130 Comments

A little added nuance here to your assessment- barbecue comes from a French version of cooking imported to the American colonies where a pig is slow cooked on a spit “barbe au queue” : “beard to tail”

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My two favourite meals are French: croissant and cafe au lait before going to watch the tennis at Roland Garros; and steak frites et vin rouge after watching a day of tennis at Roland Garros. Unbeatable.

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While I agree with so much of this, we all know that the bbq capital of America is Kansas City.

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Thanks for this piece of writing. I really liked the nuanced stance. It also enlightened me because Southern BBQ culture was not on my radar. Now it is!

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I broadly agree with the overall sentiment of the article. Yes, of course, there is rich regional cuisine with a great variety available in the USA. There are also plenty of ethnic restaurants, but this is not the issue he raises, the way I read this. It's about the way the average American looks at food, what they eat when out, what they prepare at home (and how), and how meals are treated more like a necessity than something to really enjoy.

I grew up in Europe, have lived in Turkey and spent considerable time in Thailand when my husband lived there, and also Georgia (the country). I would consider most countries to have better food than America, when it comes to how people eat on a daily basis.

Just look at the vast majority of restaurants in America, which would be considered fast food in Europe. You have to go to expensive places to get real good food, prepared with fresher and higher quality ingredients.

After I immigrated to the USA many years ago, I continued to buy my groceries like I used to do in Europe. That meant, meat and vegetables were usually bought on a daily basis or maybe for a 2 day time frame. I sought out European/German bakeries, if they were available, to get REAL, FRESH bread - not the processed gummy stuff we get in plastic bags here. It still baffles me how long packaged American bread can last sometimes. Anything that doesn't go stale/dry or creates mold after 3-4 days, is processed to the max and most likely contains more chemicals than natural ingredients. I recently threw out hot dog buns, my husband had bought, that had been opened over 2 weeks ago. Visually, there was nothing wrong with them, but I decided that anything that still looked normal after such a long time couldn't be healthy to eat.

Look at the ingredient list of brand items in Europe and compare it to the very same version we have here in the USA. Lately, there have been many videos on that. There are plenty of American foods that are banned in Europe (and who knows where else) because of the endless list of chemical/artificial additives.

We still cook very healthy in our own kitchen, but there is not doubt that over the time I assimilated to the US version of how to prep. More frozen and canned items stocked up instead of going grocery shopping as often as something is needed.

In other countries, people also enjoy the ritual of eating much more and don't treat it like an inconvenient necessity. They easily sit 1-3+ hours at a restaurant and take their time eating and drinking. At home, when friends are invited, it is usually a long lasting event.

Food should not simply be treated as something we have to ingest to make it through the day, but as a welcome experience to enjoy the plethora of fantastic flavors and ingredients. I have always been very adventurous when it comes to eating a big variety of international foods. Sometimes that can come with unsolicited surprises and also negative experiences, but for 90+% it has been an enrichment of my senses and improved my awareness of the many magnificent cultural cuisines.

I find it important to prepare quality food at home, which doesn't mean it has to be expensive. If our US food industry wasn't so set on making everything last 'half a century' by overprocessing, adding chemicals, heaps of sugars and unhealthy oils, people would eat better without having to take extra steps they might not be interested in.

Enjoy your food by making a meal a little ritual that is centered on focusing on what you eat. Take your time. A good way is to sometimes treat a special meal like a Cuisine Tasting Event, even if it is just you and your other half. Or invite some friends to try out a new recipe or one that you really love. Food should be fun and enjoyment as often as our busy lives allow. For some things we should make the time.

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My wife is Vietnamese, and when we travel she laments how quick I am to finish food. I don't really enjoy sitting around a table for multiple hours, or grazing on a dozen street food items, and I think this is a cultural question that doesn't really have a "worse" or "better" dimension. I think where America is lacking is in the "floor" of food quality (e.g., accepting a lot more industrial waste in our food than other places), not in the long drinking sessions that never seem to end.

