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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Gastronomic diversity grows in the U.S. thanks to immigrant communities

gastronomic diversity grows in the U.S.

Gastronomic diversity is growing in the U.S. thanks to the multiplicity of immigrant communities in the country, but not only that, because their traditional food has been modified and "Americanized" due to their needs.

"A lot of food comes from different types of immigrant communities and is not only part of but adapting and changing," noted Quincy Surashmith, editor-in-chief of Feet in 2 Worlds and producer of the second season of the A Better Life? podcast.

During a panel organized by Ethnic Media Services to discuss the influence of ethnic communities on food in the country, as well as the importance of preserving and recognizing authentic food, the expert explained that there are many foods that do not exist in "their countries of origin" but were created by immigrants living in the country.

Such is the case of foods such as chop suey, fortune cookies, California rolls, among other dishes, which change due to the immersion and cultural influence of those who prepare them day by day and who also try to match the recipes using substitutes for the original ingredients of the dishes.

"Fortune cookies I think are classically American food because in China you don't find them, I mean they're a Japanese invention and even it's not something you cook every day" Surashmith commented, however, he said that doesn't make it any more or less authentic.

The fact is that the U.S. has become one of the most diverse countries in the world due to the number of immigrants living there, which not only implies differences in language, music and lifestyle, but also in the way of eating and cooking the dishes of each of the existing communities.

In addition, Surashmith commented on the importance of taking into account that there are immigrant families who are raising their families and supporting their communities, which is why sometimes they cannot preserve the original recipes of the food because "they do what sells".

Award-winning food and travel writer Kayla Stewart noted that "a lot of people assume that African-American food is macaroni and cheese, kale and fried chicken - foods that are absolutely part of the way we eat, but by no means the only foods we eat. And, a lot of times, those particular dishes are used as ways to insult us because of a stereotype that has existed for centuries."

He also pointed out that many of the dishes consumed in the U.S. today have their origins in African-American cuisine.

Foods such as macaroni and cheese, okra, sweet potato pie or black-eyed peas have their roots in Africa and are frequently consumed in various parts of the country, as is the case in New Orleans, where "jambalaya" and "gumbo" are especially popular.

"I think New Orleans is the best gastronomic city in the U.S.," Stewart said, because it is the cradle of Creole cuisine, which would not exist without African Americans, as many of the dishes that are cooked today come from African and African-American slaves.

Finally, he pointed out that "black culinary figures have been left out of the American narrative. It's blatantly unfair, but it also affects the economy because in many ways they have been oppressed in the food industry."

Silvana Salcido, pointed out that there are also political issues in the food, because since she was a child she realized that her uncle's bakery became a small center for the immigrant community living in the area.

He added that the Mexican food consumed in the U.S. is not authentic, but is a food "out of necessity", because during his childhood he observed how in the bakery where he grew up, immigrants exchanged boxes of tomatoes and peaches for bread.

"There is a white supremacy that has taken over that food, there is an appropriation because that food developed from the Mexican culture of the Chichimecas," Salcido stated. Likewise, he commented that the best barbecue innovations come from the creativity of cooks who were enslaved, however the U.S. has appropriated this.

Salcido also commented that since he opened his restaurant he has gone through complications in changing the perception that Americans have about Mexican food, as they expect "tortilla chips and salsa" or "crunchy tacos".

Undoubtedly, it is essential that the recipes of immigrant communities, as well as those who prepare them, be recognized not only for their economic contribution but also for the cultural contribution they represent for the United States.

You may be interested in: Cocoa: the food of the gods

Karina Alvarado
Karina Alvarado
Communications graduate from the FCPyS UNAM. Passionate about gender issues and child protection.

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