Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

American Food a List of the Best

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

American Food a List of the Best

Article excerpt

To be honest, when I first saw a copy of Mimi Sheraton's new book, "1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die," my initial thought was that the illustrious former restaurant critic for the New York Times really wanted to call her book "1,000 Foods I've Eaten That You Haven't."

In fact, I immediately began scanning it, looking for the hoity- toity, esoteric foods from distant lands that she included as a way of establishing her culinary superiority. Things like sanguinaccio, a sweet blood pudding from Italy, or cervelles au beurre noir, a French dish of lamb brains in black butter.

I even carefully paged through the book, keeping count of how many of the items I have actually eaten. Four hundred and seven, as it happens, which is a lot more than I would have guessed from a book that includes sweet blood pudding and lamb brains.

But then I got to the section in the book about American foods, and I was instantly hooked. What foods would Sheraton pick as quintessentially American? Which foods would she recommend to people on these shores and those from distant ones that they should eat at least once before they die?

How about cinnamon toast? Or chocolate cream pie? Or a hot fudge sundae?

These are not foods that we immediately think of as being distinctly American. No one says "it's as American as cinnamon toast." Though, come to think of it, she does include apple pie in the book, too, calling it "the most American dessert." The closely related apple brown betty also gets a mention, along with apple pandowdy, which dates to colonial days and which, as far as I can recall, I have never eaten. Or heard of.

I won't be the wiseguy who points out that apple pie was originally English. We have certainly made it our own, and there are few things we can eat that are more genuinely American. Hamburgers and hot dogs, maybe, and both of those German imports are also in the book.

As for cinnamon toast, chocolate cream pie and hot fudge sundaes, all of them are truly American. All of them should definitely be eaten before you die. And for all I know, the concept of sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on buttered toast may be as foreign to someone from, say, Sweden, as eating sweet blood pudding is to us. …

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