When thinking about strange foods around the world, things like fish eyes (Japan), fried tarantulas (Cambodia), and jellied moose nose (Canada) might stand out. But “strange” is relative depending on what you grew up around. The food we have here in America may seem “normal” to us, but altogether odd and even unappetizing to other people around the world. What classic (and trumped-up) American dishes do you think made the list?
It kind of makes sense that this dish baffles those around the world. After all, only in America could we make an entire meal out of a salad, right? The Cobb salad was invented in the 1930s in a restaurant called “The Brown Derby.” The popular LA restaurant was owned by Robert Cobb. He came up with the idea one day by combining a bunch of leftovers in the restaurant’s kitchen. Namely, chicken, bacon, eggs, salad greens, tomatoes, corn, cheese, and avocado. He created a special vinegarette to go with his salad, and the rest is history. Famous actors of the time loved the salad, including Lucille Ball and Clark Gable.
It’s hard to imagine doughnuts in any other shape besides a ring, right? Well, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that sea captain, Hansen Gregory, came up with the new shape. Sure, this food wasn’t technically first made in America, but the now-classic shape sure was. So why did this make the list? The reason for the hole in the middle is nothing if not American. Hansen Gregory was famous for loving fried dough coated in sugar, but his favorite treat tied his hands up, thus making it hard to steer the ship. So what did he do? He fashioned the dough into a ring so he could stack the doughnuts on the steering wheel, thus allowing him to stockpile the sweet treat and navigate the seas with ease.
If you grew up in America, then you’ll undoubtedly know the deliciousness that is ranch dressing. Where I’m from in the Midwest, we put it on everything. Pizza, fries, all kinds of meat, and my cousin even dips vanilla cake in ranch dressing. Crazy, but true! It’s also crazy to think about how relatively recently this American staple was invented – in the 1950s! Believe it or not, the creamy dressing was invented by a plumber while he was working in a remote location in Alaska. Steve Hensen and his wife, Gayle, came up with the dressing and decided to share their unique sauce with the world. The two started their own company. Can you guess what it was called? Hidden Valley Ranch, of course! The company was eventually purchased by Clorox, of all companies, for a whopping 8 million dollars. Since 1992, ranch dressing as outsold every other dressing in America.
This often cloying pie that consists of pecans, butter, eggs, and corn syrup. America being America, of course, as only added more sugar to the classic recipe over the years. Many people make their pies with a shot of bourbon or perhaps a few chocolate chips. It’s often served with ice cream or whipped cream, thus piling on more sweetness to the already sugary dessert. Pecans are native to the southern United States, which is where this holiday favorite originated from.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that this over-the-top candy was invented in the good ol’ US of A. This particular confection is polarizing, even in its country of origin. People either can’t get enough of the stuff or won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Either way, candy corn was first packaged and marketed under the brand name, “Chicken Feed,” by the Wunderlee Candy Company in the 1880s. At the end of the 19th century, production was taken over by the Goelitz Confectionary Company. Can you guess what that company is called today? Jelly Belly. “Chicken Feed” got a makeover and a new name – candy corn. It was purposefully branded to appeal to rural America. As someone who grew up on a farm in rural America, the assumption that farmers want to eat sweetened, corn-shaped candy is a bit offensive. I’m just kidding. Kind of.