From Mass Migration to Mass Consumption: The Progression of Chinese and Italian-American Cuisine in the United States




Overholt, Cameron

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The American cuisine is a confusing subject. As we are a nation of immigrants, the food that characterizes the diet of Americans has been influenced by ethnic groups from all over the world. However, it is clear that we have an independent functioning food culture, as the food Americans eat is unlike that which is found in the rest of the world, including those places from which our immigrants arrived. So, in an endeavor to identify some unifying characteristics among “American” food, I will be examining two food cultures which have drastically shifted since their arrival in America. The two food cultures I will be examining are that of Chinese and Italian-Americans. While dishes like New York-Style Pizza and Sesame Chicken are some of the most popular in America, they are hardly characteristic of the food culture that immigrated to North America in the mid-to-late-1800’s. Through my research, I will examine the gradual shift of these food cultures from their arrival to the United States to as we know them now. Accordingly, I hope to be able to make some generalizations about characteristics shared by all modern American foods. To support my research, I will use menus spanning the history of both of these groups from their mass-migration to America to the present, as well as the contemporary accounts of chefs, authors and food critics on the subject. Through these methods, I will establish a view on the current state of the broader American cuisine, as well as the issues it currently faces, and the prospects of its future.


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