June 10, 2017

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: Spinning American Food: Viande Americaine is definitely food, but it isn’t American.

Here we were in Saint Quentin, and it was 10 o’clock, and I hadn’t eaten for many many hours, and I confess, I had a certain curiosity as to how a provincial French restaurateur would interpret my native cuisine.

The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “oddly.” Not nearly as odd as the “Mexican” food you find in Europe, which has always reminded me of the plastic nigiri in the windows of sushi restaurants: It looks just as it should, but don’t try taking a bite…. In Saint Quentin’s Le Golden Pub, the American food was at least both food and American. Sort of.

Americans certainly do enjoy our bagels with cream cheese. But we do not enjoy them enough to put them on the dinner menu of our local pub.

Instead I settled on a meal as quintessentially American as the stars and stripes, or the Solo cup: a burger, a soda and a banana split.

The burger came with a local cheese called Maroilles that I’d never heard of. The canonical American burger cheeses are, like the ideal American, a simple, friendly lot. These cheeses are selected heavily for melting ability and unobtrusiveness, rather than complexity or dark charm. This cheese was assertive and pungent, and still quite solid. Atop that cheese sat aioli, and a profusion of cornichons rather than dill pickles. The bread was some sort of ciabatta, too big for the patty and rather more chewy than Americans expect from a hamburger bun. . . .

At least the burger could reasonably be recognized as a burger. My banana split, on the other hand, was an enormous confection, round rather than banana-shaped, and taking up a sizeable dinner plate. It contained a few paltry coins of banana, buried in approximately 1,700 calories of whipped cream. The fudge sauce was not hot, and had assumed a texture somewhere between those of Magic Shell and a gummy bear.

Someone should protest.

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