Posts Tagged ‘Food’

The creation of the peanut butter and jelly can be traced to the early 1900s in America when its recipe was published in a cooking school magazine. It started out as a snack or meal for wealthier people as the cost of peanut butter was high, but eventually, as the price dropped, became widespread, with children becoming the highest demographic. PB&J sandwiches are still incredibly popular with children; it’s a semi-healthy meal that’s easy to eat (no utensils required), and due to its lasting freshness can make a great lunch option. A study in 2002 showed that an average American will eat over 1500 pb&j’s before graduating high school. source

Whether you’re for or against crust on your pb&j, a consensus can be reached on the nostalgic effects a pb&j holds. One look or taste of the sandwich can transport the person back to a simpler, better time. As a person grows older, the consumption of these sandwiches decline as more complex or more expensive meals become available; however, college kids who need a fast and cheap meal increases this consumption for a time. This overall declining trend is due to most seeing a pb&j sandwich as childish. Although it reminds them of a better time, they are “too old” to eat the meal. This contradiction of wanting to relive the past but also putting the past behind to enjoy the modernity and complexity of today is easily illustrated through a pb&j sandwich and readily seen as a theme in America.

This contraction can also be seen in the many ways people have changed or “improved” the simple sandwich. Through grilling it, using french toast instead of white bread.  to deep frying the sandwich, steps are taken to make this sandwich “better” by making it more complicated. Although we value the pb&j sandwich for its effortlessness, we actively search for ways to destroy that simplicity. America is known for its progressiveness in infrastructures and a wide variety of other ways, but we still think of days long ago as better due to its straightforwardness. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich, to me, is one of the most iconic American foods. An unpopular meal in the rest of the world, but an embodiment of American ideals and contradictions.

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When I think of the Statue of Liberty, I often think of it as a symbol of what America represents to its people, and how the rest of the world sees the country. This cartoon, although a bit ridiculous, may bring about the message of what America stands for now. Instead of the law and justice represented in her hands, we see a McDonald’s menu; instead of a torch, a (triple?) cheeseburger; instead of a strong woman holding the torch with pride looking into the future, a larger women with weak looking arms and souless eyes. Because it is a cartoon, it obviously exaggerates the current state of the country, but it does raise the point of the changing perception of America. It’s no surprise that priorities of Americans have changed since the founding of the country and the Civil War, but this image suggests that America has completely abandoned those ideals of freedom and law for instant gratification through unhealthy foods produced by large corporations.

A similar image of this cartoon appeared before in Germany on tray liners for the sandwich company, Subway. These liners paired the image with the caption “why are Americans so fat?, [Source] in an effort to promote healthier sandwiches. The perception of America has definitely changed, but not necessarily for the best.  When people look to America, do they still see freedom and justice, or do they see obsession with unhealthy foods and consumerism?  America is a wonderful country that, I believe, still stands for freedom and law, but it also has many negative connotations. Hopefully, those positive traits are the ones that continue to be represented and reinforced in many minds.

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Chili Day!


Okay, this post was a problem. Not so much because the choice was difficult, but because the food in question looks like a monstrosity. In a way, that’s what chili actually is. In 1926, a man named J.C. Clopper, reportedly the first man in America to comment on San Antonio’s chile carne, said that the meat purchased by families was thrown together with plenty of peppers to compensate for the minimal amount of meat. This meat and pepper base is the ground off of which all chili is based. Chili was a meal concocted by poor families to make the most out of what little food that they had available.
Now, chili has evolved far beyond its origins to become a meal that is celebrated in America. Chili recipes are elaborate mixes of vegetables, spices, and other ingredients and cooking techniques. Chili cook-offs are some of the biggest food festivals in America, and yet they cater to a very specific palate. The most renown cook-offs are held by the International Chili Society and the Chili Appreciation Society International, two organizations that pride themselves on revering a dish that was designed for and by the poorest of American families. I think it’s funny that the ICS and the CASI call themselves “international” societies and hold the “World’s Championship Chili Cook-Off” since the world of chili is located nearly exclusively in the U.S. and the biggest cook-offs are held in American cities, such as Palm Springs in California and Terlingua in Texas.

Below is a link to some of the winning chili recipes from the “World’s Championship Chili Cook-Off,” sponsored by the ICS.


-Eddie Feller

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UEA American Studies student Cat Clark went looking for American Food in Norwich, actually her instructor offer to pay her to do it.  So she stopped first at Route 66.  (This site was the subject of an earlier post here.)  Turns out, Route 66 has closed down. (Any theories as to why?) No worries, Cat found an alternative, ‘Captain America’s Hamburger Heaven.’  (By the way, check out the web-site  for the place — check out the icons and the information on the food, including “the ‘Diet Special’ for those watching their waistline.”


Here Cat’s smart, funny, and interesting commentary.

When asked to write about an American restaurant in Norwich, to compare and contrast how or if culture can be seen through food, I at first thought as only a student can, great FREE FOOD!!! The more I have thought about it the more excited and interested in the experience of eating I have become. Let’s face it, everyone has to eat, it is one of the few things we all have in common. However, it is the very commonality of the act of eating, preparing and sharing of food that also offers us the clearest vantage point to observe our contrasting cultural or religious beliefs. Food has gone beyond just a means of sustenance it has moved into layers of meaning and significance. It is through food along with the act of eating that as children we learn about customs and family life. This linking of food and memory continues throughout our lives, with significant occasions, people and often places associated with the very act of consuming a meal. In fact many, if not all of us will have these food memories, that not only recall memories to mind but evoke emotions and thoughts. The memory of a first date or a last date, your grandfather’s 80th birthday, a wedding or a funeral. These  ‘food memories’ not only evoke past memories or experiences but can also signify to our mind and body the mood in which a present meal is to be experienced. A perfect example of this would be a romantic meal for two!

So how does this relate to my burger you ask? Well I have been thinking about the representation of food, more specifically how a countries culture such as America is perceived and subsequently represented in the UK through food. The response I have come up with is this that the burger is somewhat of a cultural parody. As I sat in the restaurant surrounded by kitsch Americana, and ate a burger that, although ordered rare, would only achieve this classification had I got it yesterday, I began to wonder when this parody of American food became, to the UK at least, an acceptable representation of authenticity. Is it too consumer driven so that the idea that travels and lasts is the one with the all singing Disney America? That is I think what this burger represents, to me at least, Disney on a plate it looks real from the outside but has no depth or meaning. I was left with questions like do English people know what rare is? Do fish and chips translate in the same way to Americans? Is it possible to get a decent slice of cheesecake anywhere other than New York? I was also left remembering the last great, I mean truly keep you there for day’s kind of great burger I’d had. Technically I was in Canada for this burger, a tiny little town with 463 residents called Teslin, 2hrs from Whitehorse. If you’ll forgive the fact that the story is Canadian I think it is still relevant. Anyway, here we were lunchtime had arrived and my friend said “I know this great place for lunch.” We pulled up to the one and only hotel/food store/gas station come diner in town. I’m not expecting much at this point but what I got was a true marvel. A buffalo burger with poutine, I am salivating as I write this, and it struck me that this food memory was the real deal truly authentic. I thought to myself why doesn’t that kind of authenticity travel? Why are we left with this unrealistic less than representative version of American food? The answer came to me – it is the whole world’s obsession with two words: ‘fast’ and ‘consumerism’! I for one think it is a shame we miss out on the massively diverse food culture that America has because the mythical representation is what sells!

Cat Clark, American Studies, UEA

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