Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Domestic Life, Meals and Customs in America


Some of the earliest cooking by European immigrants used brick ovens and iron pots suspended over open hearths. Ironware, hearth-cooking, and brick ovens have not entirely disappeared from the American scene, but Treen (the variety of wooden cooking and eating ware) and many pewter pieces are now collector’s items. Probably the most modern kitchens in the world, containing the most in cookery gadgets and small specialty appliances, are to be found in even average-income American homes today. Only imagination and the family budget limit the scope and variety of electrical appliances, plastic ware, cookware, dishes and serving utensils available, imported and domestically made.

Average American homes boast stoves and refrigerators, ample storage cupboards, cellars and home freezers (or rented freezer lockers), and a host of small appliances from juicers and food processors to bread machines and yogurt makers. Supermarkets and specialty food stores supply local specialties and fresh produce as well as an incredible array of imported delicacies.
Meals and Customs in America

In early times, daily physical exertion was the rule, and the hearty meals provided warmth and energy. But as technology made life easier, and as the workday became shorter, heavy meals were not only no longer necessary, they were impractical and expensive.

Today’s trend is breakfast-on-the-run, which usually means simply orange juice and coffee. Typical lunches include sandwich, milk or coffee, and fruit or ice cream. Dinner in the evening is usually the only meal when most families are together, and the traditional soup or appetizer, meat or fish plus vegetables and tea, coffee, or milk to complete the meal.

Americans like most of the western world, love to snack Coffee breaks and coffee parties, the easy access of the corner variety store for candy, soft drinks, and chewing gum, or the fast-food outlet with ethnic specialties such as tacos or pizza as well as hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and french fries, all seem necessary to keep the American fueled. More and more the pattern of three meals a day is blurring into a day-long fest of nibbling or “grazing” from breakfast to the late-evening show on television.

Foods Commonly Used in America

With rapid transportation within the country and superior storage both in homes and in industry, Americans in almost any region can enjoy not only local seasonal foods and produce but an endless array of imported, frozen, dried, and canned foods available year-round. Almost every small town in the United States has its supermarkets, specialty bake shops, and quick-serve fast-food outlets. All types of foods are readily available, so that what is chosen for the day’s foods will reflect personal preference, ethnic background, local custom, and state of health (special diet), rather than any market or seasonal limitation.

While Americans may conform to the traditional three-meals-a day regimen, the prevalence of coffee breaks and snack foods make it seem closer to one continual daily meal.

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