Sarah Lohman has a job I bet you didn’t know existed: she’s a historical gastronomist. She re-creates old recipes like stewed moose face and black pepper cakes, all in the name of history. And food, of course.
This makes sense, because everybody has black paper in their pantry. Black pepper came to the Americas via the British East India Company during the colonial period, so it has been one of America’s culinary staples since the very beginning.
Vanilla is another ingredient that has remained an American kitchen staple for years, and we have Thomas Jefferson and “a 12-year-old slave who figured out a botanical secret no one else knew” to thank for its introduction.
A young slave in Ile de Bourbon helped discover the hand-pollination method of vanilla beans, and it didn’t take long for vanilla to become incredibly popular in France. While on a trip to France, Jefferson tasted some vanilla ice cream and immediately fell in love. So naturally he decided to bring the flavor back to the States.
While you may not have this South Asian spice in your pantry, you cannot deny that it has been widely embraced by American cuisine. After Indian immigrants introduced the spice to Americans, there was no turning back. Curry powder was here to stay. After all, who doesn’t love a good curry?
Lohman includes chili powder in her list of core American ingredients because it’s essential to the “Southwestern” cuisine we all love. (Taco Tuesdays, anyone?) Lohman explains that “chili powder spread across the country because of entrepreneurial Texan-Mexican women who fed soldiers and tourists — and a clever German immigrant who was looking for a culinary shortcut.”
When Chinese and Japanese immigrants planted roots on the West Coast, they brought with them soy sauce. So the next time you're out at sushi, remember that soy sauce is one of the core flavors in American cuisine.
Similar to soy sauce, MSG came here with Asian immigrants. Also, if you’re one of the many people who believe that MSG is dangerous, rest assured that scientists have rebuked the claims that MSG is a scary additive.
As The Washington Post says, “Scientists report that mild symptoms can occur in some individuals, but only if they consume large amounts of MSG on an empty stomach.”
Ah, garlic. What would the world be like without garlic? A lot less flavorful, definitely, but also chewing gum sales would probably plummet. We have a lot to thank the Italians for (really good pizza, really good pasta, really good wine, etc.), but garlic is definitely at the top of the list.
The Sriracha craze is real, people. (Remember when there was a Sriracha shortage and people LOST THEIR MINDS?) Americans can thank David Tran, a Vietnamese refugee, for this flavorful hot sauce. He combined French and Thai flavors to create the hot sauce in Southern California, and he created what Lohman considers one of the newest flavors in American cuisine.