Thursday, 4 July 2019

10 American recipes for Independence Day in the USA

It is that time of year when bloggers everywhere pay homage to the USA.  To celebrate Independence Day, I have delved into my blog archives to find what seem to me to be quintessentially American recipes.

I do not claim great authenticity as an Australian who has only visited America a few times (and you can see from the sub-par photos in above collage that it was some time ago).  However Australia has drawn greatly on American culinary traditions because like America we have a fine magpie approach to traditions.  As settler societies, we have brought our immigrant traditions and adapted them to a new country.  For the USA, think pizza, tex-mex, pretzels, apple pie, pancakes and scone.  Americans have taken these foods and made them their own.

Before I began blogging I thought I was pretty familiar with American cusine because we had so much of it here: think fast food, hot dogs, apple pie, bagels, chocolate bars.  But as a blogger I became curious about the American that we didn't see so much in the rest of the world: think spoonbread, grits, biscuits and gravy, fried plaintains, Graham crackers, Brown Betty, key lime pie, rice krispy slice etc.  So today I share 10 American foods that comfort and amaze me.

 Five Savoury American Recipes

1. Baked beans
If I have just one thing to thank America for, it would be baked beans.  We always have a tin in the cupboard.  I also love making a big pot of baked beans from time to time with a more traditional flavours of mustard and maple syrup that hark back to cowboy days.  It took me years to discover that baked beans didn't come from a tin but now I like them any way they come.

2. Burgers
Long before I had even heard of MacDonalds style fast food, my dad was ordering the burger with the lot from the local fish and chip shop in a quintessentially Aussie fashion.  But it seems the the idea for putting a meat patty between two buns was popularised in America, even though the original idea is claimed by many.  I have eaten many burgers both with meat and vegetarian in my time, I can tell you what is in a Big Mac and I have experimented a lot with making vegetarian burgers on my blog.  

3. Waldorf salad
Ironically I learnt about Waldorf salad as a kid from a British comedy (Fawlty Towers) but as an adult learnt it originated in a fancy hotel in New York. Apparently it was first made for a charity ball at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1896.  It is a fine simple salad of apples, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise that must have appealed to high society in the last nineteenth century for requiring the fresh ingredients.  (Apparently grapes too but they never mentioned that on Fawlty Towers so I am never sure it is true.)

4. Reuben sandwich
I've never had a traditional Reuben sandwich with corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing but I have had a few vegan versions.  A few years ago I made a great vegan version with vegan swiss cheese, beetroot, sauerkraut, apple and a tomato/mayo/pickled dressing.  It was not at all traditional but I loved it.

5. Stuffing
I confess that the American idea of stuffing remains as mystery to me as their Thanksgiving.  I have tried stuffing once but it didn't work as I expected.  The main problem though was that the chunks of bread are no match for my memories of my mum's breadcrumb and sausage meat stuffing of my childhood.  However I do love how the Americans incorporate lots of other add-ins to their stuffing and still harbour dreams of discovering just how it should be.

Five Sweet American recipes

6. Brownies with peanut butter
Brownies are another recipe for which I am forever grateful to Americans.  A good brownie is my idea of heaven.  I love my chocolate cake on the rich and dense side of the spectrum.  I am sharing a brownie recipe with peanut butter here because although I grew up loving peanut butter on toast, it seems particularly American to add peanut butter to sweet foods.  It not something I bake often because since making this recipe, my daughter has been diagnosed with a peanut allergy but sometimes when I am out I eat a peanut chocolate bake.

7. Chocolate chip cookies
It took until I was an adult and started to eat freshly baked choc chip cookies to appreciate how good they are.  When you have biscuits that are chewy on the outside and soft inside with melting choc chips, it is such a joy.  What a gift Ruth Graves of the Toll House Inn gave us.

