Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina and today, we have a yummy, yummy episode all about American food!
Valérie, a student in my Successful Small Talk course asked for this one. She said she loved discovering “real” American dishes in the small talk lesson about food, and wanted to know more.
So, let’s go!
A lot of people think that the United States doesn’t have it’s own authentic cuisine. I hear this sooooo often “There are no real American dishes, other than hamburgers and cheesecake.”
There are so many American dishes that I had a hard time choosing which ones to include in this episode! But I picked 5 of my favorites, the ones I always make sure to eat when I go home. Here’s the first:
Biscuits and gravy
Biscuits and gravy. First of all, a little clarification. In British English, a biscuit is this. In American English a biscuit is this. A soft, fluffy bread that we eat especially at breakfast, but it can also be served with lunch or dinner. And for gravy, we have brown gravy and white gravy, but for biscuits and gravy, it’s always the white gravy. We call it sawmill gravy, or sausage gravy, because it’s often made with bits of sausage. And it’s a little thick, not liquidy like brown gravy.
Biscuits and gravy are a popular dish in the south because they’re made with simple, cheap ingredients. For the biscuits, just flour, water, and buttermilk, I think. For the gravy, just milk, flour, sausage, salt and pepper. Then you open the biscuit like this, pour the gravy on top, lots of gravy, and serve it with a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. My favorite, favorite breakfast!
Gumbo is a popular dish from Louisiana. It’s a creole dish that combines influences from French, African, and Native American cooking, and it’s popular all around the southern region of the US especially.
What is gumbo exactly? It’s a type of thick soup, and you start with a roux, mixing the flour and oil until it’s dark brown. It takes forever, like an hour of stirring! But it’s worth it! Next, you add bell peppers, onions, and celery.
Then the broth, like chicken broth, that’s water with chicken flavoring. And after that, there are a ton of varieties, but the most popular include seafood like shrimp, crab, or oysters, or meat like chicken and sausage. Or some mix of those (but NOT chicken AND seafood!).
There’s no one “right” recipe for gumbo (but I think my mom’s recipe is the best!) And gumbo isn’t gumbo without the key ingredient okra. It’s a vegetable that originally came from West Africa, and probably arrived in the USA with the slave trade. If you’re ever in the south of the USA, be sure to try gumbo. It’s soooooo good. Sooo good.
Let’s take a trip further north now, with the Reuben sandwich. Like a lot of dishes, it’s hard to know exactly how and where the Reuben originated, but everyone can mostly agree that a Reuben sandwich is made of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing pressed between 2 slices of rye bread.
That’s corned beef (the real sliced stuff, not meat in a can), Swiss cheese, like Gruyère cheese, sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, and Russian dressing, which you can buy in supermarkets. If you don’t have the dressing, you can also use grain mustard.
Like most popular recipes, it’s hard to know exactly when and where this one originated. It was surely in the 1930s, but some say that the sandwich originated in the Jewish delis of New York. Others say that it was created in the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska for a group of poker players who were friends with the hotel owner. Wherever it originated, it’s just a really good American sandwich!
Real American barbecue is not just a piece of cooked meat that has barbecue sauce on it… Although there are plenty of Americans who enjoy that. But real barbecue is slow cooked, for a very looooong time. Any meat can be barbecued, but my favorite is barbecue pork ribs, because the meat is so tender.
In the US, there are 4 main styles of barbecue, each named for their place of origin: Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, and North Carolina.
Memphis is more pulled-pork in a vinegar-tomato sauce. Kansas City prefers a dry rub of spices, no sauce. In Texas, barbecue beef is popular. And in North Carolina, they might smoke the entire pig and add a vinegar-based sauce. Are you getting hungry yet? We’ve got one more favorite food!
Yes, Mexican food. OK, Mexican food is not American food, except for maybe Tex-Mex, but that’s a bit different. Mexicans have always come to live in the US, and they brought their food with them.
Dishes like tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, and more are as familiar to Americans as hamburgers and hotdogs. And Americans love Mexican food!
My personal favorite dishes are tamales, where you have a cornmeal rectangle stuffed with spiced meat. Then, you wrap it in corn husks, the leaves of the corn plant, and cook it. It’s soooo good, like just about every other Mexican dish I’ve ever had!
Want to see what these dishes look like? You’ll see in today’s episode.
So those are my 5 favorite dishes, but what about you?
What American foods have you tried? And did you like them?
Share your story with us in the comments. Everybody loves food, so I can’t wait to read your story.
Thanks so much for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next week!
And what about you?
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