Whenever I get asked what American Food truly is, I tend to stutter and go on some long winded explanation diving into the differing regions of the US and the historical background of territories: why hamburgers and hot dogs shouldn't be considered fully American (hint: the Germans did it first and arguably better), and how you can't just define a country as large as the US by a singular food item. Then the person stops asking because nobody cares that much about the anthropological foundations of American food culture in normal conversation. This article offers a brief explanation on some of the iconic dishes created by American chefs. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but instead a short list of food that highlights the true American culture of diversity, necessity, and luck.

1. Key Lime Pie

pie, lime, cake, cream, lemon
Jocelyn Hsu

Originally created as a way for sponge fisherman to preserve milk and eggs by adding the acid of Floridian key limes, the recipe itself is accredited to a ship salvager William Curry.

2. San Fransisco Sourdough 

It may be a stretch for some, but San Fransisco Sourdough is quintessentially American. Even though methods for proofing bread by using wild yeast have been around since baking originated, the specific yeast culture that gives San Fransisco bread its characteristic tang, lactobacilli sanfranciscensis, is found only in the city by the bay.

3. Succotash

corn, vegetable, legume, pea, cereal, succotash, corn salad, meat
Alexandra Tringali

Southern food is having somewhat of a Renaissance at the moment, and many chefs are beginning to revisit and redefine Southern Cooking. One of the best example of this is succotash, which was actually adapted from a northern Native American method of using crops from a fresh harvest.

4. Barbecue

The art of cooking meat over an open flame has been practiced since the dawn of time. However, it was transported to the U.S. in full during the slave trade era where slaves were tasked with cooking large quantities of meat to serve to guest at plantations. That's why barbecue is typically associated with the Midwest and South. Despite regional variations, most of the barbecue in America can be characterized as to falling into one of four categories: Carolina, Texas, Kansas City, and Memphis.

5. Northern Wild Rice

The grain (no relation to rice) itself is actually native to northern parts of the US and Canada.

6. Jerky

beef, brisket, barbecue, meat, pork, chocolate, fish, pepper
Tess Wei

The method of preserving meat in large quantities of salt was used by pioneers moving west who adapted the method from the Incas.

7. Humboldt Fog

Turning to America's cheese industry, Humboldt Fog (made in Humboldt, California) is a soft goat cheese with a line of ash running through the middle. It is one of the few American made cheese products to receive global recognition.

8. Chocolate Chip Cookie

chocolate, cookie
Jocelyn Hsu

The cookie was actually invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield who owned the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts.

9. Potato Chip

chips, potato, sweet, french fries
Sarah Silbiger

The infamous potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum in Saratoga Springs, New York to satisfy a picky customer.

10. French Dip Sandwich

The sandwich was actually invented at Philippe the Original in Los Angeles in 1918 when a bag of rolls was accidentally dropped in a pot of au jus.

11. Peanut Butter

peanut butter, chocolate, sweet, milk, cream, butter, dairy product, cake, candy, peanut
Jocelyn Hsu

Contrary to popular belief, peanut butter was not invented by George Washington Carver, but instead it created by the Aztecs and then patented in 1895 by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.