Saturday, January 27, 2007

Beyond hamburgers, hot dogs and pizzas

Hamburgers, hot dogs and pizzas. Ask many people outside the U.S.A. what constitutes American food and that's pretty much it as far as they're concerned. Which is pretty sad since there's so much more to American food than that -- and no, I don't just mean Kentucky Fried Chicken either!

Also, believe it or not, the best burgers and hot dogs I -- who lived for close to fifteen years in the U.S.A. -- have ever eaten are to be found over here in Malaysia -- specifically, at Penang's Tari Cafe -- while some of the best pizzas I've ever eaten were ones I devoured over at the Italian-owned and -operated Zee Bar & Zee Pizza in Zanzibar, Tanzania! (And especially for those who are inclined to scoff at the idea that the world's best burgers are to be found on the opposite side of the globe from the U.S.A. plus have heartier appetites than moi, I've got two words for you: i.e., Ramly Burger!! ;b)

On the other hand, the following are some American foods which I've sampled in my time in the U.S.A. that I've not (yet) come across better rival -- or
truly equivalent import -- versions of outside of their home country (or, come to think of it, home region):-

1) Krispy Kreme donuts: Originally found in the American South alone, the Krispy Kreme empire has expanded in the past decade or so beyond North Carolina and its neighboring states to places like New York, California, Britain, Japan and Hong Kong.

This recent development notwithstanding, I will forever associate these melt-in-your-mouth delicious baked -- actually, scrap that and substitute with deep fried instead! -- goods with the southern section of the U.S.A. and, particularly, a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, where there lives a friend of mine who buys Krispy Kreme donuts by the dozen and will train his car like a torpedo at a Krispy Kreme store whose "hot light" is turned on to indicate that -- to quote from the official Krispy Kreme website -- "our Original Glazed yeast-raised doughnuts are coming out RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT! So come on in and get some HOT!" :b

2) Navajo tacos: Also called "Indian tacos" (because other Native Americans besides the Navajo have adopted this dish), this Southwestern American dish may look from afar like a green salad topped pizza. Get closer, however, and it turns out to be a substantial concoction with many ingredients in common as a "regular" "Tex-Mex" taco (e.g., ground beef and refried and/or chili beans along with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa and sour cream) but a "fry bread" base rather than, well, the maize tortillas which give them name to Americanized "Tex-Mex" tacos.

2a) Navajo fry bread: The fried dough base of the Navajo taco can also be eaten with a honey topping; and if you feel really decadent, you can also throw in some powdered sugar into the mix! This way, it is a more sinful dessert than anything else. However, you can ease your guilt somewhat by being environmentally friendly and eating this yummy heritage food with your hands -- sans utensils -- and minus a plate into the bargain! ;D

3) Cheese curds: From the American Midwest, particularly Wisconsin (AKA "the Dairyland of America"), comes a regional delicacy that has been described -- I'm not sure how seriously though! -- as "an orangish cheese byproduct that feels like Silly Putty but tastes a lot better"!! When fresh, these semi-solid bite-sized cheese morsels don't only squeak but might make cheese heads want to squeak with delight too after downing some of these fun snack foods!!! When (beer) batter- or deep fried, they can turn a bit gooey inside but still make for an artery-clogging delight that surpasses french fries or onion rings pretty much any time.

4) Bagels: At Beloit College, I had a beloved professor who would request that his advisees who ventured out to the Northeast U.S.A. for mid-term or Thanksgiving break bring back some bagels for him. Although I did partake of a few of the mass-produced pre-packaged variety in the Midwest, I never understood how and why anyone could like this Jewish culinary invention so much until I moved out east to Philadelphia -- whose own bagel innovation is known as the Eggel: think egg and cheese bagel sandwich -- and sampled some bagels which came from bona fide delicatessens -- "delis" for short -- and bagel bakeries.

And now? Well, suffice to say that these days, they are among the few American products that I actually find myself fondly remembering and even outright missing! And
this especially if the bagels in question come coated with sesame seeds, toasted, and served with chive and onion flavored Philadelphia cream cheese plus lox!

5) Vanilla yogurt-covered raisins and pretzels: Speaking of items which I miss...a couple of nights ago, I found myself dreaming that I was in a mega-sized plus very American grocery store, the kind with scores of food-filled aisles that I could happily spend hours browsing and shopping in. And what, of the hundreds of choices of food items on offer, did I decide to pick up while there? Why, some vanilla yogurt- covered raisins -- a snack food which I used to chomp down by the fistful -- and pretzels (the saltier and, to my mind, less healthy alternative to the raisins), of course. Oh, and some of those tarty-sweet dried cranberries (AKA "craisins") -- which I also went through a spell of being addicted to -- too... ;S


Anonymous said...

Interesting list of foods! I've never had the cheese curds, but I guess I haven't spent to much time in the Midwest.

And what about chocolate chip cookies? They are one of my favorite American delicacies that I haven't met other places I've gone. I can't help noticing their absence on your list...Nice, hot, gooey, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies?

And I also feel compelled to offer a small correction: I wouldn't call donuts "baked goods," though lots of people do. They're actually deep fried. I think there's a reason that the official Krispy Kreme site leaves out the source when they say "...doughnuts are coming out RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT!" Because I think somehow, announcing that their products are coming "right out" of giant boiling vats of fat might be a bit of a turnoff!

YTSL said...

Hi alejna --

"I've never had the cheese curds, but I guess I haven't spent to much time in the Midwest."

Heheheh, I was wondering whether my American readers would have tried all of the foods I wrote about in that one entry about American food... ;)

As for chocolate chip cookies: Hmmm, well, we have Famous Amos outlets over here. Also, Pepperidge Farm -- so if I want to approximate nice, hot, gooey, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, I take some of those Sausalito (chocolate chip cookies with macadamia nuts) cookies, warm them up in the microwave and...presto! Not too bad, actually! :b

And thanks for the small correction with donuts. Will go and make the change from "baked" to "deep fried" goods. :)

Anonymous said...

What's the big deal with Krispy Kreme Donuts? I once picked up two friends at an upstate New York airport and was driving them home when they started jumping up and down in the car, yelling at me to 'follow that truck' and 'beep the horn'. It was a Krispy Kreme truck and they wanted me to get it to stop on on the highway so they could get some donuts!!!! The driver laughed and waved as I passed him. My freinds were still jumping around and yelling!!!!

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

"What's the big deal with Krispy Kreme Donuts?"

Have you tried any Krispy Kreme donuts -- especially hot Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts? I'm betting that if you have, you wouldn't ask that question!

Another question: Are your two Krispy Kreme fan friends originally from down South? :b

Anonymous said...

No, my friends are from New England and were so excited about seeing the donut truck they treated me to a Krispy Kreme glazed donut the next day and were (still are)horrified that I didn't think it was the best donut I'd ever tasted......My vote goes to a local shop (whose donuts they claim give them indigestion...Bah)

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

"I didn't think it was the best donut I'd ever tasted......My vote goes to a local shop (whose donuts they claim give them indigestion...Bah)"

Okay, then, if I ever make it to your neck of the woods, you are going to have to take me to that local donut shop and treat me to at least one of their donuts. (And yes, I'd be willing to risk indigestion in order to do that taste test! :b)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Nagels are a favourite...yumm! Love it simply!

YTSL said...

Hi Justin --

Bagels -- not nagels -- right? ;)

If so, yumm indeed re them! :)