14 Reasons Why American Food Doesn’t Suck

September 14, 2015 • America, Eat Like a Local, Featured, Travel

Fourteen reasons why American food does NOT suck!

American food gets a bad rap. Our barely-classifiable-as-edible fast food behemoths have wrapped the globe, promoting the idea that we Americans eat nothing but hamburgers, french fries and mystery meat-filled tacos washed down with swimming pool-sized cokes. Headlines about the obesity epidemic and Hollywood’s affinity for fatty product placement only magnify the stereotype.

But enough is enough.

The United States is not a place where fresh produce goes to die nor is it a wasteland of culinary talent. We Americans are not all overweight and we don’t all feast on drive-thru double cheeseburgers. This fast food stereotype has gone on long enough.

Goodies from the oldest bakery in Texas!

Bakeries DO exist in the U.S.!

I just spent a month hopscotching my way across the U.S., from Washington, D.C., to Austin, Texas, to Tucson, Arizona. In each city I saw inspiring trends.

Restaurants were proudly sourcing their ingredients from local farms. Menus read like mission statements, specifying how meats were raised and processed. Organic was no longer a high-priced buzz word but an expectation, including at conservative Texas grocery stores.

It would be blind to deny that a food revolution is taking place in America. People’s consciousness and concern for what is on their plate is apparent in the way menus are being written and grocery store shelves are being stocked.

And it made eating in America easier to stomach, both because the food was fresher and tastier and because I felt good about what I was consuming.

This is what I think of when I think of American food. Not fast food. Not mystery meat. Not jumbo soft drinks. American food is diverse. It’s complex. And it definitely doesn’t suck. Here’s proof:

1. Tacos

American food at its finest: Tacos

Tacodeli knows.

Whether it’s an eggy migas breakfast taco or a fried avocado Torchy’s taco, there are few foods in American than can top a taco.

The best I had this summer were from Tacodeli. The menu at this classic Austin haunt single-handedly makes me rethink my country of residence.

Organic corn tortillas are laden with “Grilled line caught Texas Gulf drum” or “organic pork shoulder” or “Seasoned HeartBrand Ranch Akaushi ground beef” and topped with locally sourced, organic cilantro, guacamole and homemade salsas.

2. Wild Meats

Wild Texas Hog Bunless Burger with mushrooms, caramelized onions and Swiss.

“Free range” burger at it’s finest!

I come from a family of hunters which means dinner at my house usually turns into a game of Guess What We’re Eating Tonight! I was lucky to grow up on dinners of elk-meat burgers and breakfasts of antelope sausage. Our pot roasts were usually venison and our appetizers included everything from shark to alligator to pheasant.

Since the animals freely ate what nature offered and were active throughout their lives, their meat is extremely lean and marvelously flavorful. Fatty, industrially produced hamburgers could never compete.

The specialty of the summer this year was wild hog. We feasted on slow-smoked shredded pork and fire-grilled pork chops. But the best wild game dish for me this year was the fresher-than-fresh pork hamburgers…

3. Craft Beer

American food at its finest: Craft Beer

Two of my fave Texas craft beers at Gruene Hall.

It seems like every time I visit the U.S., the craft beer offerings triple. I love me some Madrid Mahou but I could seriously get used to these new (and seemingly unending) flavors!

No longer is craft beer relegated to specialty shops and beer-centric bars. Even the “oldest dancehall in Texas” was serving half a dozen bottles from small, local breweries!

4. Doughnuts

American food at its finest: District Doughnuts

Fluffernutter (peanut butter and marshmallow) and cinnamon sugar.

I’ve never been a doughnut person. In fact, I don’t particularly like them. That is, until District Doughnut came along. Wandering wifi-less and tired through Washington, D.C.’s Eastern Market neighborhood we took refuge (and internet) at District Doughnut.

The shop’s founder JP (aka the bearer of joy and deliciousness) was extremely welcoming to us out-of-towners and sent us on our way with two of the most heavenly doughnuts in the history of doughnuts. My fingers are staying crossed that District Doughnut II will being coming soon to Madrid.

5. BBQ and Beans

American Barbecue and Baked Beans... the taste of home!

There’s no place like home…

If it hasn’t been on the grill for more than four hours, it’s not barbecue. Time is the secret spice when it comes to my dad’s world-famous (yes, they’ve made it all the way to Spain before!) ribs. They are what I dream of after months away and what I beg for before boarding my flight home.

Like in life, the perfect compliment to Kurt’s smokey ribs are my mom’s slow-roasted beans. Hearty, smokey and just the right amount of sweet, these barbecue baked beans are a thing of magic.

6. Flakey Biscuits

American food at its finest: biscuits

Helloooo breakfast!

Much to my students’ English books’ chagrin, biscuits are NOT hard, packaged things you dip in coffee. They are pillows of buttery possibility. In America, biscuits crumble and flake. They do not break. And they do not dip.

At Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia the full force of Southern cooking is manifested in their New Orleans-style breakfast biscuits. Loaded with thick bacon, fluffy egg and melty cheese, this is what breakfast was made for.

7. Jalapeño-Infused Tequila

American Food at its finest: jalapeño-infused tequila

Jalapeño and strawberry… who knew they made such a pair!

It is everything I miss about American cocktails infused into a tumbler glass on ice. Spice (which is MIA in Spain) meets Tequila (the good stuff, not the fireball Jose Cuervo they serve here) meets happy hour (an irrelevant concept in the land of 1€ beers) to create the cocktail my life has been missing.

