The United States has always been a melting pot of cultures, so it makes sense that the food would follow suit! Over the years, recipes from around the world have been heavily improvised with different ingredients and processes to create a hodgepodge of American culinary cuisine.
Not to sell the United States short, there are some tasty treats that can be considered â€˜authentic American’ â€“ we do take credit for key lime pie, tater tots and Twinkies, for example â€“ but overall, the majority of American food originated outside of the US, and we’ve simply made it our own.
With so many delicious options to choose from as an international student, we’ve done some of the legwork for you by creating a list of five foods you simply must try while in the United States, staring with a personal favorite, the all-American burger.
- The Classic Burger – Some people in the US say that a burger is a restaurant’s first handshake. If the restaurant doesn’t have a good burger, it’s like making a bad first impression. Burgers are a classic food option in America, and the majority of restaurants will sell them. The cheeseburger is the most common burger, usually topped with lettuce and tomato, and oftentimes topped with mustard, pickles, and ketchup too. The majority of cities have one or two burger joints that outshine the rest, so if you want to try a good burger, ask a local.
- Pizza, Pizza, Pizza – Pizza is an all-time American favorite, and regardless of where you choose to study in the US, it’s nearly guaranteed that you will have a handful options within a few mile radius â€“ especially if you’re living on campus. Pizza is common college food simply because it’s cheap and easy; it’s sold frozen at grocery stores (and a variety of gas stations), but fresh pizza can be delivered pretty much anywhere! With this in mind, pizza can look and taste very different depending on where in the US you’re located. In New York, the pizza is very thin, but the slices are very large, so it’s typical to fold a slice of pizza in half to eat it. In Chicago, the pizza is deep-dish, so it’s common to use a fork and knife while eating.
- Homemade Apple Pie – America’s favorite pie is apple pie! It’s eaten especially during summer months and on national holidays, such as The Fourth of July and Memorial day – often paired with ice cream. Though most bakeries will sell them, your best bet is to find a grandma to make one for you (because grandma’s pies are always best), or check out a local bakery for the freshest pie possible.
- Barbecue – Like pizza, American love their barbecue, or BBQ for short! We barbecue beef, pork, chicken, lamb â€“ pretty much any kind of meat that you can think of tastes even better over the grill and smothered in sauce. The specific kind of barbecue that you will encounter generally depends on the region of the United States that you are studying in and with this specific type of food you will have a lot of options. Some barbecue is spicy while others are sweet, and depending on your preference, you are able to have a dry rub on your meat, or you can have an ooey gooey sauce instead. For good measure, always make sure you have plenty of napkins on hand when eating barbecue â€“ it gets messy!
- The Campfire Favorite: S’mores – If you choose to go camping while in the US, there will most likely be s’mores. To make a s’more, you put a marshmallow on a stick and hold it over the fire until it becomes the right amount of toasted. Then you take the marshmallow off of the stick and place it in between two graham crackers and two pieces of chocolate. Like barbecue, this treat can be very messy, but very worthwhile!
We hope that this list makes you hungry, but don’t feel bad if you have to ease into American food. It can be a big adjustment. Though these are some must-tries, eating the majority of these foods can be heavy on your stomach, so it can be best to try one or two before diving through the entire list. There are many, many dining and food options in the US, so when in doubt, ask a classmate! They are likely to have insight on the best restaurants in town and may even have suggestions for specific dishes you need to try.
Now that you are more familiar with some of Americans favorite dishes, do you know tipping etiquette?