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Honestly it feels pretty reductionist and like he’s trying to make broad sweeping arguments without any understanding of the diversity in the usa. I don’t like large claims that obscure nuance and leave out populations that don’t fit the dominant idea of what an American is. I might understand if he spoke more from his own experience and upbringing or culture but he is instead applying his perspective onto all the USA, and kind of just leaning on the salient narrative that America is uncultured

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Preposterous take that somehow manages to ignore every single glorious regional American cuisine except Southern BBQ. From an American who has lived in multiple regions here and multiple countries abroad, it is honestly unfair to the French to even compare their cuisine to that of Texas, California, PNW, Louisiana, Chesapeake, Southern, etc, all at once.

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It didn’t help that it was Twitter/X whose users are not broadly representative of US citizens, but that’s quibbling. The US doesn’t have a universal food culture at all, good or bad — it’s a stew of cultures, only a tiny fraction of which aren’t outright imports. America writ large has an unhealthy relationship with food which is in part a reflection of its atomization and disconnect from the natural world — the consequences of which are evident in widespread morbidity and falling life expectancy despite its massive wealth.

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Have to say the food scene in some parts of rural America is pretty okay. I live 15 minutes from a small town of 1,000 and we have quite the variety of good restaurants, including Vietnamese, Costa Rican, Italian, Mexican, Spanish, the usual American fare and progressive intercultural combo food. Next small town down the road, also about 1000 people, has Thai, more Mexican, upscale farm to table American, a wealth of breweries that are all good, an artisan bakery with fresh bread every day, a local cheese maker and we have a couple butcher/meat processing plants in the area for local meats, sausages, etc. I'd say even rural American food is getting to be darned good in some places. Lucky us.

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To Buddha's health!

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I was lucky to spend a good chunk of three summers in France on a project. When my wife flew out to meet me in Paris, I brought her a single strawberry to be the first thing she ate in France. She literally cried at the perfection of it: fresh, explosively tasty, glorious. The everyday produce there is streets ahead of American food. Period.

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We also have Low Country, Cajun, New Orleans Creole, Tex Mex, Southwestern, Italian-American, Chinese-American cuisines. It’s not just BBQ

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How could I forget New York Jewish cuisine!

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I love the stuff, but I would not call Italian-American food a cuisine or a food culture in the way in which Chris is talking about it here. Yes, it has some distinctive characteristics and dishes (you won't find chicken parm in Italy), but it's really more like a subcategory of Italian food than its own separate thing. The flavors, ingredients, and techniques aren't terribly different from Italian food, or at least some regional varieties of Italian food, they're just altered slightly and kind of amped up (because in America we amp everything up).

I don't mean this as a knock on Italian-American food, by the way. I grew up on that food and, as I said, love it. And it isn't exactly the same as what you get in Italy, of course. But it's very very clearly derived from that, and I don't think it's a particularly good model for the sort of thing Chris is talking about.

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I agree that italian and Italian-American cuisines live side by side in the US (same with Chinese and Chinese-American) and aren't always distinguishable. I think most true Italian food is clearly regional (Sicilian, Napoletana, Roman, Emilia-Romagnan, etc.). Italian-American dishes (baked ziti, lasagna, eggplant parm, frittata, NYC coal oven pizza, New Haven pizaa, and - god forbid - Chicago and NJ-style pizza) are more of an Americanized hybrid of southern Italian food. It's true that we can get good true-Italian food like cacio e pepe in the US, but that doesn't mean hey are the same thing.

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I was in France 20 and 5 years ago - and this year. Cuisine goes the American way there. Fast food where ever you look, processed food at the supermarkets, closed bakeries and greengrocers in small and medium size towns.

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I live in the urban core near Boston, MA..The weekly farmers markets are central to my community, summer and winter. They are however, supported by the middle class residents where everyone meets to gossip and share food ideas The poor use a couple of local supermarkets and food pantries and have much less choice in what and how they eat.

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The two places in the world I've fed myself best are Kas in Turkey and Ojai in southern California, because of the quality of the farmers markets in both.

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