With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, many will prepare their grills to prepare some of the most popular American dishes for their barbeque or cook-out. Although this is a classic American tradition, many foods served on this occasion don’t actually originate in the U.S.
America has been described again and again as a “melting pot” of various cultures and backgrounds. The following are some of the most well-known American delicacies that are commonly served to celebrate Independence Day.
Soda (also known as carbonated water) was invented in England and Sweden all the way back in the 1700s. It wasn’t until 1835 when the first bottle of soda was sold in America. This eventually led to the creation of Coca-Cola in the 20th century. Coca-Cola became one of the most popular beverages to-date not only in the U.S., but the entire world.
Learn more about the origins of Coca-Cola and soda.
Formerly spelled as koolslaw in Dutch, the name of this side dish translates to “cabbage salad.” Coleslaw became an American custom when Dutch immigrants resided in New York in the 17th and 18th century. When non-Dutch people living in America saw the original spelling of coleslaw, they thought the term “kool” meant “cool” rather than its true definition “cabbage.” This led many to serving the dish cold although it wasn’t a requirement in preparation. This is why most coleslaw served today is usually cold in comparison to the average salad.
Discover more about how koolslaw evolved into coleslaw.
8. Macaroni Salad
The two essential ingredients within macaroni salad, macaroni and mayonnaise, have different cultural origins. Macaroni, along with other types of pasta, comes from Italy while mayonnaise was made in France. Many chefs who moved to America from Europe prepared macaroni salad to represent their ethnic backgrounds in the 20th century. This was especially the case in Hawaiian restaurants and hotels where macaroni salad became a beloved lunch option.
Learn more about how macaroni salad came to be and its significance to Hawaii.
7. Apple Pie
Apple pie is one of the most popular desserts to serve in celebration of American holidays, including the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. Despite this fact, apple pie wasn’t created to celebrate these special occasions and has no actual roots in America. This classic pastry dates back all the way to England in the 14th century when apples along with other fruits were commonly sold in pastry containers despite not being stuffed in any kind of pastry dough. It wasn’t until 1759 that apple pies began being sold in Delaware as a way to put imported apple seeds to good use.
Learn more about the roots and seeds of apple pie.
6. Macaroni & Cheese
Somewhat similar to macaroni salad, macaroni & cheese originates from Italy. The recipe for this iconic dish is recorded in one of the oldest cookbooks in history, entitled “Liber de Coquina”, a Latin phrase meaning “The Book of the Kitchen.”
After the dish’s debut in the 14th century cookbook, the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, imported macaroni from Europe to prepare the meal for himself.
Read more about the history of macaroni & cheese.
Although the specific country of origin hasn’t been pinpointed, steak (spelled steik in Norse) was first mentioned in Scandinavia during the 15th century. Despite this, Italy is often credited with making the classic meat dish popular because many residents traditionally served it at family get-togethers and celebrations.
Learn more about the complicated background of steak.
4. Potato Salad
This classic side dish originated in Germany. When coming to the southern U.S. in the 1860s, German immigrants brought over their recipes for potato salad with them. At first, the recipes were mostly shared with African Americans during the era of slavery when German immigrants were a also minority and their communities shared a unique partnership.
Potato salad evolved from being a German recipe to one of the most-used recipes across America and a beloved side dish in the homes of many black residents.
Discover how potato salad represented the solidarity between German immigrants and enslaved African-Americans.
3. Barbeque Ribs
Barbecue ribs came about in the Caribbean and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean multiple times to different countries throughout history. Christopher Columbus, along with Spanish colonists, brought pigs over to Cuba starting in 1493. It wasn’t until over 40 years later that the first group of pigs arrived in Florida in 1539. At the time, there were only 13 pigs in the country and just in three years, that number grew to 700, leading to the high demand of ribs.
Discover how barbecue ribs became a global phenomenon and a popular dish in America.
Hamburgers are known for their European history, with the delicacy named after the German city, Hamburg. However, the origins of the hamburger go back even further. The first known hamburger patties were in Mongolia during the 13th century when Mongolian horse-riders and warriors struggled with access to food. To manage this issue, they would always bring meat with them to tenderize so they wouldn’t have to worry about starvation, even if it meant eating the patties raw. This strategy was then shared with Russia who made their own version of the patties called steak tartare before it emerged in Germany in the 17th century.
Just like potato salad, the hamburger was included in American menus and cook-outs after German immigrants arrived in the country.
1. Hot Dog
One of the most common American meals also has one of the most unique non-American ancestries. Unlike the other dishes where most were recipes brought over from their native lands, the hot dog is the descendant of the sausage and frankfurter, which was named after Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany in the 15th century.
Another variant of the sausage was invented in Austria around the same time and was named accordingly after its capital, Vienna. Four centuries later, in the 19th century, sausages arrived on the east coast of America.
Chris Von der Ahe, a German immigrant who is known for being the owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team, served some of the first hot dogs with bread rolls and sauerkraut in New York City and Coney Island. Thus, creating the American tradition of eating a hot dog while watching your favorite hometown baseball team.
Learn more about the hot dog family and their cultural background.
Edited by James Sutton