The punch of jalapeño is softened by a fresh shot of strawberry, a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of not-too-sweet agave syrup. They call it the Jale Berry. Cheers to you, Searsucker in Austin, Texas, for creating the perfect cocktail.

8. Food Truck Friday

American food at it's finest: Food Trucks!

It’s like a block party in pencil skirts and ties!

Although I very much appreciate what Madrid is trying to do with food trucks, no mobile food event will ever be as great as Food Truck Friday.

Dozens of trucks bearing all variety of foods circle Washington, D.C.’s Farragut Square every Friday for the most exciting thing that has ever happened to the workday lunch hour. There’s the grilled cheese truck and the lasagna truck and the arepa truck and the crab cake truck and the falafel truck and…

9. Bottomless Guacamole

Guacamole from Rosa Mexicano in D.C.

Fresh avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro and plenty of lime combine to make this stellar guacamole.

Just when you thought avocados couldn’t get any better, Rosa Mexicano introduced bottomless happy hour guacamole. Their made-to-order lava bowls of guac just keep coming until their margaritas get the best of you.

10. These Hamburgers

America is known for its hamburgers for good reason, just not the reason that many non-Americans might think. Forget those floppy prefabricated things they sell at fast food joints. The real deal is thick, juicy and all natural.

Exhibit A: Hopdoddy’s Terlingua burger piled with just the right amount of chili con carne, corn chips and sharp cheddar.

American food as it should be: Hopdoddy hamburger

Now THAT is a hamburger.

Exhibit B: Diablo Burger’s The Blake smothered with homemade hatch chili spiced mayo, roasted green chilis and sharp cheddar.

American food as it should be at Diablo Burger

Everything’s better with spicy hatch mayo…

11. Tart Margaritas

American food at it's finest: Frozen margaritas

Frozen margaritas at their finest!

No sugar. No mixes. Just tart lime and agave. Margaritas should be a celebration of the joyful matrimony of tequila and lime. You can’t rain sugar and radioactive green pre-mixes on that magical parade.

12. Sonoran-Style Mexican Food

American Food at it's finest: Sonoran-style Mexican

Can you spot the chili relleno, tamale, enchilada, tostada and taco?

If it doesn’t all run together, it’s not real Sonoran Mexican food. This style of Mexican food is impossible to find outside of Arizona (and of course Sonora, Mexico).

Lakes of refried beans wash up against floods of red enchilada sauce. Green corn tamale dams are stained with rivers carne asada juice. The grated cheese rains mottled yellows and whites over the scrumptious landscape. This is my kind of Mexican food.

13. Loaded Nachos

American food at its finest: homemade nachos

My tastebud-winning creation

There’s no place like home when it comes to nachos. Nachos are a build your own adventure at my house where each person claims their own canvas (aka cookie sheet of corn chips).

I heap mine with black beans, kidney beans, ground wild hog meat and sauteed onions and peppers. Next comes a blanket of shredded cheese. After a hot second in the oven, I finish it off with a hefty helping of avocado, many a spoonful of salsa and a dollop of sour cream.

14. Homemade Pancakes

American food at its finest: pancakes

Pancakes a la Lisa

There are few foods that smell more like “home” to me than the early morning smell of sizzling pancakes. At my sister’s house that means lactose-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and all the other frees-free pancakes.

She whips them up from scratch using whichever ingredients she’s in the mood for. A bit of banana, a trickle of coconut oil, an egg or two, some chestnut flour, some almond flour… no two batches are the same and every single one is spectacular.

What are your favorite foods from America?

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5 Responses to 14 Reasons Why American Food Doesn’t Suck

  1. Chantik says:

    So… basically American food is Tex-Mex food? a bastardised version of real Mexican food?

    • Amy says:

      For me, American food is the food that I grew up with. Being from the southwestern U.S., a lot of what we eat has a strong Mexican influence!

  2. Pedro says:

    after having read the blog post i now know why North Americans tend to be obese, at least part of them….how on earth would a person eat eggs, bacon and melty cheese as breakfast? only to think about it does sound disgusting and not desireable at all.

    whole generations of us Spaniards during our childhood have only had hot milk with Cola Cao and biscuits to dip in the milk…such a breakfast might look poor….far from that! it is excellent for children right before school and right after getting up….and you would have to see us back then in the middle of the 80’s in slim good shape.

    i do not really understand how a North American stomach is able to accept and suffer things like bacon or melty cheese after getting up.

    • Amy says:

      There are definitely big differences between the typical American meal and the typical Spanish meal. And you´re right, one of the most glaring differences is in breakfast! As Americans usually have dinner around 6 pm, by the time breakfast rolls around I am always super hungry! Also good to keep in mind is that those big egg and bacon breakfasts are normally reserved for the weekend and followed by a very light lunch. I can´t quite get on board with the idea here in Spain that chocolate milk and cookies is a healthy breakfast though!

      • Pedro says:

        quite funny that North Americans have dinner at 6, at such time in Spain we may have what we call “merienda”, and then around 9 we have dinner, and even having dinner at 9 most children do drink hot milk right before bed at, say, 10, 11 or midnight.

        anyways if you have dinner at 6 in North America, are you suggesting that you do not have anything between that early hour and the time you get up next day? it may have passed 12 hours or so!

        in Spain some people drink orange juice or a different one replacing hot milk, and also one or two small sponge cupcakes instead of the biscuits, and believe me that it is really healthy, and let us not forget that children have a sandwich that they eat in the middle of school or “recreo” as we call it.

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