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Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014
Food & Dining

Thank global neighbors for our all-American eats

Published:   |   Updated: July 4, 2014 at 08:13 AM

Nice job, ’Merica.

This week, you ramped up your red, white and blue to cheer on your U.S. World Cup soccer team against Belgium.

Perfect patriotic timing for the Fourth of July. The sad part is we were only two goals from turning this thing into a six-day weekend.

One problem, though.

We dissed Belgian food in the process.

Our brothers and sisters at Waffle House half-seriously called for a boycott of Belgian waffles as a way of supporting the U.S. team. Or, as they mistakenly tweeted, “Belgium waffles.”

That’s OK. I sometimes mistakenly call it Awful House.

While I can appreciate jingoistic-flavored social media self-promotion as much as the next guy, calling out a tiny country in fake outrage over a breakfast item seems a little, well, ham-handed.

Unlike that tea dumping thing in Boston Harbor a few years back, there was no real American animosity this week toward the Belgians. No one rioted after the 2-1 loss by torching a Chimay beer truck. No Belgian chocolates were melted in anger.

That’s a good thing. America should be all about inclusion, especially when it comes to food.

We’ve been dipping the world’s food in our melting pot for 238 years now. Anything that comes from somewhere else can always be improved upon with some freedom sprinkled on top.

We didn’t invent the waffle. Or fried chicken. But we did invent fried chicken and waffles.

That’s what America tastes like.

Even today, on this high holy day of picnics and backyard gatherings, the table is a showcase of world flavors embraced and tweaked by a chef named Uncle Sam.

That all-American hot dog you’re planning on throwing down follows a long line of meats that came from ancient Greece. The modern frank traces its lineage to Germany in the 1600s. Prussians love some protein in tube form.

Two hundred years later, a German butcher on Coney Island in New York sold “dachshund” sausages in a milk roll — made with beef, not dachshunds, PETA readers. Once the sandwich got to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, hot dogs became popular in the U.S. Not long after, a German immigrant in St. Louis popularized them at baseball stadiums, a game which itself has British origins.

That cheeseburger in paradise you’ll be grilling today started in the 12th century as a meal of minced horsemeat consumed by soldiers fighting on behalf of that ultimate Hamburgler, Genghis Khan. It took until the 19th century in New York City for the chopped-beef Hamburg steak, served with onions and bread crumbs, to become popular in something resembling its current form. The sesame seed bun crashed the party later.

Apple pie is about as American as it comes. Until, that is, you remember apples originally had to be shipped to the colonies from Europe in the 19th century. Where did we get the pie idea? From the Brits, the French, the Dutch and the Swedes who made the fruit into pastries, tarts and crumbles. It took Americans to turn apple pie into apple pie martinis.

We’re so cute.

If watermelon is being paired with your fireworks today, enjoy a slice courtesy of tropical Africa, where they first grew on vines in the southern part of the continent, as well as up north in the Nile Valley. By the 10th century, the Chinese were snacking on them in Asia. That part of the world now is the largest producer of watermelons. America is now the largest producer of Gallagher, who owes his career to the breakable fruit. And to sledgehammers.

If you’re planning on washing all those goodies down with some American suds, give a shout-out to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which started drinking fermented grains and sugars about 7,000 years ago. Ain’t no party like a Mesopotamian party because a Mesopotamian party has backgammon.

So you can boycott Belgian waffles all you want, but you’ll only be delaying a fellow American who one day in the future will look at the breakfast item and think, “I wonder if we can wrap a waffle into the shape of a breakfast taco and then stuff it with bacon, eggs and cheese?”

What? Someone already did that? Really?

Nice job, ’Merica.

jhouck@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7324

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