This might be as official as it gets: In its report, The State Of American Cuisine, published today, the James Beard Foundation found that Americans see burgers as the most iconic food of this great land. The patties beat out barbecue, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and apple pie, in that order.
Of 298 Americans surveyed by the foundation in 2007, 90.8 believed there is an iconic, national food. Of those, 44.4 percent identified it as burgers. But participants also identified the words “region” or “regional” as most defining American cuisine.
Ironically, burgers are anything but regional, at least within the United States. They are the opposite. They are ubiquitous. Every city or region in the country has a local cuisine, and none of it is burgers. Yet all those cities and regions have a local place that does the “best burger ever,” at least according to the locals, and does it differently from everywhere else. A paragraph within the white paper addresses this contradiction:
Even as survey respondents touted the diverse influences of American food, from its native products to its immigrant imports, they chose as typically American dishes those which function as neutral canvas for whatever palette one chooses to personalize it.
With Independence Day coming up, Americans will have their best reason yet to set up the grill, pat the ground beef into circles and enjoy our nearly official national food this weekend. Perhaps your burgers will be topped with chili peppers, or maybe with Dutch cheese, or possibly avocado and ranch dressing. Whatever the regional spin, it will be nice to know you’re demonstrating your patriotism in such a delicious way.
[Photo: A burger from LA’s Pie and Burger via jslander/flickr]