A negotiation with the landscape
We’re a nation of immigrants, and when we came here, we had abundance like no one had ever seen. Imagine entering the Garden of Eden. You’ve got everything you could ever dream of—why become a culture of great cooking when you have the abundance to make steaks and eat tremendous amounts of meat? But most of the greatest cuisines of the world came out of hardship. They were all forced into a negotiation between peasants and a landscape, and that landscape was not producing the abundance that we associate with American abundance. That was never a problem here, and so we didn’t adopt the more difficult, less coveted cuts of meat or varieties of vegetables and grains because we didn’t need to. That’s a real tragedy of our history. You have the recipe for what is American cuisine today, which isn’t really a cuisine.