Sunday, February 3, 2008

American Eats

For those who get the History channel on their tvs, you might want to check out a show called American Eats. There are many "history of food" shows, but this one has some interesting facts and images from our culinary past. I liked it right away when I heard the narrator comment that worrying about nutrition is a luxury. That certainly is the truth, as it is true about organic food, local food, or any other limitations we put on our diets. Eating junk food and crummy fast food is easy. Eating well is the trick.

The show doesn't just hit on food itself; it explores the work of the creators and the times in which the food was born. We learned about the unusual ideas practiced at Dr. John Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium (see the film, Road to Wellville, for an exaggerated idea of Kellogg health regimes.) Just imagine yogurt enemas - no, I'm not kidding. I can just guess how Dr. Kellogg would feel about frosted flakes.

There is some great history on truly American foods like chop suey, chimichangas, hamburgers, even Chef Boyardee canned pasta. (Just think, there actually was a real Chef Boiardi who was a famous chef in the 1920s, known for his amazing Italian cuisine. Wow, hard to picture that when opening up a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti.)

I love hearing the stories of immigrant populations that came to America, found ways of cooking that were assimilated into American culture, and those very foods became part and parcel to our diets. I can't imagine a better illustration for a melting pot culture.

Sure, a lot of the food we think of quintessentially American can be crap - hot dog, anyone - but much of it is more than just the sum of its common parts.

Check it out, if you get a chance. Some of it will make you scratch your head in wonder, but some of it is just plain interesting.

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