8. Doughnuts
I had to include doughnuts for personal reasons.  While they were not invented in America, they were certainly popularised there. And my daughter went through a phase of being fascinated by doughnuts.  We baked lots and ate lots.  But my love of doughnuts started many years earlier.  From my early childhood we used to visit the American Doughnut Kitchen Van at the Queen Vic Market.  They do the best jam doughnuts ever!  My dad though will buy jam doughnuts anywhere - at the footy, at festivals and at a food van.  So you might say doughnuts are from American but they are part of my family.

9. Oreos
When I watched Sesame Street as a child, they would talk of milk and cookies.  It always seemed foreign to me.  I never drank milk by the glass and we never used the term "cookies" for biscuits.  One of the American biscuits that I really love are Oreos because they are so intensely chocolatey and because they are fun for decorating novelty cakes.

10. S'mores
We had lots of bonfires as kids where we toasted marshmallows.  Occasionally we even baked bananas and chocolate in the coals.  But never s'mores.  I confess I still find the idea of melting chocolate and marshmallows on Graham crackers a mystery.  Last year we made Graham crackers and s'mores.  And I made a s'mores slice to play around with the components.  I am all for the crispy toasted marshmallow coupled with melted chocolate even if putting them together is not something I learned to do as a child in America.


  1. I’ve been reading your blog for years and very much enjoyed this post about our food here in America. I laughed out loud when you reminded me of the Fawlty Towers episode including Waldorf salad. I decided to try to figure out what was in the original version also. From what I found apples, celery and mayonnaise were the original ingredients and over the years multiple versions of the recipe included many different ingredients including walnuts, grapes and many others. I’m thinking the walnut and grape addition would be my favorite.
    Thank you for your blog it’s one of my favorites. I check in all the time.

    1. Thanks Annice - It is nice to share some humour with Americans as well as food. I loved fawlty towers as a kid but felt uncomfortable watching it with my kid but I still remember scenes so vividly such as the walforf salad one. And thanks for your kind words about my blog - always so lovely to hear from a long time reader.

  2. Your conceptions of American food are very penetrating -- I wouldn't argue with you. I have lived in the MIdwest most of my life, so I have that point of view on American food specialties.

    Some comments:
    -- I can't say I've ever had peanut butter IN brownies, but I definitely am a lover of both classic brownies and peanut butter sandwiches.
    -- Although baked beans, I always thought, were of British origin, they were adopted by the US.
    -- Corn of all types is very essential to American cuisine, including corn on the cob and cornbread.
    -- Finally, the stuffing I'm used to has much smaller bread cubes which means they are not as bread-y as yours appears.

    best... mae at

    1. Thanks Mae - when I looked at my recipes I realised I don't think I have made any in a really traditional way. And I really appreciate your illuminating comments - here are some replies:

      - I am quite fond of peanut butter brownies from Mrs Field's Cookies, which is an American franchise so perhaps this is where I got the thought - but also reeses peanut butter cups are a famous peanut butter chocolate combo from the US.
      - I think that the tinned variety of baked beans has become very british but I think they came from an American tradition (though it is hard to find with a quick online search).
      - And yes corn! Of course I should have included cornbread which is a favourite savoury bake of mine! Don't know why I didn't think of it.
      - I wasn't so keen on the stuffing so maybe I need to try it with much smaller cubes (and less stale ones too).

    2. Continuing the discussion:
      You are right: Wikipedia (obviously the source of all wisdom) agrees with you that the Heinz company was the first to make canned baked beans, and exported them from the US to the UK in the late 19th century. Bean stews using different recipes are of course much much older, though the type of beans in baked beans comes from a New World plant. The article is pretty interesting.

      I agree totally about peanut butter in candy, and I like Reese's pb cups and LOVE Butterfinger bars. Now I have to get some peanut butter brownies.

      I am sorry to say this to a vegetarian, but I think stuffing really needs the flavor that comes from being cooked in the turkey or chicken.

      best... mae

  3. Such a great article, Johanna! "Magpie approach to traditions"- I love that and pretty much take the same approach to life myself. Having lived in the States for nearly 2 decades, I agree with you that stuffing is a mystery. Some iconic American foods to me- brownies, apple pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, burgers with coleslaw, Southern food like biscuits, grits and pimento cheese. Could go on forever :)


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