In American we’re always reminded that we should be thankful to other cultures for their contributions to our cuisine. And we are! (Where would we be without pizza?)
Our country is a melting pot, and we — along with our stomaches — are all better for it.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take credit for a handful of delicious foods created right here on US shores. Sure, well respected chefs have stretched their creative culinary chops for decades giving us fancy, classic dishes like Oysters Rockefeller or Lobster Newberg, but let’s celebrate some of the simpler pleasures that Americans have made and then shared with the world.
- Pecan Pie: Pecan pie is practically a food group in the Southern states. To claim anyone else came up with this classic would be a crime. Early New Orleans settlers from France are often credited with inventing the dish after they were introduced to the pecan but by Native American tribes.
- Corn Dogs: The classic American street food can be traced back to the Texas State Fair sometime between 1938 and 1942, when Carl and Neil Fletcher started selling their corn battered hot dogs or “Corny Dogs” to guests — aptly named because they resemble ears of corn.
- Candy corn: The most recognizable, and most polarizing, of all Halloween candies, candy corn was created in the 1880s by George Reninger, an employee of the Wunderle Candy Company in Philadelphia. People either love the iconic candy or hate it — and some folks must really love it. The National Confectioners Association reports that about 9 billion pieces of the candy are made each year (enough to circle the moon 21 times)!
- S’mores: Girl Scouts were credited with inventing America’s favorite fireside snack. In 1927 they shared their recipe consisting of chocolate, marshmallow and of course, graham crackers sandwiching both sides. The gooey treats even have their own holiday, celebrated annually as National S’mores Day on August 10.
- Monterey Jack cheese: One of four cheeses credited to the United States, Monterey Jack was originally made by the Mexican Franciscan friars of Monterey, California during the 18th century. California businessman David Jack’s name got stuck to the cheese when he began to sell it commercially, and people came to ask for “Jack’s Cheese.”
- Ranch dressing: While working as a plumbing contractor in the remote Alaskan bush, Steven Henson developed what is now known as ranch dressing. He and his wife opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in Santa Barbara, California in the 1950s, and began serving it to guests. Popularity grew and ranch dressing overtook Italian dressing in 1992 as the country’s most popular salad dressing (… And pizza topping. And french fry dip… and…)
- Banana Split: The three scoop ice cream sundae with all the fixings we know today was invented by 23-year-old David Evans Strickler in 1904 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The treat caught the attention of local college kids who came to try to decadent dessert for 10 cents — twice the cost of other sundaes at the time.
- Tater tots: Tater tots, literally meaning “baby potatoes,” were invented by Ore-Ida in 1953 as a way to use up the last bit of scraps from the manufacturing process of their other potato products. Today, Americans eat about 70 million pounds of the crispy, cylindrical shaped snack each year.
- Buffalo Wings: The national bar food has come from obscurity to Super Bowl stardom in just a few decades. The Buffalo wing was invented in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo at a local family-owned establishment in Buffalo, New York named Anchor Bar. When Bellissimo accidentally received a bag of wings, she came up with the impromptu dish and served it with blue cheese and celery, ushering in a new era of midnight snacks.
- Brownies: The decadent chocolate treat was invented by the Palmer House Hotel (now the Palmer House Hilton) as an item to be packed into ladies lunchboxes who were attending the nearby 1893 World’s Fair.
- Baked Alaska: Legend has it, Chef Charles Ranhofer of New York’s Delmonico’s restaurant invented the ice cream cake in the 1860s and named it after the US’s purchase of Alaska from Russia — a current event of the day.
- The waffle cone: When an ice cream vendor ran out of bowls at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, he reportedly asked Syrian concessionaire Ernest Hamwi to roll up his waffle pastries — zalabia — and let him fill them with ice cream. Thus, both parties contributed to this summer staple.
- Thanksgiving dinner: The first Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated in 1676, but it would have been a far cry from the menu we’re used to today. Either way, this holiday is uniquely American in everything it was and everything it ever will be.
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