hot dog roll.

Various types of clams, mussels, shrimp, and other shellfish are traditional to this region and are typically cooked by boiling or frying.

Chowder is a type of soup using any of these seafoods or fish and uses a cream based broth, has potatoes and onions, and often times pieces of bacon as well.

Blueberries are also a regional staple. The most traditional way to cook these small berries is in a cobbler- a variation on a traditional English dessert that does not use a crust, but cooks the blueberries with a flour, sugar, and cinnamon crusty top.


The south is the birthplace of the fried food. Fried chicken hails from the south and has been perfected through the art of frying in lard or shortening. A staple in any southern cook's handbook, fried chicken is covered in salt and pepper, fried in a skillet, and served with gravy- a sauce using the leftover chicken fat, cream, flour, and spices.

Biscuits are another southern classic. Unlike British biscuit which are often thin and crunchy, southern biscuits are light a fluffy and used to dip the traditional gravy used for fried chicken and other dishes.

Collard Greens are a leafy vegetable similar to kale or cabbage. A staple in the southern cuisine they are the state vegetable of South Carolina. Traditionally they are boiled with the ham hocks and served with the leftover juices from the boiled concoction.

Midwest/ Plains

Barbecue or BBQ is the quintessential plains/ southern food. Traditionally using pork, the meat is slathered in BBQ sauce before, during, and after cooking. In the midwest this sauce is typically made with a tomato, spices, and a vinegar base. The meat is then slow cooked over a charcoal or wood fire (typically hickory in the midwest) for a long period of time until the meat becomes tender and juicy.

Corn is a staple in the midwest and plain diet as the region is know for it's expansive farms and corn based agriculture. Corn on the cob is the most traditional way to eat corn. The ears of corn are boiled whole in water and then smothered in butter, salt and pepper and eaten directly off the cob.

Corn dogs also hail from this region of the United States. Hot dogs have their origin in New York and are a type of sausage traditionally using the leftovers from pork processing. In the midwest and plains region these hot dogs are skewered on a stick and coated in a cornmeal batter, then deep fried.

Cherries are another regional favorite in the northern part of this area. Traditionally they are cooked in a pie with a crust on bottom, cherry filling, and then enclosed in a crust on top and baked until golden brown.


The cuisine of the southwest of the United States has strong influence from their Mexican neighbors. A southwest classic is the burrito. It uses the traditional Mexican flour tortilla and is then filled with slow cooked meat, beans, vegetables, and rice and rolled into a wrap form.

Nachos are another southwest staple. Although the ingredients hail from Mexico, this dish is not a Mexican development. Nachos are fried tortilla chips that are coated in cheese and beans, vegetables, or meat, and then placed in the oven to melt.

Salsa goes along with many of the southwest dishes. Although it means “sauce” in Spanish, in the U.S. it is a specific type of sauce using tomatoes, onions, vinegar, cilantro, and jalapeños which are cooked or marinated together and eaten on nachos, burritos, fajitas, and various other southwestern dishes.

West and Pacific Northwest

Salmon is a favorite on the Pacific coast of the United States. Smoked, or grilled it is eaten across the country, but nowhere more so than on the west coast, the salmon's native land. It is a staple on menus and in households in the region.

Cobb salad was developed in California by a chef who, using leftover ingredients he found in the kitchen, formed one of the best known American salads today. A typical cobb salad starts with lettuce greens, then is topped with hard-boiled egg, bacon, bleu cheese, tomatoes, and avocado, with a dijon mustard and olive oil dressing.

Cioppino is a classic San Francisco dish with Italian roots. It has a soup base using fish stock, tomato, onion, garlic, and parsley, and is then filled with a variety of fish depending on the season. The most typical fish used are shrimp, crab, and clams.

All these dishes exemplify the diversity of the population of the United States. Did any of these dishes surprise you as being traditional to a specific region? Have you tried any of these dishes outside of the United States? Are there any dishes you think we should have included? We want to know!

And for some of the recipes for these regional delicacies, click here!

Sources: http://whatscookingamerica.net/AmericanRegionalFoods/RegionalAmericanIndex.htm


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