Food in Americas: Guide, Facts & Recipes
The Americas are home to a great deal of cultures and traditions, brought here by the various immigrants that looked for a better life in time. So the cuisines are also different, each of them having something particular, something old and traditional, but also influences from neighbors as well.
I North American Cuisine
When we say North American cuisine, we mean the cuisine of Canada, United States, and Mexico. Part of this cuisine belongs to the Native Americans because they were the first ones here before other populations came to the area. Because of this maize, squash and beans are still some of the most important ingredients of this cuisine, being three main crops cultivated here since the past. But besides these, the Native Americans also used deer, rabbit, salmon, berries and mushroom. With other words, they used whatever the forest and nature were willing to offer them, so these are still found in today’s recipes as well.
As mentioned before, the immigrants also brought a part of their cuisine with them, when settled in North America. So the French, English, Scandinavians and Slavic people influenced the native cuisine, by bringing in new food and new flavors. In Canada, for instance, the recipes are very varied, due to the large dimension of the country. Maple syrup is probably the most representative of Canadian cuisine, used for desserts, as a sweetener. But all sort of meat pies, bean soups, and dishes with ham are also present.
In the American cuisine, various types of meat are used, steaks and roasts being highly appreciated. Potatoes, corn, vegetables, and legumes are used as well, as side dishes. When it comes to dessert, the apple pie is considered one of the most representative dishes. And in Mexico, meat, beans, chili, corn, peppers, tomatoes and herbs represent the cuisine of the area.
II Central American Cuisine
If you travel to Central America, you will be surprised just how tasty the food is in the area and how many flavors tend to blend harmoniously. Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are all part of Central America, being the representatives of this cuisine. In time, the food here was very much influenced by the cuisines of Spain, the Caribbean, Asia, and India. Still, cuisine fusions are more likely to be found in the great cities, because in the small settlements, traditional recipes are still very much appreciated and prepared. Corn is the main star of this cuisine, many dishes being prepared with the help of corn.
Tortillas, tamales, pupusas, and others, are made using maize. Also, food is spiced using salsas a lot, meaning various sauces, some spicy and some mild. Peppers, tomatoes, and beans are also used, as they are a part of traditional recipes and seafood in areas along the coast.
If you want to enjoy the biggest diversity of food and recipes, you will have to visit the Belize. If someone is inviting you to drink tea in the morning, don’t worry, because this is how taking breakfast is called here. You should expect cheese, beans, and eggs. When it comes to main dishes, meat pies, onion soup, and filled corn shells that are fried, are among the most popular. In Costa Rica, picadillo is the most appreciated, being a tortilla filled with meat and vegetables, together with gallo pinto, which is rice with beans, sweet pepper, and spices.
In El Salvador, you will find again the famous tortillas, which are filled with diverse ingredients, like beans, cheese, squash, seafood, fried pork rind, and others, to form the pupusa, a traditional dish of this country. Guatemala is famous for pepián, a stew made with meat and vegetables, and for eating particular dishes on certain days. For instance, they like to serve tamales, which is a dough made out of maize, and filled with meats, cheese, veggies or other ingredients, and steamed in a banana leaf. In Honduras, coconut is used a lot, both in sweet and salty dishes. So vegetables and fruits and plentiful here is almost any dish, like bean soup or fried fish. Coconut is a star in Nicaragua and Panama cuisine, alongside with many fruits and vegetables.
III South American Cuisine
South American is a fascinating region, just as it was very many years in the past. The native populations of South America already knew how to grow a great range of vegetable and cereals when other people came in the area. They knew how to handle the environment, growing cultures on slopes and putting together efficient irrigation systems. Corn, lima beans, avocados, sweet potatoes, peanuts, potatoes, and chile peppers were the most appreciated cultures. Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and a few others, developed in their way and so was their cuisine. Even if the ingredients were mainly the same, the recipes had a few differences from one area to another. Concerning influences, the Europeans, Asian, and African immigrants brought in new foods and recipes that mixed with the existing ones.
The recipes that have the most influences are usually found in big cities, where the multicultural diversity is more pronounced. In other areas, people still feel very fond of their traditional recipes, growing their old crops and preparing food as it used to, especially the indigenous population. Luckily, these foods have been rediscovered, so quinoa, kiwicha, yuca, maca, and other foods that are old and traditional, have been reinvented in modern recipes by famous chefs as well. Still, corn is one of the most favorite ingredients here, being cultivated in the region for more than 5,000 years already. Cornbread, tamales, tarts called pasteles, and even beverages like chichi, are made out of corn. The potato would occupy the second place as importance, being cooked and served in every possible way. Peppers, both sweet and hot, are another important component of this cuisine, being used for their flavor and beautiful colors. Exotic fruits, being found here in abundance and very diverse, are also used in a high number of recipes, like desserts, salads, and even savory dishes.
IV Caribbean Cuisine
The food was always very important in the Caribbean because it is associated with family traditions. So it is not uncommon for the people in this area to spend a lot of time cooking and preparing food. Besides the authentic Caribbean cuisine, you will also find influences of the European, Chinese, African and American cuisines. If we are to pick one dish that is representative for the Carribean, it should be seasoned jerk chicken. It is a spicy dish, full of flavor, just like most dishes in this area. Besides chicken, goat and curry are two very much appreciated foods as well. Montserrat has one national dish that is considered to be very popular among people. It is a goat meat stew, made with tomatoes, green papaya, dumplings, and breadfruit.
Other recipes would be pelau, which is a mixture of beef, saltfish, and chicken served with rice, various vegetables, and pigeon peas. Seafood is quite common as well, shark, lobster, and conch being used rather often. Rice is considered a staple food, although it is served and prepared differently throughout the area. It can be seasoned, or served simply with coconut. As mentioned before, conches are appreciated, the best way to cook it is seasoned well, covered in batter, and then deep-fried, known around the area under the name of fritters.
V Latin American Cuisine
What is great about the Latin American cuisine is that most of the recipes survived since ancient times, still being appreciated by the locals and discovered by tourists. Maize-based dishes are very common, tortillas, tacos, tamales, and pupusas being found quite frequent in Latin America, seasoned with the well-known salsas and various condiments. Still, even if Latin American cuisine uses a lot of spices, each country that has this cuisine uses them differently and in various quantities. So even if a dish may look the same, the flavor may be quite distinct. If their main dishes are spiced, their desserts are very sweet. There are quite a few desserts, like dulce de leche, flan, or rice pudding, which are made with the same passion for taste and flavors.
Traditional recipes come from the Mayans and Aztecs, and the modern ones getting influences from the Europeans, Americans, Africans, and Asians. Corn and potatoes are traditional ingredients, being grown and used here since ancient times. Meats, seasonings, and other ingredients were brought in by the immigrants, influencing the local cuisine. Still, tamales, plantanos and salsas, and arrozo con pollo, are popular dishes that reflect the personality of this cuisine and are still enjoyed on many occasions. Stews made with corn, squash, and beans, fried plantains, skillet bread made out of corn flour named “arepas”, seafood soup, empanadas with different fillings, they are all just a few examples of dishes that can be found in Latin America. Having so many fruits available, together with vegetables and spices, these recipes can charm anyone, offering an explosion of flavors. Each country you visit in Latin America will have something particular to offer you when it comes to food.
Are you from Americas? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Americas’ ethnic food.