Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Faith Lapidus. Today we tell about some of the foods that Americans like best – America’s favorites.
You may have heard that Americans like hot dogs and hamburgers best of all foods. Well, farmers and owners of public eating places might happily agree. So might the nation’s Meat Institute and the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. But people whose favorites are pizza and apple pie would give the meat-lovers a spirited argument!
Naming the favorite foods of Americans depends a lot on whom you ask. But one thing is sure. The ancestors of most Americans came from other countries. The United States owes many favorite dishes, or the ideas for these foods, to the rest of the world.
For example, that traditional American favorite, the hot dog or wiener, had its modern beginning in Germany. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that Americans eat about seven thousand million of these sausages during a summer.
A hot dog is usually made from pork, the meat of a pig. Or it is made from beef, the meat of a cow. Another version is made from turkey. A vegetarian version of a hot dog has no meat at all. It often contains tofu, made from soy plants.
The hot dog is shaped like a tube. Many people say it looks like a Dachshund dog. It is served between two shaped pieces of bread called a bun. Americans often say they especially like hot dogs cooked over a hot fire in the open air. People at sports events buy plenty of hot dogs.
For many people, it is not just the meat that tastes so good. These people enjoy colorful and tasty additions. For example, they include a yellow or yellow-brown thickened liquid called mustard. They may also put red catsup and pieces of a white or red, strong-smelling vegetable called onion on their hot dogs.
Hot dog eaters often add pickle, a salty green vegetable. Some people place barbecue sauce on top of all this. Or they use a spice called horseradish. It gives the hot dog a pleasant bite.
A hot dog is also known as a frankfurter or frank. That is because the city of Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany is often said to be the birthplace of this sausage. But the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says there are other ideas about where the hot dog began.
One version of hot dog history says a butcher, or meat cutter, from the German city of Coburg was responsible. It says he invented the hot dog in the late sixteen hundreds. Vienna, Austria, also claims that it created the food.
The council says butchers from several countries probably brought common European sausages to America. A street salesman sold hot dogs to people in New York City in the eighteen sixties. And, in eighteen seventy one, a hot dog stand opened at the Coney Island amusement park in New York City.
Americans also eat lots of hamburgers. This ground meat comes from beef. It can be cooked in many ways. Like hot dogs, hamburgers are a favorite picnic food.
Many public eating places in the United States say hamburgers are their most popular foods. People often eat them in places that serve quickly prepared, moderately priced food.
Like hot dog experts, hamburger historians disagree about how their subject got started. The Egyptians and Romans apparently ate ancient versions of hamburgers. In more modern days, people in Hamburg, Germany, made something like a hamburger from pork and beef.
The small town of Seymour, Wisconsin, is among several American towns that claim to have created the first modern hamburger in the United States.
In Seymour, a man named Charlie Nagreen tried to sell meatballs at a local fair in eighteen eighty-five. But as people walked around, it was hard for them to handle the round pieces of meat. So Nagreen flattened the ball of meat. Then he placed this meat patty between two pieces of bread.
In two thousand one, people in Seymour cooked a hamburger that weighed more than three thousand kilograms. This creation reportedly fed thirteen thousand people.
Like hot dogs, Americans like their hamburgers with additions. Things like mustard, catsup, horseradish, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, onion and perhaps a pickle.
A hamburger with cheese melted on it is called a cheeseburger. Cooks make a “Sloppy Joe” by combining hamburger meat with tomato sauce. Many people eat the Sloppy Joe mixture on a bun. Without a bun, they may get more of the loose meat on them than inside them.
For many people, eating both hot dogs and hamburgers does not seem right without potatoes. They eat French fries and potato chips with these meats. French fries are strips, or pieces, of potato cooked in oil. Potato chips are extremely thin, cooled pieces of potato. They usually are also cooked in oil.
Americans also buy or make large amounts of pizza. A basic pizza contains tomato sauce or cheese, or both, on a bread-like material.
Food writer Linda Stradley tells about the history of pizza on her computer Web site, “What’s Cooking America.” Ms. Stradley says it could have been the Phoenicians, Greeks or Romans who invented pizza. Or, it could have been anyone who mixed flour with water and cooked it on a hot stone.
Italians probably brought pizza to the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century. In nineteen-oh-five, Gennaro Lombardi reportedly opened the first pizza store in New York City. In the nineteen thirties, he added tables to his pizza place. Lombardi also began serving spaghetti.
Spaghetti is a traditional Italian favorite that also has become an American favorite. It is made from flour and water and sometimes eggs. This dough is pulled into lengths and boiled.
All kinds of foods can be added to both pizza and spaghetti to add to their taste. For example, people like these foods with different meats on top. Or they like toppings of small fish called anchovies, or vegetables called mushrooms. Some people like all the additions at once.
Another favorite food, macaroni, is similar to spaghetti. Many Americans remember that their mothers made macaroni cooked with cheese on cold winter days. People sometimes call this dish “comfort food,” because it makes them feel better.
Others praise hot soups prepared in their childhood homes. Some people say chicken soup -- chicken pieces in liquid -- can cure anything. Still others say New England clam chowder helps them think. This soup contains the shellfish clams floating in a milky liquid. Another version of clam chowder has tomato sauce. It looks red.
To end a meal, or between meals, Americans often eat chocolate in some form. They eat millions and millions of kilograms of chocolate a year. Chocolate is produced from cocoa beans. It is used in sweet foods like candy, pies, puddings and cakes. Many people say chocolate makes them feel happier.
People have praised chocolate for its taste for many years. Some studies have shown that it can help chase away mild feelings of sadness. But chocolate often has a large amount of fat.
However, some experts now say a moderate amount of chocolate can be healthful. For example, the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center in Ohio notes that chocolate contains substances called antioxidants. Antioxidants are thought to help the body fight damage caused by natural processes and harmful substances in the environment.
The Heart Center suggests choosing dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. And it warns that people should restrict themselves to a moderate amount.
Like people in many parts of the world, Americans love pie. These sweet dishes have fruit, nuts or some other filling in a crust. Some people say pies are the best comfort food ever. That can be debated.
Pie can be the most inviting food ever. A red strawberry pie or a green or yellow Key lime pie can defeat the strongest resolution of people trying to lose weight. But apple pie may be a top American favorite. Over time, this dish has come to be strongly linked to the United States.
When someone or something seems especially American, people say it is “as American as apple pie.”
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson. Caty Weaver was our producer. I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Faith Lapidus. Our reports are on the Web at voaspecialenglish.com. Please join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.